Officials: Impact Of Contaminated Wastewater On Lake Powell, Colorado River Unknown

By Melissa Sevigny
Published: Monday, August 10, 2015 - 3:25pm
Updated: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 - 1:07pm
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(Photo courtesy of Environmental Protection Agency)
On Aug. 5, 2015, the EPA spilled contaminated wastewater from the Gold King Mine in San Juan County, Colorado.

About three million gallons of wastewater poured into the Animas River last Wednesday after a breach at a defunct gold mine near Silverton, Colorado. The contaminated water has reached the San Juan River in New Mexico, which flows into Lake Powell on the Colorado River.

The massive wastewater spill is expected to reach Lake Powell sometime this week.

"While the contaminated levels and impacts anticipated at Lake Powell are not yet understood, as a precautionary measure, we are issuing a warning and encouraging visitors to avoid drinking, swimming or recreating on the San Juan arm within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area," said Cynthia Sequanna, a spokesperson for the National Park Service.

The Park Service has not issued an alert for the entire reservoir. Officials expect the contaminated sediment will settle to the bottom when the San Juan River slows down at Lake Powell.

They said it's too early yet to know if the contamination will make its way to the main stem of the Colorado River.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accidentally triggered the spill while investigating the Gold King Mine. The agency reports the wastewater is acidic and contains arsenic, lead and other heavy metals.

Click The Map To See The Path Of Wastewater

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