UDAF lifts advisories on crop irrigation, livestock watering from San Juan River

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The Animas River after a mine waste spill. Credit: Ian Lucier

SAN JUAN COUNTY, Utah — Advisories were lifted on the San Juan River for crop irrigation and livestock watering Friday.

Advisories were put in place after federal contractors breached a wall blocking waste from the decommissioned Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colo., last week. The waste spilled into the Animas River, which flows into the San Juan River then into Lake Powell.

River water sampling showed the majority of the mine contamination passed through the San Juan River on Aug. 11. Farmers and ranchers were advised to remain cautious and report any changes in the health of their crops and livestock, according to a press release from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

Hydrologists with the Department of Environmental Quality estimated the leading edge of the plume from the spill hit Utah between 8:30 p.m. Aug. 9 and 8:30 a.m. Aug. 10.

“These estimates suggest that the plume first arrived in Lake Powell somewhere between Wednesday night and Thursday morning,” according to the release.

The Department of Natural Resources is working on a long-term plan to continue monitoring potential impacts to aquatic wildlife and ensure fish remain safe to eat, the release states.

“Based on minimal pH and metal concentration changes, DWR, is optimistic the native fish will continue to remain healthy and their populations strong,” the release indicates.

Water testing by DEQ on Aug. 11 revealed those recreating on the San Juan River should not expect adverse health effects.

“Recreational users should continue to carry their own drinking water and not rely on filtering or purifying river waters,” according to the release.

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