Skip to main content

tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  September 18, 2015 12:00am-2:01am EDT

12:00 am
these issues. >> do you have any engineers? >> i do not know, sir. >> can you get back to us on that? >> yes, sir. >> you cited that you worked with a lot of people with a lot of expertise. the concern that we see is given some of the protocols you put in place when we want to juxtapose this to a private company meeting rigid standards of your organization puts together the standards. when the document dump came out about two weeks ago and you cited that there was a potential for a blowout at the gold king mine, why was there no effort to determine how much water had actually backed up? if we are talking about having the expertise. >> i would have to go back and identify with both colorado and epa were basing their judgment on, but it was a concern of the entire community.
12:01 am
>> i'm just trying to get to the.of urgency. in terms of your position, your job, you are the one setting this up. when we are looking through your documents saying there is a potential for a blowout -- >> that is why we were there >> wouldn't it have been prudent to make sure how much water was behind the wall? >> that is one of the issues, whether we took all the steps that were prudent. >> can you understand the frustration, the position frustration, the position you put yourself in as being enforcers, experts in the field, and you are saying this is aa mystery and we are having to look back and see what went wrong? this is my district. i have talked to engineers, minors of work in that area. they would not have proceeded the way that the epa did. >> let me save you some time
12:02 am
you have zero mining engineers. our committee has more mining engineers than the epa. mr. hardy. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i would like to know how many hydrological engineers you have on your team? >> i do not know that answer >> geological engineers? >> i do not know that answer either. >> then how do we have the expertise in hiring a contractor to do this are why does the epa figure that they have the expertise if you don't no? isn't it your responsibility to no? >> not on every site, but it is my responsibility to manage the agency appropriately. >> did you know the epa requires minds before they open have an environmental and neat the process done and in order to do that have to have geologic and hydrologic engineers, mining engineers to go along with
12:03 am
that. is that true? >> i'm not that familiar with it, sir, but those are the issues -- >> and you are the head of the department. don't you feel that is your responsibility? >> again,again, it is my responsibility to manage the agency effectively. >> what is the hiring process of a contractora contractor before they begin work on such a project is this? >> ii can't say i have ever been directly involved in the hiring process,, but i am aware we set criteria for the credibility of contractors and look with those with experience and background that is appropriate. >> and how would we know what that process is if we don't have the experience on epa's own staff to hire such a contractor? >> i'm not assuming we don't have expertise. >> i would like an answer to the question. through this process, when a
12:04 am
mine is open -- and it has gone on for 60, 70, 80 years , you have to provide documentation, environmental process, neat the process. those processes are there. what happens to those records, the information that they have to provide the epa or any other entity with the federal government. >> it has to be properly retained in accordance with the law. >> whatever appropriate steps we should take should be documented. >> i believe there has been a real violation here.
12:05 am
more worried about the environmental side than understanding irresponsibility before it becomes contractors themselves. with that i you back. thank you. >> thank you command i appreciate that. at some point we will have another panel. this mccarthy, i appreciate you being here. this is now three hours into the hearing. i do not want to sound like a teachera teacher berating a student, but had he been willing to share the panel it would have been an enlightening opportunity for discussion and those other witnesses could have added expertise and answers to the questions. i am sorry. i said he might want to apologize for not being willing to sit on the panel with them. i would like to give you that same opportunity. this panel -- nevermind
12:06 am
then. we invite the other panel to come forward. >> mr. chairman, if i may, a point of privilege. i have additional questions i will submit to the committee in writing. my apologies to the witnesses coming up. with that, thank you. >> i totally understand, and we will submit your questions to these witnesses in writing. take a brief pause here as we change panels. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> the faster we can make that change the better it will be. [inaudible conversations]
12:07 am
[inaudible conversations] doctor larry wolk, executive director and mr. ryan flynn. i appreciate you being here. since -- don't sit down yet. i am trying to save you extra space. pursuant to the rules of the oversight and government reform committee and only that committee,committee, all witnesses will be sworn in before the testify. would you please raise your right hand.
12:08 am
[witnesses being sworn in] once again, anything you have submitted in writing as part of the record and will be there. we will ask each of you to make a quick statement limited to five minutes. we will try and be arbitrary arbitrary with those -- with the gavel coming down, but we appreciate you being here as part of this discussion. we will start with president russell begaye. five minutes to give oral testimony to the committee. >> good afternoon, chairman. good to see you always and thank you for your support.
12:09 am
also ranking members of the committee. my name is russell begaye, president of the navajo nation. i was born and raised along the river in shiprock. years ago we saw hundreds of dead fish floating down the river. as boys we jumped in the river catching the dying fish. i have been asking for years why they were dead. i did not get an answer until august 13 when administrator mccarthy came to visit our nation. 1.5 million gallons of radium tutus build from the site located in my hometown. we not only swam in that radioactive water, but my brothers eight the contaminated fish. i am asking this committee to not allow history to repeat itself and told the epa accountable for the toxic spill that occurred on
12:10 am
august 5. do not let them get away with negligence. our people are suffering. much of the crops of been lost, livestock is pinned up , ranchers are exhausted from hauling water, children are afraid of the water. we are told that cleanup will take decades. today we come to ask for help. the white house is silent. fema, doi, and other federal agencies are being told to not use there own resources to help us. we have not seen any promises fulfilled. the promises remain empty, like a funder we here over our land but with no rain. what do our people need 1st and foremost as compensation now. the farmers and ranchers cannot wait months for compensation.
