At a mining school? Common sense would dictate that you're being misled in your education about "environmental sciences." Unless of course it's a mining school. Are they teaching you adaptive management theory and practices yet? Because now there's a great reason in your backyard.
My main issue is the general public being "concerned" is more representative of "omg (insert worst case scenario here) is going to happen"
Yes precautionary/preventative measures need to be adopted, they were. A water use ban and a fishing closure were implemented, with sampling after that.
If the people making decisions and sampling panic, mistakes get made. It does no good on either front if the public goes into mass hysteria, as the pressure just mounts and makes their jobs harder.
And yes I would drink that water, considering its only going to dilute as particles go downstream.