According to a PBS.org article, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was aware of the potential risk for a devastating “blowout” at an inactive Colorado mine, which could release harmful toxins, yet, the agency proceeded with cleanup of the mine.

As per the article, the EPA and contract workers embarked on an inspection mission at the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado. What resulted was the “accidental” release of 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater on Aug. 5.

Prior to the incident, several reports were released that indicated the potential for toxins to be unleashed, due to the fact that the mine hadn’t been accessed since 1995, when the entrance partially collapsed. One report suggested that water was likely to have impounded behind the collapse, and if the mine was accessed, it could “cause a release of large volumes of contaminated mine waters and sediment from inside the mine, which contain concentrated heavy metals.”

The blowout ended up contaminating rivers in Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah with lead, arsenic, and other harmful toxins. Yet, initial EPA reports did not document exactly what happened before or after the spill. In addition, the EPA has been criticized for waiting nearly 24 hours to report the incident to local officials.

The EPA is working to clean up the spill and restore the river and affected areas to pre-incident conditions. The agency has already spent around $3.7 million in clean-up efforts, but is this enough?

At this point, we don’t know whether any workers were injured during the spill or in spill clean-up efforts. However, if a workplace accident did transpire, it is in a victim’s best interest to consult with a Colorado workers’ compensation lawyer.

Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that Colorado employers are required to uphold if they have at least one person in their employment. The purpose of workers’ comp is to help employees who are injured or who develop an occupational disease as a result of unsafe working conditions to obtain benefits that can cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs.

If a notable agency, such as the EPA, which is known for prosecuting incidents where other companies commit acts of safety negligence that can damage the environment, can allow workers to perform duties in a mine that was already reported to be unsafe and which had posed the threat of releasing toxins if disturbed, who knows how many other companies are committing similar actions and placing the lives of their employees at risk.

State employees who have already suffered a work-related injury or disease have the right to turn to a Colorado workers’ compensation attorney for assistance in filing a claim, like the attorneys at the Law Office of Saul R. Sarney, P.C., who have been fighting to protect workers’ rights in Colorado for over 30 years.

Workers’ comp is often denied to victims by both employers and insurance companies, but an experienced legal professional who knows and understands local employment law can prevent their clients’ rights from being infringed upon.