The Environmental Protection Agency mistakenly released 3 million gallons of toxic waste water from an abandoned mine into Colorado’s Animas River. That number is three times its original estimate. KUSA-TV

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As officials from the Environmental Protection Agency said the Gold King Mine discharged an estimated 3 million gallons of contaminated water into the Animas River, officials with the Navajo Nation, San Juan County and New Mexico are trying to keep residents informed.

EPA Region 8 administrator Shaun McGrath said Sunday the EPA is looking at the possibility of long-term damage related to toxic metals falling out of suspension as the plume slowly moved along the river.

“Sediment does settle,” McGrath said. “It settles down to the bottom of the river bed.”

McGrath said future runoff from storms will kick that toxic sediment back into the water, which means there will need to be long-term monitoring.

RELATED STORY: 3 million gallons of wastewater headed to Arizona

He added that “the Animas River has historically been polluted by acid mine drainage.”

Mustard-colored water loaded with heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, copper, aluminum and cadmium, began rushing out of the Gold King Mine on Wednesday after an EPA team disturbed a dam of loose rock lodged in the mine.

The deluge of polluted water poured into Cement Creek and continued into the Animas River. The plume of pollution, clearly visible from the air and estimated to be more than 80 miles long at one point, reached Farmington, New Mexico, on Saturday morning.

The plume of toxic waste passed through San Juan County on Saturday, heading west. It was expected to hit the Colorado-Utah border Monday morning, according to estimates from the San Juan County Geographical Information Systems department.

MORE: EPA: Pollution from mine spill much worse than feared

Officials advise residents with wells in the floodplains of the Animas River and the San Juan River downstream of the confluence of the two rivers to have their water tested before using it for cooking, drinking or bathing.

Carpenter said the biggest obstacle is providing drinking water for residents and livestock.

People and their pets should avoid contact with the river, livestock should not be allowed to drink the water and people should not catch fish in the river. Carpenter also instructed people to avoid contact with wildlife along the river in Berg Park.

County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter voiced frustration about the delay in getting information about the chemicals in the water. The data, he said, will “give us a big picture of what we are going to deal with and the long-term effects we will have to deal with.”

SEE ALSO: EPA pollutes Colo. river during mine cleanup

On Sunday evening, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez attended a public meeting in Durango, Colo., after touring the Gold King Mine site.

Begaye told attendees his office will be aggressive in “putting (the EPA’s) feet to the fire.”

Nez said he felt like crying when he saw the mustard-yellow water stain in the river.

“Water in our region is very important,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are Navajo, if you are Hispanic, if you are Anglo. We are all part of this river basin. Now, we are looking upon the EPA with frustration.”

Nez said the pollution will affect farming, drinking water and livestock on the Navajo Nation.

“A lot of livestock utilize the water,” he said. “What are we supposed to do? Stand guard 24 hours to keep our livestock from drinking the water?”

Shiprock Chapter President Duane “Chilli” Yazzie expressed concern about tribal farmers and access to irrigation water.

“We’re resigned to the fact that we will not get any irrigation water through our systems for the rest of the season,” Yazzie said. “We’re just accepting the fact that we have to face losing our crops. That is totally devastating to many, many families. It’s very heartbreaking.”

On Sunday morning, people walking the trails at Farmington’s Berg Park echoed those sentiments, saying the contamination of the water was sad and disappointing.

Farmington resident Elton Daniels said he felt hopeless when he looked at the river after seeing photographs of it.

“I think it’s going to have a damaging effect on the water we use,” he said.

Officials have set up several potable water stations throughout the county for residents and RV and livestock owners to use.

Deborah McKean, chief of the Region 8 Toxicology and Human Health and Risk Assessment, said Sunday the EPA is in consultation with several other agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to determine when the river will again be safe for recreation.

She could not say when that decision will come.

Daniel Silva, a 37-year-old resident and local fisherman who attended the forum, accused EPA officials of “terrorism” for their part in causing the spill.

McGrath said such an accusation was “really not appropriate.”

“We are not in the business of creating these types of messes,” McGrath said. “We are used to cleaning up these types of messes.”

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