With snowmelt all but complete and monsoons in full swing, residents can expect periodic discoloration of the Animas River, a public health official said Thursday.
The river appeared orangish in color Thursday near Baker’s Bridge, according to a bicyclist who rode by and took notice. But it had nothing to do with an environmental mishap similar to the Gold King Mine spill last year, said Brian Devine, surface and drinking water manager at San Juan Basin Heath Department.
More likely, it was the result of storm cells in the mountains, he said.
“This time of year, it’s going to be pretty brown,” Devine said. “It might look a little discolored if you see it at the right time.”
Spring runoff, which is largely driven by snowmelt, tends to muddy the waters for a sustained period, whereas summer and fall rains can affect the turbidity in certain headwaters and for short durations, Devine said.
“It’s definitely a natural process,” he said.
The health department is monitoring the river in several locations, and if a major event were to occur, it would be observed and reported fairly quickly, he said.
The water at Baker’s Bridge typically has a greenish hue to it, not because of heavy metal loads, he said, but because of nutrients that get released when the fast-moving upstream water slows in that location. If it looked a greenish-brown Thursday, that’s to be expected, Devine said.
“It’s a river acting like a river, which is great to see,” he said.