Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gold King mine waste water heading to Lake Powell

Officials in New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona are analyzing the potential impacts of 3 million gallons of waste water from the  abandoned Gold King mine in Colorado [right, credit US EPA], as it moves down the Los Animas River to the San Juan River and eventually to the Colorado River and Lake Powell.    EPA raised the estimate of water released from an earlier figure of 1 million gallons - http://www2.epa.gov/region8/gold-king-mine-release-emergency-response.  EPA was responsible for allowing the waste water to spill into the river on August 5.  Arizona draws water from Lake Powell for the Central Arizona Project which supplies water to the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas.

The Arizona Dept. of Environmental Quality issued the following statement:

Any potential release that could threaten Arizona’s water supplies is cause for concern. At present, available information suggests that the Gold King Mine spill has not affected Arizona’s surface, ground or drinking water. EPA preliminary data collected within 24 hours of the spill showed that contaminant levels were 50 percent lower after moving about 10 miles downstream of the release site – Lake Powell is located another 250 miles further downstream.

ADEQ is taking the following steps to address potential future impacts, should they occur, to Arizona waters:
  • We are sending a team of water quality monitoring professionals to conduct baseline sampling upstream and downstream of the Glenn Canyon Dam, which creates Lake Powell. 
  • We will collect additional samples, as appropriate.We are closely examining facts and actions being undertaken by involved local and state agencies (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concerning this release. 
  • We are participating on daily calls to coordinate and stay informed with these agencies.Based on our continuing monitoring and analysis of the situation, we will be in a position to further advise Arizonans and water systems.  
We at AZGS are working with our sister agencies in water, environment, and health to assess the situation and make recommendations.

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