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Gold King Mine Disaster Reinforces Need for Federal Agencies to Require Professional Engineers on Projects

The professional engineer's foremost responsibility is to practice in a manner that protects the public health, safety, and welfare.

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  1. On Wednesday, August 5, 2015, a federal work crew from the EPA caused a "blowout" of over three million gallons of untreated wastewater from the abandoned Gold King Mine near Durango, Colorado. The wastewater quickly spilled into the Animas river, turning it orange due to suspected heavy metal contaminants such as copper, zinc, and iron.
  2. 1 #BILLION GALLONS OF #TOXICWASTE TURN #COLORADO RIVER ORANGE

#Drone footage shot on Friday revealed how the stretch of the #Animas River near #Silverton had changed color, after a toxic waste from an environmental mine contaminated it. The wastewater, which is rich in heavy metals such as lead and cadmium as well as the poisonous arsenic, was unintentionally released while a team was working at a Gold King Mine entrance.
    1 #BILLION GALLONS OF #TOXICWASTE TURN #COLORADO RIVER ORANGE #Drone footage shot on Friday revealed how the stretch of the #Animas River near #Silverton had changed color, after a toxic waste from an environmental mine contaminated it. The wastewater, which is rich in heavy metals such as lead and cadmium as well as the poisonous arsenic, was unintentionally released while a team was working at a Gold King Mine entrance.
  3. Concerned and saddened by the gold mine blowout, NSPE quickly issued a statement strongly urging the Environmental Protection Agency and all federal agencies to review their existing requirements and practices. Unfortunately, far too many engineering projects are undertaken without the expertise and supervision of a licensed professional engineer.
  4. EPA takes blame for Colorado mine waste spill
  5. At a joint hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held on September 17, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified about the role of the EPA in the Gold King Mine blowout. Rep. Bruce Westerman, P.E., (R-AR), an NSPE member, asked McCarthy why a licensed professional engineer was not in responsible charge of the EPA's project, as required under Colorado statute. McCarthy declined to answer (see the whole exchange in the video below), but even she was surprised at how few qualified design professionals are employed by the EPA in the affected Region 8.
  6. EPA Administrator McCarthy Can't Answer Questions from Congressman Bruce Westerman
  7. Since its founding in 1934, NSPE has believed that the public health, safety, and welfare is best protected by having qualified licensed professional engineers in "responsible charge" of engineering projects.
  8. On September 21, Rep. Bruce Westerman, P.E., (R-AR) filed an official complaint with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Division of Professions and Occupations, regarding the Gold King Mine disaster. NSPE has played a critical role in this issue, working very closely with Westerman's office, as well as congressional committees.
  9. Despite filing the complaint, there seemed to be mixed information on specific details regarding the onsite team and its practices. The EPA would not confirm to Rep. Westerman that a professional engineer was in responsible charge...
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