12:11 am
i no this year's bills will will not be paid, clothing for children will not be bought, and food is scarce. had the epa set up an emergency compensation fund and provided ongoing repayment of losses as submitted, don't be a partya party to this injustice by having our farmers way future claims after they get the 1st compensation checks. secondly, we need an alternative water source for drinking, livestock, and irrigation of farms. we are asking wells be drilled, reservoir built, and water piped from the navajo them. we want the epa to build the lavatory on the navajo nation so we can continually test our water, soil, plants, and livestock. we are asking president obama to declare the san
12:12 am
juan a federal disaster area. this would allow fema, usda, doi, and other agencies to provide resources we need now. they're asking this committee to hold the follow-up hearing because we do not want this to become old news one week from now. the navajo nation will not let any and all negligent parties get away with this disaster. we will stand our ground until our river and riverbeds are safe once again for our children to play in and people to use as a drinking source. the navajo nation will no longer stand back when these kind of atrocities are done to our people. i want to thank you for your time and attention, and we look to your leadership to write this injustice. thank you. >> thank you for your testimony.
12:13 am
mr. mike olguin -- probably the correct title is counsel >> yes. >> your recognized for five minutes. >> thank you. good morning chairman, ranking members. my name is mike olguin. i am an elected member of the southern ute tribal council, which is the governing body of the southern ute indian tribe. thank you for the opportunity to appear to discuss the gold king mine spill and its impacts. before i begin i would like to thank congressman young and chairman bishop for last week's action. thethe tribe was active in developing and supporting. my testimony at this time, i would like to mention a few key items from my written statement and answer questions that you and committee members may have. the animus river crosses the reservation downstream.
12:14 am
since the gold king mine blowout the tribe has been extensively engaged in responding to this bill. we 1st learned of relief when the colorado department of natural resources notified the tribe on the afternoon of this bill. we immediately responded by implementing our emergency management plan, epa command sampling water quality before the spill reached the reservation. in the 1st days after this bill it was largely local jurisdictions responded. the tribe issued a disaster declaration on saturday, august 8. other jurisdictions followed suit. in the days that followed we attended to the needs of the tribal membership, posted signs closing access to the river on the reservation, delivered bottled water, water, provided water tanks, water for livestock, held informational meetings, and offered temporary
12:15 am
housing. additionally, we coordinated epa testing of domestic water wells. forfor the duration of the response tribal staff actively participated with personnel from other affected governments and remains engaged and incident command to this day. as of the friday after this bill the epa still does not have a coordinated effort in durango. local jurisdiction including the tribe works together. the water quality program called the spill hotline and reported at that point neither epa nor colorado had notified new mexico. the county and our tribe notified our sister tribe of the spill. we shared information with downstream tribes in the lower colorado basin. for the period they incurred
12:16 am
hundred thousand dollars in cost responding to this bill mostly in time. we understand neighboring communities and businesses suffered losses and neighboring governments also incurred costs. they are working to recover incurred cost. the tribe has long had an active water sampling funded by tribal assistance program for clean water act grants. this provided valuable information to all affected parties by the gold king mine spill. we tested before the plume had the reservation and for two weeks after. during that time we were testing daily for over 25 substances including aluminum, silver, arsenic, lead, and mercury. coincidentally two weeks previous we collected samples to conduct metal analysis on those samples. we shared our data and
12:17 am
continue monitoring. like others, we favor a full evaluation of events leading to the spill in the epa performance responding. however, it is important to keep this in perspective. there are estimated to be 23,000 abandoned mines and colorado alone causing water pollution problems. federal leadership, assistance command cooperation is key to avoiding another blowout and addressing the problem of abandoned mine drainage polluting the river watershed. thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. >> thank you very much. doctor larry wolk, your recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, chairman, members of the committee. i am the executive director and chief medical officer for the colorado department of public health and environment.
12:18 am
i appreciate the opportunity to share my testimony on behalf of the department regarding the water quality impact from the recent gold king mine spill. the river basin is a long and storied mining history, and legacy mining has resulted in significant water quality impact. four years drainage has contributed heavy-metal loads into cement creek which eventually flows into the river. waterwater quality control division has routinely but somewhat infrequently sampled the water quality in cement creek and the animus river. these have consistently shown the quality of the water in cement creek is and has been for years impacted by the mine waste coming from the legacy mines. historically located at 11,300 feet above sea level.
12:19 am
on august 5, 2015 in5th 2015 and estimated volume of up to 3 million gallons of mine waste water was unexpectedly released from the gold mine had it into cement creek. almost immediately traveled to silverton to respond to and evaluate the water quality impact from the release. throughout the river basin from upstream to silverton and downriver from durango to the new mexico border over of period of 11 days to 11 days to determine the extent of the impact of release. initial monitoring indicated levels of copper, lead, manganese, and zinc were higher than previously monitored.
12:20 am
on august 11 the levels had returned to pre- release levels. we will continue to monitor the levels of metals. at this time we don't anticipate adverse health effects from exposure to the metals detected in the river water samples from skin contact or incidental or unintentional ingestion. working with parks and wildlife to monitor the effect on aquatic life. assessments will continue, assessments will continue, but at this point there appears to be no obvious impact. there were no fish kills during the plume event or effects observed on terrestrial animals. park and wildlife placed fingerling wildlife in cages before the plume reached the city. only one died, and the
12:21 am
others remained healthy the one fish that died was not due to water quality. this will continue to be monitored. they pose a risk to aquatic life and fish and understand there is concern about the risks to recreational users on the river. sediment is one indicator of the health of the river. there is some level of contamination because of past mining activities. we do not anticipate adverse health effects from exposure to contaminants detected in the water during typical recreation activities. we understand based upon current information, the department of agriculture believes the river may be used for crop irrigation and livestock watering. we are unsure of the long-term impact, but this bill does not to have
12:22 am
significantly impacted the water quality. we are fortunate that did not result in an immediate environmental disaster. however, this does not mean they have not already been impacted from prior damage from the legacy mine. this underscores the issue with thousands of legacy mines affect the quality of rivers and streams. they can have a detrimental impact on aquatic life. a noticeable decline in the number of trout. cement creek and the animus river are only two that receive historic mine drainage. i close my comments and an open for questions. >> thank you. finally, mr. ryan flynn, your recognized five minutes. >> before ii begin, i want to thank our representative from new mexico who has been
12:23 am
here the entire day. i know this is not part of your district, but you are a new mexican, and i appreciate your interest as well as your willingness to stay all day. i am the sec. of environment for the state of new mexico as well as a natural resource trustee for the state of new mexico, and i was on the ground in farmington, new mexico within 18 hours of receiving notice of the spill from the southern ute tribe. almost immediately after notification art governor appointed an emergency response team, which i had the honor of serving as the leader of for the nine day ordef new mexico as well as other downstream users, including the navajo nation in the state of utah was forced to endure. it has been said that pressure reveals true character, and i am
12:24 am
extremely proud of the manner in which the state of new mexico as well as the local communities respond to this event. new mexicans demonstrated compassion, courage, determination, and great throughout this nine day ordeal. having been there and in the community i cannot underscore how frightened people were by the toxic plume that was traveling through the river. it literally goes to the heart of the community and is the heart of the community in farmington and the navajo nation. without water at home and with this toxic, yellow yellowtoxic, yellow sludge floating through the river in the center of town people literally were confronted by the spill at home and outside. new mexicans responded, as i would have expected.
