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State Lifts Domestic Water Well Ban Near Animas, San Juan Rivers

Rita Daniels/KUNM
The New Mexico Environment Department and the Environmental Protection Agency have gathered samples from more than 500 wells.

People with domestic wells in the floodplain of the Animas and San Juan rivers are free to use their water today as of midday Friday, August 15, 2015. New Mexico lifted a ban on water use from these wells after initial tests showed no contamination from the Gold King Mine spill.

Peter Nathanson with the state’s Drinking Water Bureau said they inspected wells within 500 feet of the river where the groundwater level is higher than the river water. 

“So since water likes to flow down hill it flows from the groundwater into the river," Nathanson explained, "and in our case it’s keeping the contaminants that might be in the river from this mine release from flowing into the groundwater and hence into those people’s wells.”

Nathanson said at other times of the year, when the water table has dropped, water from the river does move the other way – from the river toward the wells.

State officials are cautioning well owners because many of the wells they inspected don’t have certain seals. Future contamination is still possible. 

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