EPA Releases New Data on Colorado Mine Spill

COLORADO – The EPA has released additional water quality data from Aug. 7 to Aug. 8, 2015 for the Animas and San Juan Rivers from the Northern Border of New Mexico to Navajo Nation. Based upon the surface water sample results in New Mexico, surface water concentrations are trending toward pre-event conditions.

To assess the impacts of the release at the Gold King Mine, water quality samples were collected from the Northern Border of New Mexico to Navajo Nation at numerous intervals beginning on Aug. 7, 2015. Samples were taken prior to the plume’s arrival to establish a baseline for water quality comparisons. Each surface water sample was analyzed for 24 metals, including arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury.

Surface water samples were collected on Friday, August 7, 2015, at four (4) locations prior to arrival of the plume along the Animas and San Juan Rivers in New Mexico. On Saturday, August 8, 2015, nine (9) locations were sampled after arrival of the plume.

EPA has continued to take additional samples to document the change in the concentration of metals in the river. EPA has shared this data with state, local and tribal officials in New Mexico to assist them in their decisions regarding the on-going use of water resources. These results are based on validated sampling data collected from Aug. 7 to Aug. 8, 2015.

The agency has activated its Emergency Operations Center to ensure coordination among its regions, laboratories and national program offices in Washington DC. EPA is closely coordinating with the officials in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Southern Ute tribe and Navajo Nation. EPA is taking the lead on efforts to contain the leak and flow from the mine is now controlled. EPA has also deployed federal On-Scene Coordinators and other technicians in Colorado, New Mexico and Navajo Nation to assist with preparations and first response activities in these jurisdictions.

EPA is sharing information as quickly as possible with the community as experts work to analyze any effects the spill may have on drinking water and public health.

In New Mexico, EPA has federal on-scene coordinators, two water quality experts and thirty technicians and contractors responding to the spill as it reaches communities in the state. EPA mobile command center is operational in Farmington. EPA is continuing collecting water quality samples from nine locations in the river near intakes for Aztec, Farmington, Lower Valley Water Users Association, Morning Star Water Supply System and the North Star Water User Association. Each of these locations will continue to be monitored as the spill makes its way past these areas. Additionally, teams of qualified technicians are going door-to-door to collect samples for laboratory analysis.

The EPA says it’s not harmful to humans, and the fish they’ve monitored after the spill haven’t had extraordinary death rates (about one fish died per 108 fish tested).

SUN News will continue to report on this developing story.