12:25 am
they came together with a well orchestrated himself was plan to move forward and respond to the emergency at hand. in particular, i want to commend the efforts of the local officials from san juan county, new mexico, the city of farmington, and the city of aztec. from top to bottom these officials responded admirably integrating themselves and to our emergency response team, took initiative, and acted heroically throughout the process at all levels from leaders, ceo, clo of san juan county, the mayors, all the way down the line, the stafm more essential to the effort i also need to complement my staff. i had dozens of employees mobilized in the field were literally supposed to be dropping their children off
12:26 am
at college that weekend, and because new mexico needed them they traveled hours from around the state to be there in farmington during this ordeal to help. i had employees who were out in temperatures well into the '90s on most days. i had literally over a dozen employees out there from morning until late at night working in cramped conditions and talk conditions in a makeshift lab and at no point did anyone complain, lose there temper or do anything other than ask what more i can do. that was a tough response from my employees. i set a high standard for them. push them hard. could not be more humbled by their response as well as that of all the other agencies around the state, the department of agriculture, the new mexico department of game and fish,
12:27 am
department of health, department of homeland security all performed admirably. by saturday, the state and local -- rather thanks to the state and local communities swift action we have been able to secure all the water systems and private and domestic wells in the area, preserve and protect our local agricultural resources, establish direct lines of communication, teams of local farmers and ranchers to provide water for livestock, set up watering stations, and deployed teams of scientists to monitor the water quality and authorized emergency funding. these swift, well orchestrated activities are testament to the local communities and leadership at every level in the state. thank you for having me here today. >> thank you for your testimony.
12:28 am
we are now going to turn -- sorry, we will now turn to questions. we will start with congressman chases. >> to those most directly affected, we thank you for your willingness in time to come testify today. i want to ask you, the epa has closely coordinated and what is your assessment of the close coordination with the epa? >> thank you for the question.
12:29 am
the 1st time we had coordination was a conference call were epa told us the cleanup would take decades to complete. i was stunned by the statement. as they said before, at a public hearing saturday evening the next day they said the base of the mountain we had just returned from the mountain and taken photos of the river, went to the mouth of the mountain, and it was still very much the color of orange juice, very much hello. and i told the epa person that this is what we saw.
12:30 am
the person i was answering the question to the public at that public form and durango said, well, i was told different. i was told it was clear enough. if that is coordination, it was completely false. >> what happened when you tried to go visit the site? what happened when you went to go visit the site? >> we decided to go up there on saturday. we made a call to region six 25 to the denver office. they said, well, you can only go to the 1st blockade, and that is it. ..
12:31 am
>> >> at first we were told we can only go to the blockade that was 2 miles away. you cannot see anything it is all tall pines but it was
12:32 am
through region nine that gave us more clearance to move further up the stream. yvette at that point i didn't realize reverse of force to stop and that was a stopping point. stick i do want to get this full accounting this is ridiculous the president of the nomination cannot go see what is happening to his people? it is a terrible embarrassment in stands an apology as well. please explain standard form 95 ted what was happening in dead days after the spill to the people of the navajo nation. >> sunday afternoon i got a call there will come help you they will be on the ground to assist you and i was very thankful epa responded so quickly they
12:33 am
said two people to help us to monitor the situation so they flew into during go they took the car down. in the communities didn't know that is taking place and tell one of though local officials said this is what they pass out. end of navajo attorney-general is immediately caught the of waiver of language. immediately recall of radio station which explains to the people still sign the
12:34 am
form because if you do you will not get full compensation for the damages. we had news releases put though word -- the word out there because it's we felt the epa was trying to minimize the damage and that was our experience. >> thank you to the witnesses who have come today. and the council man. now counsel man you have testified approximately 23,000 abandoned mines in
12:35 am
colorado. the advocacy group earthworks' estimates there are more than 500,000 within the united states. the ranking member is not here by his bill -- but his bill the reclamation act of 2015 would establish say hardrock minerals fund as the extraction -- from the extraction feet. -- fee for reclamation for the repair for these toxic situations. would you support the establishment of this type of dedicated fund paid for the abandoned mines? >> yes.
12:36 am
whoever caused these types of spills should be held accountable. >> could you support the establishment of hard rock materials fund along the of lions that is adjusted? >> from the initial on take. >> one thing is if there's any disagreement among the panel. that by august 11 the monetary levels returned to previous levels and there was no fishkill involved in this release.
