DENVER – Trout from the Animas River are safe to eat following water contamination from the Gold King Mine spill, according to an announcement Wednesday by state health officials.
Samples of fish tissue taken by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed metals below detectable levels. Levels of mercury, selenium and arsenic in rainbow and brown trout were within the range of levels in fish previously sampled in the state.
Officials noted that the results likely represent background levels, not a change in levels because of the Aug. 5 mine spill.
An Environmental Protection Agency-contracted team accidentally released an estimated 3 million gallons of orange sludge into the river, forcing closure of the Animas. The river has since reopened, and water-quality tests suggest that the river has returned to “pre-event” conditions.
State health officials highlighted that they will continue to monitor levels of metals in fish, pointing out that there is a potential for metals to concentrate in fish tissue over time.
Fish samples were compared with EPA regional screening levels – similar to how water-quality results were analyzed. The risk assessments focus on short-term health effects because the spill was a short-term event.
Officials will continue to monitor for longer-term impacts that could linger following the event.
New data will be analyzed and results reported when available. Information can be found at: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/animas-river-spill.