The iron ore tailings reached the Gualaxo do Norte River, ran along its riverbed, flowed into the Doce River and reached the sea. Of the approximately 32 million m³ (1130 million ft³) of tailings that left the Samarco property, about 26.5 million m³ (936 million ft³) were deposited until the dam of the hydroelectric plant Risoleta Neves (Candonga), located between the mining towns of Rio Doce and Santa Cruz do Escalvado. Another 5.5 million m³ (194 million ft³) followed the watercourses along 537 kilometers (333 miles) to the mouth of the Doce River, in Regência (ES).
Along its 650 kilometers (404 miles) path to the mouth of the Doce River, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, the turbidity plume impacted many municipalities in the states of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo. In Minas Gerais, the dam collapse affected the districts of Bento Rodrigues and Paracatu de Baixo, in Mariana, and Gesteira, district of Barra Longa, a town that was also affected at its center. In Espírito Santo, the affected towns were Baixo Guandu, Colatina and Linhares, where the mouth of the river is located.