FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) - Officials are working on a plan to reduce pollution in San Juan County rivers after a study found they contain significant levels of bacteria indicating the presence of human feces.
Water samples from the San Juan and Animas rivers found bacteria associated with both human and animal waste over the course of a two-year study by local groups, but human feces polluted the rivers most, The Daily Times reported (https://bit.ly/1FV4FV7 ). The water sample results were released in late February by the San Juan Watershed Group and the San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District.
The local groups teamed up to hold three public outreach meetings. The last one was Monday.
They are now working to complete a Lower Animas Watershed Base Plan by the fall, which will help them attract cleanup funding from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The plan “basically shows that you’ve identified a problem,” said Melissa May, a natural resource specialist with the San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District. It also shows broad and narrow ways the agencies plan to resolve the problem, she said.
May hopes to have more public meetings in September to present the plan, which will address fecal matter contamination in the rivers. But there are other problems, too.
“We have so many problems, coming up with a plan for all of them is really difficult,” said David Tomko, coordinator of the San Juan Watershed Group.
Tomko’s group was founded in response to a local study that found high levels of E. coli in the San Juan, Animas and La Plata rivers in 2002. The EPA also considered the Animas and La Plata rivers impaired because of E. coli as recently as 2014.
The county’s three rivers are also polluted in other ways, according to the EPA.
A section of the Animas has levels of phosphorus, nutrients and sedimentation that the EPA considers unacceptably high. And from the state line to Farmington, it’s too warm and cloud.
The EPA also considers the La Plata too high in nutrients and the San Juan too cloudy and full of sedimentation.
Information from: The Daily Times, https://www.daily-times.com
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