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The EPA announced Thursday that it has begun to seek input from stakeholders regarding their draft of a plan to monitor conditions on the Animas and San Juan rivers for the next year.

The plan calls for yearlong monitoring of key metals associated with the Gold King Mine disaster — aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, manganese and zinc — to determine the long-term implications of the spill into the Animas and San Juan rivers.

The draft document proposes 23 monitoring sites on Cement Creek, the Animas River, the San Juan River, and Lake Powell. Two sites are located in Utah: one at the San Juan inlet into Lake Powell, another in Bluff. A third is located on Navajo Nation lands within Utah's borders, at the San Juan's confluence with McElmo Creek.

The EPA proposes to collect samples of water and sediment from the sample sites, as well as invertebrates and fish, according to important seasonal intervals for the next 12 months. The data will then be compared to historical records to determine whether the Gold King Mine release has degraded at each site.

If the analysis can find no change of water quality, the sampling will be discontinued. But if conditions have deteriorated, the EPA proposes to develop action plans in tandem with the appropriate local agencies.

The plan seems pretty straightforward, said Walt Baker, director of the Utah Division of Water Quality. He said he hasn't finished reviewing the draft, but did have concerns arising from an earlier conversation with the EPA about the low number of sampling sites located in Utah.

He said the DWQ would review the draft closely to determine whether it agreed that the Utah locations would suffice.

The EPA's emphasis on monitoring up river is appropriate because of the relative proximity to the spill, Baker said, but he would like to see more attention directed toward the released metals' ultimate destination, Lake Powell.

"Those metals didn't disappear," he said. "One has to realize that where these metals are ultimately going to be sequestered is Lake Powell, and that's Utah. I think some priority needs to be given to the ultimate destination of those pollutants, not just the transitory state of those pollutants."

But that's exactly why the EPA wants input from stakeholders like the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

"We're soliciting input on whether those are the right sites to sample or whether other locations would be better," said Sandra Spence, chief of the EPA's Region 8 Water Quality Unit.

Comments from states, tribes and local communities are due to the EPA by Oct. 8. The EPA encourages residents with concerns about the monitoring plan to contact their local representatives to provide input.

Meanwhile, Baker said, the state DEQ continues to execute its own six-month plan for sampling the water, sediment and aquatic life in the San Juan and Lake Powell. That sampling would continue, he said, regardless of the EPA's independent monitoring efforts, "until that time that something changes that dissuades us from continuing."