Colorado’s mine spill not expected to affect Washington County water

People kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., Thursday in water colored from a mine waste spill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that a cleanup team was working with heavy equipment Wednesday to secure an entrance to the Gold King Mine. Workers instead released an estimated 1 million gallons of mine waste into Cement Creek, which flows into the Animas River. Near Durango, Colo., Aug. 6, 2015 | Photo by Jerry McBride/The Durango Herald via AP; St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY – With eyes on the toxic plume of mine wastewater from the Gold King Mine in Colorado moving into the San Juan River and possibly Lake Powell, people have begun to ask the Washington County Water Conservancy District if the county water supply is at risk.

The short answer: No.

“Washington County Water Conservancy District does not anticipate any interruptions to water service in Washington County as a result of the San Juan River contamination caused by the Gold King Mine spill in Colorado,” WCWCD officials said in a press release Tuesday.

The county’s water supply comes from the Virgin River watershed, officials said. Water is currently not received from the San Juan River or Lake Powell.

The majority of the district’s water is collected from the Virgin River at the Quail Creek Diversion and transported via pipeline to the county’s two largest off-stream reservoirs: Quail Creek and Sand Hollow,” officials said in the release.

Should there be any contamination in the area, the district’s water system is designed to allow the Virgin River to bypass it.

“Storage in the district’s reservoirs is adequate to serve municipal demands should collection of river water be temporarily ceased for any reason,” officials said.

Last week the Gold King Mine in Colorado began to spill toxic wastewater into Colorado River after a cleanup crew under the Environmental Protection Agency accidentally released it. The toxic water turned the river orange and then yellow for some 40-60 miles as it drifted downstream.

As of Sunday, it is estimated by the EPA that 3 million gallons of the wastewater was released into the Colorado River. Contaminants include heavy metals, including lead and arsenic.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, senior Republican in the Senate, has called for change at the EPA in the wake of the spill.

“Going forward, I will do everything in my power to ensure that the EPA cleans up this mess and ensures that mistakes such as this don’t happen again,” Hatch said, and added:

This disaster emphasizes the need for the EPA to focus on fulfilling its existing responsibilities, instead of focusing its resources on imposing expensive new regulations that kill jobs and hurt family budgets.

In San Juan County, access to drinking water from the river has been shut off for the time being. Fresh water is being trucked in for county residents in affected areas.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is currently testing parts of the San Juan River to determine the overall water quality and access any potential risks.

“As the contaminated water makes its way west into Utah, I’m highly concerned about its effects on the water upon which our agriculture, industry, recreation, and municipalities depend,” Hatch said.

Depending upon how much the toxic plume dilutes, the impact could be minimal, though nothing will be known for sure until testing is completed, state officials said.

The EPA has not said how long cleanup efforts will take.

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  • Brian August 12, 2015 at 9:58 am

    “Depending upon how mush the toxic plume deludes” should be “Depending upon how much the toxic plume dilutes“. Many commenters here are toxic and attempt to delude (and dilute), but I don’t think that’s what state officials were addressing.

  • Brian August 12, 2015 at 10:44 am

    It really looks like the EPA did this on purpose to secure $500 million for a superfund site they hadn’t been able to get through previous efforts. A local geologist with 47 years of experience saw their plan, saw what the obvious outcome would be (which is exactly what happened), and warned of it a week before this “accidental” spill happened. He even accused the EPA of doing it on purpose, for their own gain. The EPA wins, the people and the environment loses.

  • Knot August 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

    It won’t affect our tap water but it could affect bottled water. As in other disasters, the government directs bottled water to areas that have water issues such as this. That could mean a shortage of bottled water in a large area around the problem. We have seen this with other disasters such as hurricanes and floods where the local water supply is affected.

  • BIG GUY August 12, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Just think, if we were getting a large portion of our water from a Lake Powell pipeline today, we’d be in the same predicament that the Navajo Nation is now with the San Juan River. I oppose the WCWCD Lake Powell pipeline project and I hope this sad event will prompt many others to join me.

    • Real Life August 12, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      I also oppose the pipeline. It’s a money making scam. However with a pipeline, you can turn a valve. The poor people living downstream from this mess, don’t have that option. I am not calling for a shutdown of the EPA, but obviously their policies and procedures are in need of some change.

      • Dexter August 12, 2015 at 6:26 pm

        Yeah your policies and procedures are in need of some changes to village idiot

        • Real Life August 12, 2015 at 10:00 pm

          While I’m thrilled to have a stalker, I just wish I had one that was a little brighter.

          • Dexter August 13, 2015 at 8:46 am

            While I’m thrilled to have a stalker REAL LIFE VILLAGE IDIOT. I wish I could find a smarter one than that idiot

    • fun bag August 12, 2015 at 12:56 pm

      I’ll give it to ya tho BG, you are probably one of the best right-wing internet trolls i have encountered. You should have gone into mormon apologetics or even politics (or maybe you have). You’ve got that skill of stating utter nonsense in such a convoluted way that some might find it reasonable or believable. If you actually believe all the non-sense you spout out though I’m not sure there is hope for you, but really, hats off for skilled trolling… cheers 🙂

    • Bender August 12, 2015 at 1:04 pm

      The spill was about 10 acre-feet in volume. Lake Powell capacity is 27,000,000 acre-feet. The lake is 200 miles long. Of 108 “guinea pig” fish placed in underwater cages in the Animas River during the worst of the spill, only one died and it’s unknown whether the death stemmed from the spill.
      BIG GUY, you don’t seem prone to throwing in with hang-wringing, Chicken Little ninnies but you drank the cool aid this time. This was a minor pollution event blown out of proportion by the 24-hour news cycle. You wanna get worked up about pollution consider the known ill effects of mercury poisoning caused by coal-fired power plants.

      • Brian August 12, 2015 at 1:53 pm

        Wait, if the spill is a “minor pollution event”, what does that say about the EPA and its very expensive, forceful efforts to clean up this mine for years and try to turn it into a multi-hundred-billion dollar superfund site? By all accounts the EPA triggered a spill that had decades and decades worth of the normal leaching process worth of toxins in it, all at once. If it’s a “minor pollution event” then the entire EPA is a self-serving, steaming crock of crap just like conservatives say it is.

        • Bender August 12, 2015 at 4:21 pm

          You, my paranoid friend, have bigger fish to fry. Alien bum-probing, Kenyan-Muslim presidents, the Illuminati and chem trails. Brian, put that razor sharp noggin to work and save us all.

          • Brian August 13, 2015 at 7:25 am

            Sorry, didn’t mean to confuse you with logic and intellectual honesty.

  • Dexter August 12, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    Build the pipeline its a win win situation for everybody involved. It’s coming folks so deal with it.. TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT.!

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