12:37 am
do you agree with that? >> we do not the dollars before the health of our people or our land epa has told us there are five levels of metals or contaminants we have become a dumping ground of waste water because animas river is different from san juan. that is slow moving anything that comes down the animas river high altitude gets into the slow-moving water and where it settles. >> i thank you testified but to take steps before it hit
12:38 am
with an affected area. >> would is your take? was there is a fishkill? he says there was not. >> based on collaboration in coordination and we do not have any aberration contrary to that. and by august 116 days after the release and the basis stooge dispute that? >> it there of view
12:39 am
gentleman support the increased levels of funding to clean up a process like this into the future? >> for the navajo nation be have the expertise expertise, engineers, scient ists, epa, so to do our own cleanup and do in the way it should be done. >> to support additional funding for cleanup? >> yes. >> i have some questions for the secretary. i know how important it is for the epa to work
12:40 am
together. over some of the things you said before when did you first hear about the spill? >> thursday morning 930. >> actually i heard about it from a staff member. >> it was 24 hours have is that affect your ability to respond? the epa initially put out reformation that the velocity debt plume was traveling. based on the initial
12:41 am
estimates suggesting it would arrive late in the night to on thursday very early hours friday so based on information so to close the irrigation ditches and that proved to be wrong. and as a result of the incorrect information will lost time continued to withdraw in the irrigation ditches when we did have to shut the river down. >> lenovo anything similar like this would have happened in new mexico but could you compare that to how quickly would have notified adjacent landowners >> immediately. i personally would have called.
12:42 am
i can tell you what we did here we contacted the nomination. we immediately contacted san one county and local communities. we didn't have a phone call list. with emergency responses we have a protocol in place. to notify the downstream communities to stop with other actions. >> how would you have responded with you found out one of your employees didn't tell anybody about it for a day? >> they would be former employees.
12:43 am
>> t do feel heard testimony was san after recounting of what you saw on the ground? >>. >> do have a great amount of respect for administrator mccarthy. i think one of the flaws hindsight is 2020 but it is an issue that we continue to face. the administrator is tenacious and holds herself to a high standard but i don't think the employees who are charged with managing the situation help themselves to that same standard. the lack of involvement from headquarters hinder this effort there is a lot of in-fighting. they chose to handle this as a regional emergency and did not elevate as i mentioned
12:44 am
until the day after the contamination plumes already arrived in mexico. so i think the reluctance of headquarters and management to become directly involved play a huge role to hinder our efforts. i don't think there was close collaboration. for example, just today that epa will him enroll a long-term monitoring plan. and not to develop their own plan in a vacuum to collaborate with the state. >> frequently we have the
12:45 am
saving interaction. frequently there are situations with the epa to you think the country will be well served to give responsibilities to protect the nation's resources for local, state natural resource departments rather than of the epa? that human nature that live on the plant and now to do the best jobs that to be given strong difference with
12:46 am
the clean water act i think congress envisioned a cooperative federalist model when they adopted the statutes when some of to deferring the state's federal think that is the case. certainly over the past couple of years and in particular of the waters of the united states role where mexico was among the of coalition of states that did successfully the epa and the north dakota district. we are in the best position to manage and understand the impact. >> i agree. i will break the rules again. mr. pierce. i have lot of questions for you buy will go to the other members. >> thanks for your courtesy.
12:47 am
to get assurances that they were mistakenly people were not sure maybe you understood it better bet take my word to try to hold two signatures they did not like what they were siding -- didn't know what they were signing and then to stand side-by-side until we get the answer is more effective than writing a letter on behalf of something. said with respect to the water that was released out of the navajo day am coming to understand we will help push that question that is a significant question downstream maya of familiar enough with the agency's you may have led of difficulty
12:48 am
and a sixth getting resolution to the. your readership -- leadership in this we have heard testimony today that this bill at the gold king mine does that appear to significantly have changed the water quality at the animas river is that something you agree with that basically this is no big deal? >> absolutely not. i agree the pollution passed with no water column. that was expected nobody ever stated that it wouldn't be bound plume moved through the river bed the issue that my colleague did acknowledge is what is left after moves through. so you have high levels of dangerous metals such as
12:49 am
arsenic and lead the which have now been deposited in the sedimented each every time there is a storm water event or the spring runoff following snowpack, that contamination or that sediment will become agitated to mobilize those contaminants to create a public health issue. also the water quality has rebounded but the sediment deposited the impacts on wildlife will not be understood for years for cry to agree it has rebounded to background levels that is not the issue. the issue is what is left over in the sediment now all along the river. >> they have found those
12:50 am
head the metals industry indebted to the rocks. data sample of the groundwater right there so definite lead the effects are in the groundwater. so i think i share the president's concern and your concern for the residents of mexico. we heard from the administrator all processes were followed for you to be notified from someone different than the epa. and a question was you were not notified but she said that is the way we do which. is that your experience really? >> no. i did not think so. >> can you describe that process? you heard greg questions to
12:51 am
the administrator and she kept trying to give less bureaucratic doublespeak so give us the process you went through. >> once we were defied, we saw the pictures and had conversations and had witnessed what had occurred to withdraw water from the river unilaterally a was done by the states but after that epa did berate one of the staffers from region six deliberate one of my staffers we didn't do a joint press release to publicize that decision because it felt like it was a lost opportunity to do positive publicity in response to this bill. vibrated the epa regional office for wasting time to
12:52 am
get into a public relations issues. >> a good question. you say unfortunately the funding is limited does not provide is what we need to address the issues. '' with the course of action me to remedy the problem? >> i think it depends on the situation. >> it is the situation we're facing right now with the limited funds what would it be? >> there is a short-term solution to treat the water with more of a law understanding treatment facility solution than remediation at the mine itself.
12:53 am
>> thank you to the panel for sitting here for an extended period of time. councilmen we had an opportunity but the southern ute tribe small communities in southwest colorado describe when did the epa reach out to you? you heard from the city of during go when did they reach out? >> thank you for your leadership on this. to a knowledge as officially contacted to make the call until this monday september 14. >> september 14 that is an extended period of time does that show at the epa?
