Sunday, March 06, 2016

Utah joins other EPA-wary states to monitor rivers for more Gold King Mine pollution

As much as 80 percent of the 880,000 pounds of metals released into the Animas River by last summer's Gold King Mine disaster remain upstream, according to recent estimates, which has Utah and other downstream governments concerned that spring snowmelt could trigger another plume of pollution in the coming months. That possibility has led Utah, New Mexico, the Navajo Nation and Colorado's La Plata County to launch an independent effort to monitor and respond to water quality crises in the San Juan and Animas rivers. Ultimately, the partnered governments would like to create a real-time reporting system capable of sending risk estimates and warnings to residents when metals-laden sediment is on the move.  The plan, said Erica Gaddis, assistant director of water monitoring at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, is to place multiple probes in key locations along the river to gather real-time data on the water's turbidity — the amount of stirred-up sediment flowing through the water column. The partners will also collect weekly water samples and test them for heavy metals from the mine spill, including lead, cadmium, zinc and copper. The data will then be analyzed to determine the correlation between turbidity of the two rivers and the concentration of heavy metals. The cooperative agencies, as well as representatives of the state of Colorado and the Environmental Protection Agency, met this week in Durango, Colo., to hammer out details. Utah and New Mexico have begun to implement parts of the plan, though it is unclear whether the EPA will help fund the initiative...more

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