NMED test show little change in rivers' pH levels after Gold King Mine spill

The Daily Times staff
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A plume of toxic mine waste that passed through San Juan County this weekend caused little to no change in the Animas and San Juan rivers' pH levels, according to results the New Mexico Environment Department's Water Quality Bureau released today.

Before the plume arrived in Farmington, the bureau collected baseline data from three locations — two on the Animas River near Aztec and Farmington and one on the San Juan at Kirtland. The bureau on Friday deployed devices at the three sites to test the pH levels every 15 minutes for two weeks.

The pH level before the plume arrived in Farmington was about 8.06. After the plume passed through the city, the pH ranged between 7.84 and 8.08 at those locations.

Baseline data on sediment — which can hold the heavy-metal contamination — in the water also was collected. Those measurements were affected by runoff from a rain storm. Turbidity, a measure of sediment in the water based on how much light can pass through, spiked in both Animas River locations after the arrival of the plume, according to the measurements. As the plume passed downstream, turbidity gradually dropped and seemed to stabilize about eight hours after the plume's arrival, according to the data.

The department is offering free testing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday at the San Juan County Sheriff's Office Lee Acres substation.

“People are scared and their concerned and they want information,” Majure said.

The department has also had teams in the field collecting samples from wells in the Animas River floodplain.

The department is still waiting on results to show whether or not the plume contaminated local wells.

Those results are expected back in a few days, Majure said, adding that early indications show the river likely did not contaminate local wells. Officials with the Northwestern New Mexico Chapter of the American Red Cross delivered about 3,600 bottles of water today to chapter houses in Hogback, Shiprock and Aneth, Utah, that were donated from Sam's Club. Another 600 were dropped off at Catholic Charities in Farmington.

The Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort also delivered a truck of water to the Aztec Church of Christ, 201 Ruins Road.

Residents using wells in the Animas River floodplain can pick up water at this site until supplies run out. Also, waters donations can be dropped off at that site or at Aztec City Hall, according to a city press release.