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Colorado extraction well spills water into Animas River

FARMINGTON — An unknown amount of water from an extraction well site just over the Colorado state line has flowed into the Animas River, according to a press release from the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management.

A spill in High Flume Canyon in Colorado, near County Road 213 and Rancho Durango Road, led to the water — which could contain petroleum — entering the river, the press release states.

The spill was reported by someone who noticed a petroleum odor coming from an irrigation ditch in Colorado, according to the county press release.

The fluid is known as “produced water,” a byproduct of oil and gas production, and is pumped from oil and gas wells.

A press release from the City of Farmington stated the city’s water supply is safe.

The spill occurred sometime over the weekend and the produced water reached the Animas River by Monday morning. According to the county press release, the produced water entered the Animas River about seven miles north of the state line.

The incident is being investigated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Melissa May, district manager of San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District, said studies done following the Gold King Mine spill in 2015 show that groundwater flows into the Animas River most of the time, which could help protect domestic water wells in the case of contamination.

Farmington Public Works Director David Sypher said after the Gold King Mine spill the city installed hydrocarbon probes that can detect the presence of produced water in the Animas River. He said the probes are designed to automatically shut down the pumps.

Sypher said the City of Farmington received notice of the potential contamination on Monday and immediately turned off its pumps. He said the city also checked for odor or sheen on the river or in the equipment that could indicate the presence of petroleum.

Sypher said the details are still vague.

“We’re not sure what the quantities are, how much actually made it to the river,” Sypher said.

He stressed that City of Farmington’s water is safe for residents to consume.

The San Juan County Office of Emergency Management will post updates on social media.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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