Earlier this week, Navajo farmers in New Mexico voted to keep irrigation canals along the San Juan River closed for at least a year. They have concerns about soil contamination following the Gold King Mine spill in Colorado. Meanwhile, officials in Page are worried about the incident causing a drain on the local economy, even though scientists say Lake Powell remains mostly unaffected. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports.
The 3-million-gallon spill earlier this month came at the height of the tourist season on Lake Powell. Fishing and kayak guiding are among the many local businesses that are dependent on the lake.
Judy Franz, executive director of the Page Chamber of Commerce, says there was an undeniable slowdown in the days following the spill.
“People are concerned, so they held off their trips for maybe a couple weeks to see, is it going to come in, is the plume going to come in? I think you had a lot of real fear as to, how is it going to impact?” says Franz.
She says tourists are gradually returning to Page and Lake Powell, but many locals are still concerned about the long-term effects of the spill.
Officials with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality say the heavy metals from the mine waste have likely diffused and settled into the lakebed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says tests show Lake Powell’s water is safe for recreation.