A river in Colorado that was turned sickly yellow by a mine waste spill reopened for recreational use today after the now-diluted toxic plume passed through and reached Lake Powell—a huge reservoir 300 miles downstream that feeds the Colorado River and supplies water to the Southwest. Water officials said the plume that includes lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals now presents little danger to users beyond Lake Powell—such as the city of Las Vegas—because the contaminants will further settle out and be diluted in the reservoir along the Utah-Arizona border.
The picturesque reservoir is a hotspot popular among tourists for fishing and other recreation. Utah's state fish biologist Richard Hepworth said he's not expecting fish to die off, but there could be long-term effects on species such as striped bass. "My concern is, can people still eat these fish?" he said. US Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said the spill poses a serious threat to the environment and the economy. Bishop, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, plans to visit Lake Powell on Monday. The initial spill involved more than 3 million gallons of waste from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River. (Read more water pollution stories.)