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EPA Accident Spills Toxins Into San Juan River Watershed

Jonathan Thompson
High Country News
The release of toxic waste from Gold King's mine contains high amounts of metals.

Farmington has shut off drinking water pumps from the San Juan River after about a million gallons of contaminated water from a mine spilled into the watershed upstream.

The toxic plume is expected to reach the city Friday afternoon.

The EPA warned water users downstream of the spill – municipal water utilities, farmers and ranchers - to avoid all contact with the orange colored water that contains high amounts of sediments and metals.

But Dan Olsen who works on environmental issues in the San Juan Basin says the EPA’s response seems lackadaisical. The toxic release is the largest one to hit the area in decades, he says, and will likely kill off fish for years to come.

"When you look at how cloudy and how colored that water is, this was just a royal screw up at a very bad time,” Olsen said.

The EPA says the spill happened accidentally Wednesday when one of their teams was working on cleanup at an abandoned mine near Silverton, Colorado.

Over the next few days they will be assessing damages.

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