12:54 am
>> if you looked at the relationship rand responsibility that is way too long. >> would you care to expand? said that was pretty impressive to be proactive to take the initiative to respond and meets the needs of the community is there something the epa could learn from you? >> that will be hard to answer. we don't depend on the government to do our work or protect our interests and we'll always roll up our sleeves and get in the middle of it to address our needs and believe and of course, whatever information we gather we do hire the best and the most qualified and of course, we deal with people who don't produce at the level or quality we expect. so if nothing else in hold
12:55 am
people accountable and responsible for actions. >> i do want to applaud you to get the word out refined a disturbing there were trying to get a waiver for the navajo nation people to respond to seek responsibility and accountability from the epa. to the colorado does a pretty good job in terms of monitoring? we have engineers in colorado? >> yes we do. with water quality engineers so we worked collaborative leave with the epa and others to provide those resources to have a colorado solution. >> part of your job is the
12:56 am
people of the state of colorado that the water will be saved. does it concern you that as the chairman noted as a follow-up to my question in the there was zero engineers at the epa working on the mind that had the high potential to blow out? with the state of colorado handled it that way? >> it concerns me but that doesn't mean they were not involved in some capacity. >> you are in the government. it is your job to have oversight. wouldn't have been prudent for the epa to have that oversight to make good choices before we had a catastrophe? >> i don't know if they rely and other resources.
12:57 am
>> he would handle the very differently? >> our department has its own engineers for that situation. >> while we were talking, if you have the unlimited budget going forward, would you be supportive of the goods and your chin legislation? >> at the pleasure of the governor and a number it is my position to say but our congressional delegates in the past in most of the western states have been active to promote and support legislation to redress these situations. >> councilman would you describe the challenges and the economics course they were facing as a southern ute try based off the impact of southern colorado
12:58 am
specifically? >> the economic impact aside from any cost we have incurred is to be determined which you have this particular area of during go and silver and tin and the four corners of southwest colorado and to mexico, it is a tourist area. for us, with our casino as an example the same people visit also visit the four corners of the same people that visit us. when you have the world news to say here is a toxic waste site that scares people day council -- cancel trips and reservations in the economy goes down and that is something we have to look at what was our impact to do to those events? backhouse --.
12:59 am
>> the queue to you and to all the members of both committees allowing us to be here for members that are not on this committee thank you for holding this critical hearing. thank you for taking time away from home. what happens to make people whole with real communication between each and every one of you. and how to prevent this from happening in the future. the one to associate myself with a common san question with the epa's administrator mccarthy as well. the memo has come out for a
1:00 am
region eight dated august -- september 15. and went to the communities. with every the soakers. and the neck state 24 hours later. and when region nine was notified at night even talking about the notification to the state of mexico. you have a problem that has to be corrected. i shared this with you with secretary mccarthy.
1:01 am
i share this with mr. tipton as well. with this system that is put in place today for the amber over as well was the national weather system do you think that would be helpful to push out as much information? if not if there is realtime instant beautification would that have been beneficial? >> absolutely. >> rapid communication affairs that is something to make a difference. >> it would help. to make those decisions and
1:02 am
to receive that quicker would have prepared better. >> i appreciate that. also thanks for herb -- from our brothers and sisters to alert many communities said new mexico through the leadership by being good neighbors that you were alerted your neighbors so thank you so very much. secretary flan is anything and is there anything you have concerns with to be corresponding to read the with the state of new mexico
1:03 am
with the navajo nation that you would like to see done that we could convey i have a little under a minute. to visit with the navajo nation and to fulfil all those request. >>. >> based on the discussions the real question that i heard a lot of today is reforms to be put in place that goes from early notification that is focusing to value the performance to move forward. there is a lot of p.r. to move on instead of asking the difficult questions.
1:04 am
that is a concern that i have miles of a major concern of the structure of the independent investigation and conducted by a the nature i don't think that is true the independent that is hard to investigate a member of my cabinet. it should occur that is a great question and to bring about institutional improvement for government to work better. >> 84 the questions. number one don't let this happen again. second we need the u.s. attorney general's opinion to say it can continue to submit claims for damages.
1:05 am
we don't trust of word of mccarthy. we need a legal opinion from u.s. attorney general so we can feel much better about telling our people they can continue to submit the form and be compensated and tell all of this is resolved. that is the turnup of cleanup to adjust by diluting it that is not the way to clean them up the spill. >> to address all these issues many to get to the bottom of this i am working on a piece of legislation with my counterparts for expeditious process for the
1:06 am
establishment of those offices so there could be technical assistance to the individual also asking for support. thanks for indulging and for your testimony. >> but we will not treat you seriously until you come back to the committee. [laughter] >> secretary fled made the point as the water levels rose downstream whenever their return to normal level they've left contaminated sediment. with the tribal leaders leaders, does it need of this impact to the nomination -- navajo nation?
1:07 am
>> congressman with his use extensively the pollen from maturing and people are very concerned they don't have enough for their ceremonies and you have all these plans that are but a sense that people use grow along the of river is used in ceremonies along the river. it has been damaged with that part of the culture. >> within the industry came
1:08 am
about from that area. and that is one of the rivers that crosses the reservation. we don't make those public by any means but those who live along the river with all aspects. >> there is no way to put a price on the damage in that regard. going to the gentleman from colorado. considering this from what is sacred to you.
1:09 am
what would though long-term ramifications be? we need to clean up the mine better of there because if not another blowout will occur as we were told as he stood along the person that was working of backhoe with a blowout occurred in said there are others on the other side waiting to blow out. we don't want that to occur again and again and again. >> at this point it will be hard for us to plead up the river.
