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SE Utah Tourist Season Fouled by Gold King Mine Spill

SE Utah Tourist Season Fouled by Gold King Mine Spill
August 12
10:55 2015

Troy Wilde

MONTICELLO, Utah – The Gold King Mine spill, which dumped millions of gallons of toxic sludge into the Animas River in Colorado, is having a far-reaching economic impact in Utah.

The Animus River turns into the San Juan River, which flows into Lake Powell in Utah. San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge said the ban on using the river has pretty much ended the area’s huge summer tourist season.

“Nobody can raft the river, no one can recreate – and obviously this is flowing into Lake Powell, and that’s going to chase people off the lake, and fishermen,” he said. “So, yeah, it’s having an impact, for sure.”

Eldredge said the summer tourist season, which traditionally runs through Labor Day, is a big part of the local economy. He said people who raise cattle on the Navajo Nation also are getting hit in the wallet because they’re having to haul in water for their animals.

The Environmental Protection Agency said its own crews accidentally caused the release of the water containing dissolved metals from the abandoned Gold King Mine in Colorado. The agency said it’s still testing the sludge for toxicity levels, and is treating contaminated water in containment ponds.

Eldredge said the whole experience has not been a good one.

“People were extremely scared even to be around the river because of the unknowns that had gone into the river exactly,” he said, “but we’re starting to get educated now, exactly what it is.”

Toxic waters from the Gold King Mine are expected to enter Lake Powell today. State officials from Utah and Arizona are testing the waters for possible contamination. Lake Powell and Lake Mead in Nevada are the two main reservoirs for the Colorado River.


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