Ban Lifted On Water Supply Connection To Animas And San Juan Rivers And Public’s Recreational Use


  • Governor Susana Martinez’ Long-Term Impact Review Team in Place

FARMINGTON – New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn, Game and Fish Department Director Alexa Sandoval and Health Department Secretary Retta Ward Saturday lifted the ban on San Juan County’s drinking water systems’ supply connection to the Animas and San Juan Rivers and on the public’s recreational use of the rivers.

The ban is lifted with certain prudent health practices, following the Aug. 5 Gold King Mine Spill.

“Because the waters of the Animas and San Juan Rivers are now meeting all applicable water quality standards, the Environment Department, with the state’s multi-agency team, lifts the ban on water systems’ supply connections to the Animas and San Juan rivers and on the public’s recreational use of the rivers in concurrence with local officials and the US Environmental Protection Agency,” NMED Secreary Ryan Flynn said.

Friday Aug. 7, NMED began collecting water chemistry and other data from the rivers immediately following the state’s Aug. 6 notification from the EPA of the approach of contamination from the Gold King Mine Spill. Sampling and analysis continued throughout the following days. 

The data show that all levels of contamination related to the Gold King Mine spill—primarily heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium and copper—are below all applicable state water quality standards including those established to protect human health. Saturday’s announcement is based on these results.

Recreational users of the Animas and San Juan rivers may notice some discoloration in the sediment along the river banks due to the spill. While there is continuing concern by New Mexico officials for long-term river health and for that of aquatic life, the Environment and Health Departments do not anticipate adverse human health effects due to exposure to contaminated sediment during typical recreational activities.  

Environment and Health recommend that the public may use the rivers, with the following prudent health practices, when contacting sediment and surface water as recommended by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease registry (ATSDR):

  • Don’t drink untreated water from the river.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after contact with the sediment and surface water.
  • Avoid contact in areas where there is visible discoloration in sediment or river water.
  • Wash clothes after contact with sediment and surface water.

“As the Animas River re-opens, I strongly urge all New Mexicans to follow some basic recommendations when using any rivers or lakes for recreational purposes,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “The recommendations include wearing suitable clothing, using safety gear and immediately showering and towel drying after getting out of the water. Take extra care not to ingest surface water. When you consume untreated water from surface sources, you run the risk of ingesting harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses and other potential contaminants.”

Along with recreational use, “Catch and Release” fishing is also recommended at this time.  Alexa Sandoval, Director of New Mexico’s Game and Fish Department said, “The Department suggests that anglers practice catch and release of fish in the Animas and San Juan Rivers that have been impacted by the spill. Until Game and Fish can determine the level of contamination in the fish, we are strongly recommending that anglers not eat the fish they catch. We are working to determine the level of contamination in the fish and we will notify the public of the results of our tests.”

New Mexico agency representatives on the Long-Term Impact Review Team for the Gold King Mine Spill (Environment, State Engineer, Agriculture, Game and Fish, Health, Homeland Security, and others), along with the US EPA and local officials, continue assessing the full impact of the August 5th event on the state for the continuing development of safe practice recommendations for the San Juan County region.

Advisory on Safety Precautions Related to EPA Gold King Mine SpillMost Current Precautions Lifted – Long-Term Recommendations Forthcoming

FARMINGTON – The New Mexico Environment Department continues working with local, regional, and federal stakeholders to advise San Juan County citizens of safety precautions, while updating those affected about the Gold King Mine Spill’s pulse location, effects, and long-term impact.

Do Not Use Nearby “Floodplain Level” Wells.     If you live in the Animas River or San Juan River flood plain and your wellhead is at roughly the same level as the river, the Environment Department advises you to refrain from using the water for cooking and drinking or any human or animal ingestion until further notice. Do not boil river water in an attempt to purify it and use it for ingestion.  Boiling the contaminated water will not remove potential contaminants.

Precaution Lifted 8/14/15 10:45 a.m. No Longer in Effect



Do Not Draw Canal or River Water.  People who draw water directly from the Animas River, San Juan Rivers into irrigation canals should refrain until further notice. 

Precaution Lifted 8/14/15 6:26 p.m. No Longer in Effect



Do Not Water Livestock or Irrigate Crops.  Livestock owners should refrain from watering livestock from Animas or San Juan River water. Do not irrigate crops.

Precaution Lifted 8/14/15 6:26 p.m., following 12 hours of flushing ditches.

Do Conserve Water. Conservation of water is critical during the time that the pulse of contaminated water is passing through the region, and possibly for days thereafter.  Until the concentration of constituents is known, drinking water systems and nearby well water users are refraining  from drawing the river water, and thus supplying customers from limited clean water reserves.

Precaution Lifted 8/15/15 8 p.m.

No Longer in Effect




Do Get Potable Water from Water Stations.  Potable water stations have been set up through San Juan County’s Office of Emergency Management ( for residents at the following locations. Bring your own water containers.  No large tanks.

Center Point Fire Station # 1 – 16 Road 2755

Flora Vista Fire Station #1 – 2 Road 3275

Valley Fire Station #4 – 4 Road 6200

Stations will be open:

Sunday 8/9/15            9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.   and   5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Precaution Lifted 8/15/15 8 p.m.

No Longer in Effect




Do Not Ingest Fish from the Rivers.  The New Mexico Game and Fish Department advises anglers not to consume fish in the Animas River or San Juan River watershed. “Catch and Release” recommended for all fishing activities. See for more information.

Precaution Modified

8/15/15 8 p.m. Partially in Effect

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