1:10 am
>> i have a final point then we will be out of here. just on the notion to make it the superfund site is a little more complicated because the community has a very large forays is a successful example of the superfund site is a viable option. but i don't think it is designed to solve all the problems. with a responsible party who does work havel's of
1:11 am
bureaucracy to slow down environments when there is a responsible party to do cleanup work with 40 the superfund it can be used effectively but there's a huge fuel spill we are cleaning up as we designate as the superfund site and we moved much faster and we are able to get a lot more work done. >> please indulge me. it would be beneficial to avoid a superfund site. with the property values the
1:12 am
most important thing that was touched on in the previous hearing to make sure whoever it is dealing with the cleanup is qualify. and i yield the balance of my time. >> you have questions for these witnesses? >> i do. i appreciate your accommodation. had an opportunity to ask director of mccarthy's some questions and i would like to pose the same questions to you. could you explain how the epa lack of communication affected your ability to respond?
1:13 am
>> i guess we have the short-term issues where we constellate had to fight to get data from a the epa that was more information we could receive the quicker to make decisions when it is the appropriate alaska of timeliness we had all kinds of excuses the bottom line to help develop a response plan and for some issues reedy the supply of water some of the smaller systems was extremely limited. and to mobilize people to
1:14 am
put physical and infrastructure in place to create an alternative supply. and then to make the fight to take conservative factions and we were not sure we would allow them because of the absence of information. >> could you tell us generally how this affected the southern ute tribe? >> the way to express it is we have to respond first and foremost, with the disaster by a implement the emergency management plan to incur cost that is the biggest
1:15 am
thing. and it kicks san -- in. >> same question how has that affected the navajo nation? how much do you think it will cost to fix it to return you to the priests killed - - spill condition ? >> it has devastated the nation. 200 shifty miles of river it is utilized in mcdevitt -- in various ways and our farmers when you look into their faces to stand alone beside them to tell you there's still giving water they know it is gone but
1:16 am
they continue to give water to which. to be closely connected to their farm and crops of a spiritual way. it is difficult to to place a relationship by nature that we have. to put a price on that but our people are hurting when you see the epa pull that out with as bill that was caused by workers.
1:17 am
>> with direct outguess bought - - pocket expenses immediately after. >> the navigation we have not received a single penny at. >> but we are working with a cooperative agreement to be reimbursed. >> you are working on something with ongoing compensation? is the federal government demanding it is a complete settlement to cut off future reimbursement? >> has anybody approach to? >> the leaders in one committee contacted the office and we don't know
1:18 am
what it is with the attorney-general was a graduate of harvard law to determine it is a final settlement form. in then to explain what was but we need an interim form now. we will not take the word of the administrator mccarthy that the compensation will continue. we all believe that until we see that in writing clearly spelled out by the attorney general of the united states. >> second to last question.
1:19 am
>> touche the councilman and mr. president thanks for being here. to be vigilant with the legacy? how the members have suffered through the radium contamination issues. >> your points are well taken. the resources are vital. with the reimbursement and settlement of claims fell one of my colleagues earlier
1:20 am
said this incident is causing distress with the federal government in terms of notification and consultation. this is a pattern and one of the points i think we need to find out how this happens. that is the law and what should be followed. describe if you can is it getting better over worse?
1:21 am
>> over the past 10 years the water quality is gradually deteriorating. that is a result of the decrease of fish id numbers as well as certain species of trout as related to do aquatics life to the point to not be suitable for drinking water or recreational purposes. >> 428 on the priority list the sites that are being worked on. so whenever though waiting list is with the resources
1:22 am
available radio for the opportunity for their priority list. i am glad for all the witnesses today of a representative of the national mining association would be nice if he was here for the private sector in the future and how they feel about extraction and the royalty attached to that to go toward the 428 how it has affected communities across the board and i mention that because of the truth is in closing the of similar
1:23 am
situations across the country. i yield back. >> i have a series of statements and documents
1:24 am
what we be the route last to ask some questions. mr. president has president obama reach out to your tribe? >> president obama has been silent and closed his door of the navajo nation in their greatest time of need. so we are yet to hear from the white house. >> let me clarify a that was under sovereign territory when they said you cannot go further? >> it was near sold certain on the colorado plant -- land they said they sought to be transparent is that your experience?
1:25 am
>> chairman there is room for improvement by this effort i have a series of grass but based on the affirmation to put this out as a p.r. gesture but the first is my scientist were insulted by this for a variety of reasons. the first is on belvedere scale. if you look at the bottom it looks like lead and cadmium is flat line is busy road at
1:26 am
the very bottom line are the two metals that it represents the only provided dissolved metals the epa drinking water it is based on non dissolved and the grass is nothing about arsenic that is a hundred 23 times over the limit at the time of the spill. that i have the second to series of graphs my staff developed. this is the algorithm mcgrath -- graf to scientifically look at this information. the final one illustrates the poor retire you represent the concentrations of lead using the same information from a the first graph, the last one shows
1:27 am
the actual concentration of lead the orange line shows you the maximum contamination levels are. that was not done by any scientist that was immediately after the plume had hit based on data we were repeatedly asking for i don't think they had a hand in this because it is so insulting to my staff i cannot imagine a scientist would be involved with this development. that is the first where i don't think epa was forthcoming with information. >> affair not part of the record we will make them so. so they provide data in a way that is not helpful also they would not provide it or excluded from the process? >> yes.
