LITTLE ROCK —Two members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation said Tuesday they are taking steps to hold the Environmental Protection Agency accountable for the accidental release of about 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater in Colorado.

LITTLE ROCK —Two members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation said Tuesday they are taking steps to hold the Environmental Protection Agency accountable for the accidental release of about 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater in Colorado.


An EPA-led crew triggered the spill while excavating the defunct Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colo., on Aug. 5. The spill into the Animas River also led to the pollution of rivers in New Mexico and Utah and contaminated water relied upon by the Navajo Nation.


Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, an engineer and a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Space, Science and Technology, said he has filed a complaint with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies alleging that the EPA was involved in the "practice of engineering" as defined by Colorado law but did not have a professional engineer with a Colorado license working on the Gold King Mine reclamation project.


"Because the EPA has not demonstrated a Colorado-licensed professional engineer was engaged during the planning and design stages nor part of the site removal team that was responsible for the Gold King Mine spill, the EPA was in direct violation of the Colorado statute and should be subject to the same consequences any other entity in violation of this law would face," Westerman wrote in his complaint.


"I believe the spill could have been prevented, or at the very least, significantly mitigated, if the EPA had followed the engineering practice laws established to safeguard life, health and property and to promote the public welfare," he wrote.


EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said Tuesday the agency did have a Colorado-licensed engineer on the project.


"Based upon EPA’s three decades of experience cleaning up waste sites through our Superfund response program, an interdisciplinary approach is needed to clean up sites, including engineering, construction and other disciplines," she said. "Regarding Rep. Westerman’s question about occupational licensing, EPA did have an engineer licensed by the state of Colorado working on the response."


Also Tuesday, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said he will work with colleagues to introduce legislation to prohibit the EPA from claiming sovereign immunity to avoid paying damages for the spill. He also called on McCarthy to set aside a portion of the agency’s annual funding to cover damages.


"The EPA’s response to the Animas River disaster reads like an exaggerated Hollywood portrayal of a political cover-up," Cotton said in a statement. "They underplayed the severity of the spill from the beginning and failed to warn affected states or groups to allow them to better mitigate damages. They even went so far as to deliver contaminated water to the Navajo Nation in filtered oil containers."


The agency’s response has "only gotten worse," he said.


"They recently released an internal cover-up report that attempted to clear the EPA of any misconduct and made a late-night document dump full of needlessly redacted information," Cotton said. "Unfortunately, unlike in Hollywood movies, real people’s lives have been devastated by this disaster. The EPA must take responsibility for their negligence and make things right."


Purchia said the agency does not comment on pending legislation.


Information on the spill and the EPA’s response to it is available on the agency’s website at www2.epa.gov/goldkingmine.