Arizona Agencies Prepare To Test Incoming Contaminated Water, Consider Long-Term Effects

By Andrew Bernier
Published: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 - 10:40pm
Updated: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 - 1:04pm
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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.

Arizona officials are set to collect initial data on mine contamination entering Lake Powell on Wednesday. While immediate data is expected to show slightly increased levels, it may be the long-term effect that concerns scientists.

State departments are still figuring out how the plume of contaminants from Colorado’s Gold King Mine will affect Arizona waters. Right now, heavy metals like arsenic and cadmium are being dispersed in greater volumes of water and being absorbed in river and lake beds. This makes officials optimistic that contaminants won’t go far into state waterways.

Still, agencies will be monitoring contaminant levels. Trevor Baggiore with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality said they are testing now, but getting ready for the long haul.

“The long term monitoring will be coordinated with EPA, and Utah, and New Mexico," said Baggiore. "It’s going to be a long-term issue because heavy metals are typically a chronic type issue, not an acute issue, just because the immediate health risk from being exposed to those metals is not there.”

Baggiore notes heavy metals are naturally present in water systems, but the coming volume of contaminants sets a precedent the state has never encountered.

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