Media covering up EPA's responsibility for Colorado river pollution

The Animas River in Colorado has been despoiled with million of gallons of toxic mine waste, turning the stream bright orange.  Is this the result of a heartless capitalist?  Hardly.  Our purportedly all-caring, wise, and reliable Environmental Protection Agency is at fault.  But looking at the headlines, you’d have a hard time figuring that out.

Consider one of the latest headlines, from the local Durango Herald, reporting that the disaster is 300% worse than the EPA first reported: 3 million, not 1 million, gallons of contaminated water rushed from mine, EPA says.

3 million, not 1 million, gallons of contaminated water rushed from mine, EPA says

Readers have to go 17 paragraphs into the story before learning where responsibility for the heavy metal release lies:

The Gold King Mine mishap started at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday when a crew working for the EPA accidentally triggered the drainage while investigating contamination at the mine, causing millions of gallons of sludge to surge into Cement Creek and into the Animas River, where the plume traveled downstream, making its way to Durango on Thursday evening.

This is quite typical of media coverage, as Tom Blumer of Newsbusters reports:

On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency committed an act which would have likely become instant national news if a private entity had done the same thing.

On Friday, John Merline at Investors' Business Daily succinctly noted that the EPA "dumped a million gallons of mine waste into Animas River in Colorado, turning it into what looked like Tang, forcing the sheriff's office to close the river to recreational users." Oh, and it "also failed to warn officials in downstream New Mexico about the spill." Yet here we are four days later, and the story has gotten very little visibility outside of center-right blogs and outlets. That's largely explained by how the wire services have handled the story. After the jump, readers will see headlines and descriptions of the stories which have appeared thus far at the web site of the New York Times:

No headline acknowledges the EPA's admitted responsibility for the spill. Only one headline mentions the EPA at all.

As to the story teases above, only the second item, from the Associated Press, recognizes the EPA's responsibility.

The AP has, from what I can tell, filed four stories on the spill:

  1. (Time-stamped as "Updated" August 6 at 5:30 pm) "Mine plug blows in SW Colorado, dumps 1 million gallons of waste"
  2. (Time-stamped August 7 at 8:08 PM EDT) "EPA: No word yet on health risk from Colorado mine spill"
  3. (Time-stamped August 8 at 3:45 PM EDT) "EPA accidentally spills wastewater from Colorado mine into nearby river"
  4. (Time-stamped August 9 at 5:05 AM EDT) "WASTEWATER FROM COLORADO MINE REACHES NEW MEXICO"

Only one has a headline identifying EPA's responsibility, and it appears to have had limited exposure.

The reliability and competence of the EPA is very much a serious issue, as the agency releases a lot of estimates of danger from pollution that are as toxic as its mine discharge, costing the American economy hundreds of billions of dollars.

The media cover-up is shameful.

The Animas River in Colorado has been despoiled with million of gallons of toxic mine waste, turning the stream bright orange.  Is this the result of a heartless capitalist?  Hardly.  Our purportedly all-caring, wise, and reliable Environmental Protection Agency is at fault.  But looking at the headlines, you’d have a hard time figuring that out.

Consider one of the latest headlines, from the local Durango Herald, reporting that the disaster is 300% worse than the EPA first reported: 3 million, not 1 million, gallons of contaminated water rushed from mine, EPA says.

3 million, not 1 million, gallons of contaminated water rushed from mine, EPA says

Readers have to go 17 paragraphs into the story before learning where responsibility for the heavy metal release lies:

The Gold King Mine mishap started at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday when a crew working for the EPA accidentally triggered the drainage while investigating contamination at the mine, causing millions of gallons of sludge to surge into Cement Creek and into the Animas River, where the plume traveled downstream, making its way to Durango on Thursday evening.

This is quite typical of media coverage, as Tom Blumer of Newsbusters reports:

On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency committed an act which would have likely become instant national news if a private entity had done the same thing.

On Friday, John Merline at Investors' Business Daily succinctly noted that the EPA "dumped a million gallons of mine waste into Animas River in Colorado, turning it into what looked like Tang, forcing the sheriff's office to close the river to recreational users." Oh, and it "also failed to warn officials in downstream New Mexico about the spill." Yet here we are four days later, and the story has gotten very little visibility outside of center-right blogs and outlets. That's largely explained by how the wire services have handled the story. After the jump, readers will see headlines and descriptions of the stories which have appeared thus far at the web site of the New York Times:

No headline acknowledges the EPA's admitted responsibility for the spill. Only one headline mentions the EPA at all.

As to the story teases above, only the second item, from the Associated Press, recognizes the EPA's responsibility.

The AP has, from what I can tell, filed four stories on the spill:

  1. (Time-stamped as "Updated" August 6 at 5:30 pm) "Mine plug blows in SW Colorado, dumps 1 million gallons of waste"
  2. (Time-stamped August 7 at 8:08 PM EDT) "EPA: No word yet on health risk from Colorado mine spill"
  3. (Time-stamped August 8 at 3:45 PM EDT) "EPA accidentally spills wastewater from Colorado mine into nearby river"
  4. (Time-stamped August 9 at 5:05 AM EDT) "WASTEWATER FROM COLORADO MINE REACHES NEW MEXICO"

Only one has a headline identifying EPA's responsibility, and it appears to have had limited exposure.

The reliability and competence of the EPA is very much a serious issue, as the agency releases a lot of estimates of danger from pollution that are as toxic as its mine discharge, costing the American economy hundreds of billions of dollars.

The media cover-up is shameful.