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EPA: San Juan River Safe For Recreation After Mine Waste Spill

mine spill
Environmental Protection Agency
On Aug. 5, 2015, the EPA was investigating contamination of this old Colorado mine when it unexpectedly triggered a release of 3 million gallons of toxic waste.

Just in time for boating season, EPA officials said Thursday the Animas and San Juan Rivers are safe for recreation. That’s after the agency accidentally released 3 million gallons of mine waste last summer.

The EPAhas tested several sites downstream of the Gold King Mine spill and come up with a planfor monitoring the rivers. Agency researchers are examining water, sediment, wildlife and fish at 30 points along the river at various flow levels and weather conditions.

An EPA spokeswoman says it’s difficult to judge the current data because of a lack of historic numbers. Not to mention, hundreds of abandoned mines upstream have leaked into the rivers for years.

The EPA plans to give states and tribes $2 million from the Clean Water Act fund to conduct more tests.

Hundreds of Navajo farmers have been affected by the spill. Researchers are still looking at the amounts of metals to decide whether the water is safe for crops and livestock.

Laurel Morales was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2011 to 2020.