Outrage is directly correlated with what is visible and easy to understand, not what is actually outrageous.
Case in point: the EPA accidentally released 1 million gallons of mine waste into the Animas River (while investigating how to stop mine drainage, no less), turning the river sludgy and bright orange. The response: HEADS MUST ROLL! Of course, mines developed by thousands of private individuals and companies have been slowly, invisibly poisoning the Animas for more than a century. They did so without violating any environmental or public health laws, precisely because there were no such limitations on the mining industry for decades. This is seen as a fact of life and no-one has seriously demanded that the inheritors of the responsible parties be identified and compelled to clean up these mines. After all, there are thousands and thousands, whose owners are dead and bankrupt. The effort involved would be maddeningly difficult- and arguably unfair, given the time that has passed and the many steps of legal succession between the original developers and now. These developers introduced so much mine waste into the Animas system (far more than the EPA) that there have not been fish in the river above Durango for decades. This fact, in a rational world, would prompt the sort of public demand for comprehensive remediation that moves public and private action.
In fact, many locals resisted a comprehensive cleanup effort in the 1980s and 90s because labeling the region a Superfund site would be bad for tourism. The EPA complied with their wishes and started the exact sorts of piecemeal investigations that prompted last week’s spill (which had all gone rather well, until it, you know, didn’t)… and now locals demand the EPA compensate, wait for it, the damaged tourist industry.
All development of the natural environment carries risk to our water resources. I suppose it’s human nature to ignore that fact and instead focus on the bright orange river staring you in the face.