1:28 am
on friday august 21 well over two weeks after the spill occurred we were fighting for of copy of this sediment sampling because the plume moves with the water column the quality will rebound but the sediments standpoint tells you what is left over and that is critical so we were fighting staff to staff level to ask for this over weeks. of the 21st they claimed they could not provided because it contained business confidential information and other excuses. i was incredulous that the response. i cannot imagine they also claimed they were concerned about mexico open record lot as we have a very broad public record jacket does not have the same exclusive
1:29 am
is that the freedom of information act allows so they were concerned of the public record act that we would disclose more information than is otherwise required. those are just a couple of the reasons i could supplement with documents. >> you are transparent? period that was a concern. >> the department of interior? what was their reaction? could they have been more helpful? >> friday morning 5:00 a.m. i was in the area and i did speak to local staff, to people there we asked them to allow more bother -- water from the late to help preserve two of the endangered species in the
1:30 am
area of the of minnow and the supper they acted first without asking my sense is they did that on the wrong. other them that from what we initiated right away the interior involvement was nonexistent other than the press release i understand what they are investigating the press release did not provide a lot of information >> that is why we were hoping they would be part of the panel today. what were they planning on doing? says epa been any more straightforward with reimbursement of costs to mexico? >> no. last week i was taken aback when lower-level staffers reached out and i am just
1:31 am
referring to the organizational chart. non management employs. epa made contact to my staffers as well as staffers from of insecurity to gather information of the cost extended related to air this. the state of new mexico and colorado and utah and navajo nation are considering legal action. as an attorney myself, it is very surprising they would try to gather this information in that manner i would expect it would be done at a high-level the governor instructed the staff that communication needs to flow through leadership that the leadership level and we would not communicate in that way. it seems like bad faith as a lawyer that is not the
1:32 am
tactics i reduces litigation to secretly tried to reach out for information without contacting management level employees. >> let me ask you doctor, the epa said that they could have done a better job that is a low bar, but did they notify colorado or were you fortunate enough that somebody was in the right place at the right time? >> we were fortunate enough to have a member of the state department of natural resources that the study -- site to deactivated our notifications system in state through the spill line so we could follow our protocol for the downstream users. >> so really you got notification by serendipity
1:33 am
new mexico did not get it until the southern ute got that? who notified you? >> we were notified by the state of new mexico. >> then you notified you talk as well? >> so when the epa talks about the notification process basically it is nonexistent they did not notify scott it has to be done by other people. we do have one other member. i am stretching to see if anybody else can ask questions. let me pontificate we also have the votes so we will end of this very quickly. i appreciate the notification but i want to emphasize the fact three districts are involved in
1:34 am
this area they also were very late to be notified. the people on the ground didn't have a great notification process the there. the congressmen is getting ready and will give for the last chance to ask questions i have tried to emphasize how frustrated i am that the epa insisted on having their own panel that consumed three of the four hours i don't allow that in my committee because i feel it is important the administration or any administration sets at the same table for whom they make decisions and had your testimony that is ravaging and far more informative than the last three hours if it was given at the same time we could have the chance to go back to the of mr. to get to their root
1:35 am
issues. sometimes we say the same words but we don't mean the same words. that is extremely frustrating to me and why i tried to emphasize that so significantly. not just administrator mccarthy the entire administration that believes they have to be separate and go first i find that arrogant and disgusting part by one to apologize they were here so long because the testimony you have given in the prescience answered were fascinating and would have been beneficial for all members you were here to have heard it would be good for the on triage to hear the responses because in many cases they are in sharp contrast of with the epa says has or has not taken place. my last rand to for the day.
1:36 am
>> 84 irritations to provide me the last word which is quite an honor. for all of you to the incredibly aware and involved to help clean up and looked at how to mitigate these in the future but also the long term impact and the first is to rome secretary environment i am delighted to have you here. to be very involved from the very beginning to be instrumental to assist the epa to redress the issues figure out what we do going forward. showing the surface water contamination is down to the
1:37 am
previous bill level we know the concentration of arsenic and lead and other heavy metals have settled to the bottom and as a result can be mobilized at any time. while i would love to of control the natural flow of movement of weather conditions it is critical be prepared for the long-term environmental consequences and impacted and continue to monitor collect data and do the research so we know we are protecting the long-term health impact for the state's and surrounding populations. secretary and now you're working with a coalition of state holders tell us more about that and how i can help you to keep the coalition together to
1:38 am
continue your work. >> thank you so much for your interest and your time you have been extremely issue on which -- whenever we have worked together. the same way we personally have done to tackle these before such as the fuel spill in albuquerque and the way we did that is by including local communities including the expertise through public institutions by including local stakeholder groups to develop a long-term monitoring plan with the number of outstanding ngos and vague area near mexico state university with a national laboratories also
1:39 am
we have the expertise and our state issue were fully aware how do we coordinate that effort and get it funded? >> your opinion? i understand the financial implications are significant but it is their responsibility that if we don't push for that issue there may not be those investments to represent a corestates the notion to pick up a 200 or $300,000 annual effort, that needs to be in the plan to continue to monitor and assess the environmental impact of this bill. >> their plan should be to support our plan.
1:40 am
idle thank of fox should guard the hen house they created this situation. we would never allow a private entity to do a private investigation of itself to accept those results there needs to be an independent results. >> also thank you to the president with your incredible work by very upset they took even monfort to notify a the navajo nation. i intend to support you and i think there will be many members of congress as a bipartisan effort to require the epa to have much better relationship to recognize the sovereignty of the navajo nation to expect that
1:41 am
level of collaboration in for your arm process should be respected and supported. your welcome. >> i hope private citizens want the same thing. we appreciate the long distance traveled here written testimony is part of the record i appreciate the detail of your oral testimony. there may be other questions that members may have we will keep the official transcript, the record of committee opened 10 days. and if there are questions please submit a written response within that time period. thank you for your testimony i promise we will not let this go through the?
