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ADEQ Expects Minimal Impacts to Arizona from Mine Spill

AP/Matt York

Arizona environmental officials say they don’t expect the Gold King Mine spill to have any negative impacts to the state’s watershed. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, they say Lake Powell will likely disperse the waste made up of several heavy metals.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality says tests conducted 100 miles upstream from the lake generally show pre-spill water quality. The agency hasn’t confirmed if any of the contaminated water has made it to Lake Powell. It’s a basin for the Animas and San Juan rivers that took the brunt of the 3-million-gallon toxic spill.

“When storm events and things like that occur some of that material is going to continue to wash down, but it’s going to be mostly in the bed. It’s not going to flow down the river or get into the Colorado at any point,” says Trevor Baggiore, director of ADEQ’s Water Quality Division.

Baggiore says if the waste were to mix with the 4-trillion gallons in Lake Powell it would be so diluted by that time it wouldn’t pose any significant health impacts.

Officials with the Navajo Nation have also tested the water and are awaiting results before deciding whether the San Juan River is safe for use. Several tribal communities have been using emergency potable water for livestock, crops and drinking.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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