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FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish announced Friday that fish caught in portions of the Animas and San Juan rivers affected by the Gold King Mine wastewater spill are safe to eat.

A statement from Game and Fish states the department consulted with the New Mexico Environment Department and New Mexico Department of Health before lifting the catch-and-release recommendation made following the release of more than 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater from the mine located north of Silverton, Colo., on Aug. 5 into the Animas River.

Seventeen fish from affected areas were tested, and results showed trace amounts of metals in the fishes' tissue that are acceptable for human consumption, Mike Sloane, chief of fisheries for Game and Fish, said in the statement.

Karl Moffatt, state Game and Fish spokesman, said the department could not respond to questions from The Daily Times by Wednesday.

The tissue samples from the fish were tested for arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury and selenium.

Cory Styron, director of the city of Farmington Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, said the announcement means the rivers are returning to normal.

"I think it clears up any misconceptions about fish in the river," Styron said.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced on Sept. 2 in a statement that trout from the Animas River were safe to eat after tests revealed metals were below "detectable levels."

Levels of arsenic, selenium and mercury in brown and rainbow trout were within previous levels for fish that previously had been tested in the state.

The state department of Game and Fish will continue to monitor the short- and long-term effects of the spill on fish and other aquatic species in the Animas and San Juan rivers.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.

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