Ethics Watch blasts state for non-response to NYT on Clean Water Act

Thirty-nine states provided information requested by the New York Times as part of its series on Clean Water Act violations called “Toxic Waters: A series about the worsening pollution in American water and regulators’ response.” Colorado wasn’t one of them.

Instead, here’s what Ann Hause of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reportedly told the Times when asked to provide information or verify the Times’s reporting on Colorado’s enforcement, or lack thereof, of the Clean Water Act:

“We cannot verify the accuracy of this data because we cannot duplicate the ECHO query or survey used to generate this data. Also, the time period in question and the criteria used for specifying compliance are not stated. With respect to the remaining questions, as they are fairly resource-intensive, the Department is not able to provide answers within any predictable time frame.”

Colorado Ethics Watch, a nonprofit political watchdog group, found that response woefully inadequate and now plans to file its own Colorado Open Records Act request.

“This is an unacceptable response. How can the Department not know whether or not it is enforcing the Clean Water Act? And more importantly, how are Coloradoans supposed to know whether the Department is adequately protecting them from environmental harms?” said Ethics Watch director Chantell Taylor. “Taxpayers deserve prompt, accurate information on such important matters of public safety and we intend to follow up with the Department to see if we can get just that.”

EPA oversight of the Clean Water Act and state responsiveness in enforcing federal guidelines is a hot topic in Colorado these days, with U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette’s (D-Denver) FRAC Act seeking to remove a Safe Drinking Water Act exemption for the natural-gas process called hydraulic fracturing.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

David O. Williams is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy,
environmental and political issues for the Colorado Independent since
2008, delivering impact journalism on a wide range of topics. A former
editor for the Vail Daily and Vail Trail, Williams’ work also has
appeared in numerous publications since 1988, including the New York
Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He appears periodically as a
guest on Rocky Mountain PBS and David Sirota’s show on 760 AM in
Denver. Williams is the founder, part owner and editor of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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