Experts to discuss fish health after mine spill

The Daily Times staff
Dennis McQuillan, the New Mexico Environment Department's chief scientist, gives a presentation May 17 on the state's response to the Gold King Mine spill during a conference at San Juan College in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — Experts will convene at San Juan College on Monday to discuss the health of local fish populations in the wake of the Gold King Mine spill.

As part of the monthly Gold King Mine Spill Citizens’ Advisory Committee meeting, Eric Frey from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish will give a presentation on the possibility of contaminants released during the spill being absorbed into fish tissue.

The issue is one of many lingering questions after the Aug. 5 mine spill, which released millions of gallons of toxic water into the Animas River. The blowout was triggered by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency crew working to clean up abandoned mining sites near Silverton, Colo.

While the EPA has stated that the river has returned to pre-event conditions, officials in New Mexico have expressed concerns over the residual effects of toxins trapped in river sediment.

Speaking at a Citizens’ Advisory Committee in April, the New Mexico Environment Department’s Chief Scientist Dennis McQuillan said studies have shown fish populations can absorb heavy metals and transfer them higher up the food chain.

Frey’s presentation will detail ongoing work to study the issue as part of New Mexico’s Long-Term Monitoring Plan.

The CAC meets at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Monday of every month in San Juan College’s Henderson Fine Arts Center. For more information, go to the NMED’s Gold King Mine spill website.