After a decade of waiting, the National Park Service is getting ready to release a new study showing that the massive spill of toxic wastewater into the Potomacs River was caused by a combination of human error and the government’s negligence.
The study, which will be released by the Park Service next week, is expected to be the largest in its 43-year history and, in a sign of its importance, it will be one of the most comprehensive.
The National Park service, which manages the Potoms, is seeking to dispel the myth that the spill caused the death of a single person, which has long been one of its central myths.
Instead, the study, by an independent environmental scientist, found that it killed at least seven people, including a child, who were not wearing life jackets and who were caught by a storm.
The report, by David E. Smith, a former chief scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a graduate of Harvard University, will be a centerpiece of the park service’s public presentation next week.
The spill, which occurred in February 2014, prompted a massive cleanup effort that took several years.
More than 30,000 tons of waste spilled into the river and nearly 400 homes were destroyed, but the worst damage was caused on the Potos, a tiny lake in southern Virginia, which is the source of much of the drinking water in the region.
The park service is planning to release the report next week in a bid to educate Americans about the risks posed by human-caused pollution.
The report, which was released in advance of President Donald Trump’s trip to the region next week and is being promoted by the park’s parks division, will address the potential risks posed to wildlife and the environment by the spill.
In the months since the spill, it has become the subject of a national debate over the spill and how much responsibility should be put on the Park Department.
The federal government, which owns and manages the park, has taken a hard line on the spill in recent months, saying it was a “massive failure.”
It has blamed the spill largely on a “lack of foresight” and said that the park should have anticipated the severity of the spill when it decided to take out the spillway.
The parks department is not seeking a criminal investigation into the spill because it is not a crime.
The agency has also blamed the park for a “deliberate disregard” for the health and safety of residents and their pets, saying the parks department did not have adequate safety precautions.
But the Park Office, which oversees the park and manages it as a public agency, has been called out for poor oversight and poor communication about the process and findings of the study.
In a letter to the Park Division, Park Administrator John S. Burdette wrote that the report, “while not intended as a criminal proceeding, is in many ways a criminal inquiry” into the park.
He added that the review will be “the largest of its kind and will involve an extensive review of thousands of pages of documents” and will provide a “vast amount of additional information.”
In its letter, the parks division also said the study would include information about the toxic chemicals and other environmental contaminants that were used in the spill that are not currently in the public domain, including the amount of toxic material removed from the Potomas.
The letter was a response to a request by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who has introduced legislation to make it a crime to tamper with records.
It comes as the parks agency has been embroiled in a bitter public feud with the Trump administration, with the administration accusing the Park and other agencies of misleading the public about the scope of the cleanup and overcharging for services.
The Park Service has repeatedly defended its role in the cleanup, saying that it has been involved in more than 80 percent of the Clean Water Act cleanup projects, including several of the major events that led to the spill: the Superfund cleanup in the 1970s, the Gulf of Mexico cleanup in 1996 and the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay in 2000.
Park Service officials said in a statement on Monday that they were disappointed that some people have interpreted the study as blaming the Park for the spill rather than acknowledging that the environmental consequences of the spills have been severe.
“It is clear from the report that the Park failed to adequately anticipate the severity and magnitude of the environmental and health consequences of these spills, as well as to adequately plan and execute the Cleanwater and Gulf of Maine operations,” the statement said.
“While the report does not specifically address the causes of the events that caused the spill or the extent to which those events contributed to the disaster, we continue to support the Park as a leader in the clean water and clean air movement and believe it is important for everyone to have the opportunity to see the full report before making any final judgments.”
But the parks statement went on to call for a federal investigation into why the agency failed to take appropriate action before the spill