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CAP Official: Mine Contaminants Likely Won't Affect Arizona Water Supply

Gold King Post Mine discharge
(Photo courtesy of Environmental Protection Agency)
Overview of the Gold King Post Mine discharge in Colorado.

Water contamination from an abandoned Gold King Mine in Colorado in is flowing toward Lake Powell and the Colorado River. While the Phoenix area uses Colorado River water, officials believe there is little to worry about.

Heavy metals like arsenic and lead are in the estimated 3 million gallons of contamination that entered the Animas River, which flows into the San Juan River and then the Colorado River at Lake Powell.

While 3 million gallons equates to about 9 acre feet, Lake Powell is at about 12 million acre feet.

“Overall, it should not be an issue,” said Brian Henning. Henning is with Central Arizona Project, which diverts Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson.

“There’s really a low risk of impact to Lake Mead and even downstream into the Colorado system and affecting CAP’s water supply," said Henning. "The dilution factor is so enormous, it would render virtually most of the containments undetectable.”

Henning said sediment that exists in the lake and river systems will also absorb some of the contaminants. EPA data collected within 24 hours of the spill reports contaminant levels dropped by 50 percent 10 miles downstream. Lake Powell is another 250 miles downstream.

Click The Map To See The Path Of Wastewater

More Gold King Mine Coverage

Andrew Bernier was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2014 to 2016.