Policy

Send a SWAT Team to Check Water Quality? Sure, Why Not?

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What the cluck?

There are so many possible jokes about the Environmental Protection Agency sending a SWAT team — for purely bureaucratic purposes — to an Alaskan gold mining community bearing the name "Chicken" that one scarcely knows where to begin.

No doubt it wasn't amusing for the miners there, though. And they're up in arms about the way the feds have treated them in the pursuit of possible Clean Water Act violations. The Alaska Dispatch explains:

When agents with the Alaska Environmental Crimes Task Force surged out of the wilderness around the remote community of Chicken wearing body armor and jackets emblazoned with POLICE in big, bold letters, local placer miners didn't quite know what to think.

Did it really take eight armed men and a squad-size display of paramilitary force to check for dirty water? Some of the miners, who run small businesses, say they felt intimidated.

Others wonder if the actions of the agents put everyone at risk. When your family business involves collecting gold far from nowhere, unusual behavior can be taken as a sign someone might be trying to stage a robbery. How is a remote placer miner to know the people in the jackets saying POLICE really are police?

Miners suggest it might have been better all around if officials had just shown up at the door — as they used to do — and said they wanted to check the water.

Chicken is a small roost, boasting all of 17 full-time residents and lots of seasonal mine workers, according to the Dispatch. The EPA wouldn't explain why it has suddenly shifted to an armed team to check for Clean Water Act violations. According to the Dispatch, one Senate staffer was told the EPA sent an armed team because they were told by Alaska State Troopers there was "rampant drug and human trafficking" in the area. A spokesperson for the troopers denies they told the EPA any such thing.

Hat tip to Radley Balko. Apparently he has a book or something out about this sort of behavior.

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