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Mine spill near Gold King Mine prompts action by Farmington

WINDOW ROCK

The city of Farmington has informed its water customers of a mine spill that occurred in southwestern Colorado.

To ensure the drinking water would not be affected, the city said all intake pumps for the drinking water system are shut off.

“The drinking water system remains safe and secure as we gather further information,” the city said on its social media page on Wednesday afternoon.

According to the city, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported a discharge from the Frisco Bagley Mine, is on the Animas River, north of Cinnamon Creek.

The mine is located about 112 miles from Farmington, but that didn’t stop the city from acting “in an abundance of caution,” to avoid potential contamination of drinking water. The city did not state what was discharged or how much was released.

EPA’s Region 8 oversees the Bonita Peak Mining District, which includes Frisco Bagley Mine and Gold King Mine.

On Aug. 5, 2015, the EPA’s Superfund removal program was conducting an investigation at the Gold King Mine site when pressurized contaminated water began leaking.

The spill released three million gallons of toxic wastewater into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River.

The plume reached Lake Powell, carrying with it high concentrations of toxic metals, including cadmium, lead and arsenic.

Superfund is a federal program that investigates and cleans up uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites.

Rex Kontz, deputy director of Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, said on Wednesday Navajo communities that receive drinking water from Farmington are safe.

“The water that feeds through their water treatment plant, it goes from Farmington, it connects to our system around that hogback, and then from there, it’s our system all the way into Shiprock, and as far as the Teec Nos Pos and everything in between,” Kontz said.

The water that goes through the treatment plant feeds into Lake Farmington. Kontz said if the city shut off its intakes then “everything from there is OK.”

“And they have about, what I understand, about six-months-worth of water in the reservoir so they can, they can go almost half a year just feeding off the reservoir,” he said.

Jason John, director of the Navajo Nation’s Water Management Branch, said he was not aware of any spill, but did say the use of the irrigation system was nearing the end of the season.

“Right now, it’s Sept. 15 we’re getting close to the end of the irrigation season,” John said. “Many farmers, they already have stopped irrigating. When the Gold King Mine spill happened, it happened in the middle of August. So, that’s quite a bit later in the year.”

In 2015, the Gold King Mine spill turned the Animas and San Juan rivers into rust-colored and contaminated sludge, impacting thousands of Navajo farmers and their families, impacts of which continue today.

The Frisco Bagley Mine’s began operations in 1877.


About The Author

Donovan Quintero

"Dii, Diné bi Naaltsoos wolyéhíígíí, ninaaltsoos át'é. Nihi cheii dóó nihi másání ádaaní: Nihi Diné Bizaad bił ninhi't'eelyá áádóó t'áá háadida nihizaad nihił ch'aawóle'lágo. Nihi bee haz'áanii at'é, nihisin at'é, nihi hózhǫ́ǫ́jí at'é, nihi 'ach'ą́ą́h naagééh at'é. Dilkǫǫho saad bee yájíłti', k'ídahoneezláo saad bee yájíłti', ą́ą́ chánahgo saad bee yájíłti', diits'a'go saad bee yájíłti', nabik'íyájíłti' baa yájíłti', bich'į' yájíłti', hach'į' yándaałti', diné k'ehgo bik'izhdiitįįh. This is the belief I do my best to follow when I am writing Diné-related stories and photographing our events, games and news. Ahxéhee', shik'éí dóó shidine'é." - Donovan Quintero is an award-winning Diné journalist, who is based in Window Rock, Arizona. He can be contacted at dq@navajotimes.com.

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