by Joe Hoover, Ph.D. & Johnnye Lewis, Ph.D., Community Environmental Health Program, College of Pharmacy, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

Background 

On August 5, 2015 approximately 3 million gallons of mixed heavy metal liquid waste was released into Cement Creek from the Gold King Mine in Southwestern Colorado. The bright orange color of the waste could be seen as the plume entered the Animas, and then the San Juan River. As the plume passed Kirtland, NM and entered the Navajo Nation, visual tracking was lost. At the Native EH Equity Center, we began to plot available sampling data in an attempt to visualize the plume’s movement in order to determine where metals may have precipitated into the river sediments and floodplains. Results of that interpolation and visualization of data are presented for pH, Al, Fe, and Mn.

Over the following weeks, the Center entered into a Consortium of state universities in an effort to coordinate activities and bring to bear all available resources to understand the future implications of the spill.

Click on this link to see full presentation and maps: COP_research_day_GoldKing_poster

The Center for EH Equity plans to work with Navajo colleagues and others in the affected communities to identify potential exposure pathways for future use of the San Juan, and to understand the geochemical, microbiological, and mineralogic properties of the metals and the river to develop a comprehensive understanding of the potential risks that remain for the communities along the river.