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Mine owner makes surprising claim about spilled wastewater

Last week's mine waste spill in southwestern Colorado was not expected by the mine's owner, CBS Denver reports.

The rivers affected by last week's toxic spil... 02:03

"Disbelief, just utter devastation, a little bit of incomprehension when I first saw the pictures last Thursday," mine owner Todd Hennis said.

EPA workers accidentally released three million gallons of contaminated wastewater while inspecting the Gold King Mine.

Hennis said the water did not originate with the Gold King but seeped into it from an adjacent mine, the Sunnyside. Its owners deny any responsibility.

Federal officials say the water conditions ar... 02:29

Hennis said the EPA forced him to allow access to his mine four years ago. He did not want to give the EPA access to investigate the leakage from his mine but said he was fined daily.

"When you're a small guy and you're having a $35,000-a-day fine accrue against you, you have to run up the white flag," he said.

The EPA's work to investigate the discharge from the mine was not completed last year, so Hennis said they plugged it up, and when they reopened it last week millions of gallons came gushing out. He couldn't believe it.

The co-coordinator for the Animas River Stake... 01:52

New results from the EPA give an idea of just how many toxic chemicals were released.

Testing from the river hours after the spill shows the amount of lead in the water was more than 3,500 times the limit that is safe for humans. The arsenic levels were 823 times above the limit. And cadmium levels were 33 times higher.

Hennis is coming forward to say this could have been avoided.

"I had initial hesitation on going public with this with visions of mobs and pitchforks and torches," Hennis said.

But now he is grateful that the EPA has taken full responsibility for this environmental nightmare.

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