Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Our broadcast signal serving the St. George (93.9) area is operating in low power mode.
More info.
Health, Science & Environment

Utah Drinking Water Safe Downstream from Colorado Spill Site

Chesley Chen
Wikimedia Commons
The iconic San Juan River goosenecks in Utah are hundreds of miles downstream of the Gold King Mine spill site in Colorado, and environmental officials confirmed Thursday the area's drinking water is safe, as is irrigation and recreation.

State environmental officials have been checking the safety of water downstream of the Gold King Mine spill in Colorado.

Utah environmental officials say their water samples from the San Juan River show that the wastewater plume rolled into Utah early Sunday. Tests also found hazardous contaminants that have been slightly elevated – possibly because of the spill. But state agencies are reassuring the public that the San Juan in Utah is safe -- for watering crops and rafting and so is the drinking water in Utah below the spill site.

“I can say that a very, very conservative estimate,” says Erica Gaddis, assistant director in the Utah Division of Water Quality, “if we assume all of the spill made it into Utah, it would represent less than one percent of the flow of the San Juan River.”

Scientists think the acidic minewater has been neutralized to background levels in the alkaline river, and most of the heavy metals have settled. Drinking water is also being tested to make sure there is no risk, and late Thursday they determined drinking water in the area is safe, too.

Gaddis says the emergency appears to have passed and her agency is already beginning to plan ahead.

“It’ll make its way to the San Juan delta in Lake Powell – and those are the questions, what are the effects long term on of the metals in the sediment, on aquatic life. That’s really the question that we’ll need to answer in the long term.”

Samples are being flown to Salt Lake City daily for testing. And next week the U.S. Geological Survey will set up its own monitors at the San Juan delta in Lake Powell.

KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.