1:42 am
we will maintain until we have definitive answers and changes to go forward. without objection i am the only one here no one will object. the committee stands adjourned. [inaudible conversations]
1:43 am
1:44 am
>> good afternoon to the
1:45 am
witnesses the hearing will come to order focusing on the fda to improve and maintain safety of our food supply and i thank you commissioner for your presence here today cleared delighted you to participate we appreciate the relationship we are developing and the dialogue we have had over the last several months the key for the way you are treating me as the chairman of the subcommittee. your testimony nearly one out of six fall victims to food borne illness each year they assume the through the purchase is safe passage of
1:46 am
the food safety modernization act of 2010 gave agency significant new responsibility to implement a sweeping set of challenges over the largest of the last 70 years our hearing today is timely as it follows the publishing for controls on human and animal suits to deliver these responsibilities your private sector partners expect transparency and when i speak to small businesses in my home state their major concern of government that stifles innovation true burden some regulations i am pleased the agency took the suggestions to the intercultural community. because they were not workable for farmers. thank you for that
1:47 am
modernizing the controls is that the heart of the implementation and it starts the compliance process. in collaboration with the agency and issued guidance for a process i also recognize the successful implementation does not come without a costa rica remained committed to investing in the implementation with the resources at our disposal and have done so since 2011 it is increased to 8% but we space -- now we face additional challenges and as
1:48 am
the process continues for appropriations the funding will undoubtedly play a significant role to establish priorities for well afford to discussing food safety topics with our witnesses today now return to my colleague for any remarks he may wish to give. >> thank you for holding this hearing. the safety of our food supply is something most americans take for granted. at a grocery store they don't have to give a second thought of the food will make their families sec. america has and continues to have the safest food supply in the world but that does not mean it is perfect anyone who was ever had a food borne illness will testify ready to make sure we stay ahead of the changing marketplace.
1:49 am
tuesday ahead of this is a task with multiple agencies with the fda regulating 80%. continually to make the process and procedure in place it is always a treat as well as the imported strawberry. >> with the food safety laws to look at how we do food safety to spend the resources to retract that down now to make sure we prevent that from occurring it is the better way to do business the law had deliverable and it took
1:50 am
longer than they would like the rat the point where the rubber meets the road to require a new way of thinking for food inspectors trained to look for an existing problem instead of seeing that they never materialized in the first place. i know bernie about the processing there would make sure the new rules while minimizing the disruption and so thank you for holding the hearing i'm interested in hearing from above with mrs. >> commissioner ostroff your testimony is day significant number i have extended from the five minutes at that ted
1:51 am
>> i share your enthusiasm for the working relationship we have been able to develop the last several months and look forward to continuing to work not only on food safety issues for all other issues the fda deals with. and the acting commissioner of food and drug a deeply appreciate the opportunity to be here about the food safe to talk about the food safety modernization act also thank you for holding this hearing for the strong and growing working relationship to achieve our mutual goals to insure the safe the supply in the world i hope everybody in this room knows it is food safety month i cannot think of a better way to celebrate them
1:52 am
to start the process as he did last week to discuss the critical next that to realize the goals although i've only been working at fda two years i began my career before that 30 years ago working on food safety at that time with the dead the pathogen e. coli working in washington state over a two year period i personally interviewed every person or member family in the state diagnosed with that infection and visited a number of them in their homes and i subsequently did the same with other illnesses from food borne pathogens so i can say i have a very deep appreciation for the suffering and consequences
1:53 am
to carry that throughout my career as a practitioner and physician in fact, food safety is the reason i'm a joy fda from the person sitting to my left despite methods to detect food aboard elvis from a started 30 years ago, there simply remains too much food borne illness one item six americans fall victim to food borne illness each year that is 48 million people and of these 120,000 are hospitalizedand 3,000 die. this burden is shared by each and every one of us consumers and food producers alike.
1:54 am
the economic cost is high as well purposes rigo the illness can be prevented frankly we must acknowledge it is time to start preventing them. over on this side then data has shown for many years that burden of illness remains essentially unchanged. failed this burden goes up well for others it goes down but in total the line remains flat so it is time to make it end in the right direction. we believe we have the tool to do that the food safety
1:55 am
modernization act i have been thrilled to do participate in the process to modernize the food safety system of it has solved problems to identify the best solutions to benefit consumers and industry. that is what we do when confronted by such problems we have abetted this concept to modernize the food safety system to meet the challenges of a do global era. the was unquestionably the product of common interest. members of congress, will sides came together with consumers to enhance visibility to for test the food supply in a modern diverse world of commerce.
1:56 am
it stands for the proposition that the standard across the food system to prevent food safety problems many producers are already implementing. having prevention oriented standards in place deeply applied to foreign producers leasable verification of compliance and accountability for those who are unable or unwilling to comply to direct the fda to build the modern food safety system based on the central ideas that has fully embraced a dynamic approach and is working very hard to strengthen existing ones to transporters and importers have this capacity in --
1:57 am
capacity and responsibility is the foundation of the new system and it includes the fda food safety partners at the federal state travel and local levels and also includes ford government which can play an important role to ensure the u.s. market supply is produced for bin safe fashion and includes a patient advocates that are victims of food borne illness because after all they are the ones we do this for. the '02 final rules issued last week for critical with japan's to build the new food safety system. focus on the of manufacturing process to ensure that food companies are taking 24/7 365 days per year approach working with
1:58 am
the fda to prevent problems on the front end rather than waiting a problem is recognized as what happened in your state earlier this year. these rules are important but only the first and a number of steps to build a comprehensive food safety system. three more rules will be finalized by the end of the year as a produce rule rule, verification process and accredited third-party certification. the final two will be issued in the spring was sanatorium -- sanitary transport there will be integrated holistic network based on the principle of prevention. writing the rules is a big step but only the first. right now they exist on paper the bigger challenges to implement the rules to
1:59 am
make them exist on the ground. we strongly believe if we do not implement the new food safety system in a comprehensive way congress envisioned from the start we will fail the goals of safety and for the level playing field for u.s. producers the line will not bend and must go. i am very proud of this work and of our team. and to be a force of nature please continue to work with us to achieve the level of funding that we need to accomplish on the ground statutes. american consumers are depending on us and expect this of us i will just end to thank you again for your support of the fda and the opportunity to be here to discuss this with you. >> commissioner thanks very
2:00 am
much. you outlined a scenario by which these rules are announced. what is the basis for the prior jersey shen? is there something about these two rules that make them more significant or easier to pursue? what do we expect in the future? . .


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on