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Trout from Animas River declared safe to eat month after mine spill

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The Animas River in southwest Colorado was fouled by mine wastewater as the result of a mine plug blowout. (Photo: La Plata County Sheriff's Office)

DURANGO, Colo. — Trout from the Animas River was declared to be safe to eat Wednesday by state health officials nearly one month after a massive mine wastewater spill soiled the pristine waterway in southwest Colorado.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said most fish tissue analyzed after the Gold King mine release revealed metals below detectable levels.

“All results were below the risk threshold,” the department said in a news release. “Levels of mercury, selenium and arsenic in rainbow and brown trout were within the range of levels in fish previously sampled in the state.”

The Aug. 5 spill above Silverton was caused by the Environmental Protection Agency, causing 3 million gallons of contaminants to flow into Cement Creek before draining into the Animas.

The spill caused the Animas to turn a dark orange, and the wastewater flowed through three states and two American Indian tribes.

“Because there is a potential for fish to concentrate metals in their tissue over time, the department and Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue to monitor levels of metals in Animas River fish,” the release said.