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Power to Gold King treatment plant restored

WINDOW ROCK

Power to the water treatment plant that treats the wastewater draining from the Gold King Mine has been restored.

A Saturday afternoon statement from the EPA said the Interim Water Treatment Plant at the Bonita Peak Superfund site in Gladstone, Colorado, which had been offline since Thursday evening due to winter weather conditions, is now “operating normally.”

The wastewater that was bypassing the facility at a rate of 250 to 300 gallons per minute when the plant lost power, according to estimates by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was “not significantly different” from conditions at the site prior to the 2015 release and the initiation of treatment of the Gold King Mine discharge.

“At this time, EPA expects no impacts to downstream drinking water or agricultural users associated with the short-term shutdown of the plant,” the statement read.

On Saturday, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez’s office released a statement asking water users along the Animas and San Juan Rivers to be cautious due to the failure despite power being restored back to the plant.

“We encourage our people to be cautious and to stay alert until we are fully assured that the water is safe for the long-term,” Nez said in the press release.

The EPA said temporary closure would largely impact “aquatic life” in the Animas River Canyon, which is located south of Silverton, Colo.

“While the Gold King Mine is a significant source of metals contamination, and one of EPA’s priority sites in the Bonita Peak Superfund site, it is one of dozens of mines in the Mining District,” the EPA stated. “When the water treatment plant is operational, it typically removes about 500-600 pounds of metals a day.”

The majority of metals the EPA said the treatment plant treats were iron and aluminum.

Nez said the Navajo Water Management Branch reported that no irrigation systems along the San Juan River were currently in use.

He added that water intake systems would not be opened until the quality and safety of the water was assessed and that the Navajo Nation EPA would be collecting and testing water samples.

The EPA said it collected water samples along the Animas River near Silverton, and would have test results by early next week.


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