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Monitoring for Potential Effects of the Gold King Mine Release on Water Quality in the Animas and San Juan Rivers in New Mexico using Continuous Monitors and Automatic Samplers

Science Center Objects

On August 5, 2015, about three million gallons of water and sediment were released from the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River. The New Mexico Environment Department, among other State, Tribal, and local entities in CO, NM, and UT, is concerned that metals associated with the water and sediment released from the Gold King Mine could have long-term detrimental effects on surface-water quality of the Animas and San Juan Rivers, with potential risks to human health and the environment

The USGS, in cooperation with the New Mexico Environment Department, proposes to collect, analyze, and report surface-water quality data to characterize post-release conditions. The objectives of the study are to provide data that will improve the understanding of post-GKM-release surface-water quality for the Animas and San Juan Rivers under a variety of hydrologic conditions, including during high-flow events, and to provide real-time data on flow and field parameters that affected stakeholders can use to take whatever actions they feel might be necessary to protect public health. To accomplish these objectives, for a period of one year at four sites on the Animas and San Juan Rivers, the USGS will conduct continuous monitoring of water-quality parameters and will collect integrated water-quality samples during snowmelt runoff for analysis of major ions and dissolved and total metals. One site also will be instrumented with an automatic sampler to collect water-quality samples during snowmelt and storm events for analysis of major ions and total metals. The resulting data will be available through the National Water Information Systems database and its associated Web applications.

Water quality parameter sondes with Temperature, Specific Conductance, pH and Turbidity probes have been installed along the Animas and San Juan Rivers. Currently, the sondes are set up to perform continuous monitoring of these parameters. Once a month, discrete measurements will be made at the locations shown on the map.

Gold King Mine Map

Gold King Mine Map (Public domain.)

Approach:

  • Install water-quality instrumentation at existing USGS streamgaging stations downstream of the GKM release
  • Collect and report continuous and discrete water-quality data

 

Objectives:

  • Provide data that will improve the understanding of post-GKM-release surface-water quality
  • Provide real-time data on streamflow, pH, temperature, specific conductance, and turbidity

 

Site Data:

Animas River near Cedar Hill, NM, 09363500, streamflowsummary of available data

Animas River below Aztec, NM09364010, streamflowsummary of available data

San Juan River at Farmington, NM09365000, streamflowsummary of available data

San Juan River at Shiprock, NM09368000, streamflowsummary of available data

 

Webpages with additional information

 

Sonde Installation

Multi-parameter water quality sondes were installed from March 7, 2016 through March 9, 2016. 
Real-time transmissions can be found at: Current Conditions for New Mexico Streamflow
Information on how to: Compare Data Among Continuous Monitoring Sites

 

Photos:

Animas River at Aztec, NM - NMWSC

Animas River at Aztec, NM - NMWSC

(Credit: Tyson Hatch. Public domain.)

Animas River at Aztec, NM - NMWSC

Animas River at Aztec, NM - NMWSC

(Credit: Johanna Blake. Public domain.)

Animas River near Cedar Hill, NM - NMWSC

Animas River near Cedar Hill, NM - NMWSC

(Credit: Tyson Hatch. Public domain.)

Animas River near Cedar Hill, NM - NMWSC

Animas River near Cedar Hill, NM - NMWSC

(Credit: Tyson Hatch. Public domain.)

Animas River near Cedar Hill, NM - NMWSC

Animas River near Cedar Hill, NM - NMWSC

(Credit: Tyson Hatch. Public domain.)

San Juan River at Shiprock, NM - NMWSC

San Juan River at Shiprock, NM - NMWSC

(Credit: Tyson Hatch. Public domain.)

San Juan River at Shiprock, NM - NMWSC

San Juan River at Shiprock, NM - NMWSC

(Credit: Tyson Hatch. Public domain.)

San Juan River at Farmington, NM - NMWSC

San Juan River at Farmington, NM - NMWSC

(Credit: Tyson Hatch. Public domain.)

San Juan River at Farmington, NM - NMWSC

San Juan River at Farmington, NM - NMWSC

(Credit: Tyson Hatch. Public domain.)