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EPA Announces $75 Million in Accelerated Funding to Expedite Cleanup of the Colorado Smelter Superfund site in Pueblo, Colo.

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DENVER — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing a new funding strategy to advance and expedite the cleanup of the Colorado Smelter Superfund site in Pueblo, Colorado. This strategy will provide annual funding of up to $15 million, more than twice the amount originally budgeted, to expedite the completion of residential cleanups and remove lead at properties in the Bessemer, Eilers, and Grove neighborhoods. As a result of this accelerated funding, EPA estimates residential cleanups will cost $75 million and will take four to six years to complete, instead of the ten-year or more timeframe originally estimated.

“When I first took my current position one of the early issues brought to my attention was the Colorado Smelter Superfund site,” said EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento. “The elected leadership at the local, state, and federal level re-emphasized that EPA needed to act quickly to address threats to human health and the environment. EPA heard their concern and today we are announcing additional funding for an accelerated cleanup at the site, which is more than double the projected amount. I want to emphasize this is a team effort, it will require our best effort and assistance from state and local regulators.”

“Colorado leaders have worked closely with the federal government to expedite this cleanup,” said Senator Michael Bennet. “This additional funding hopefully will provide some relief for Pueblo and the neighborhoods in the vicinity of the smelter.”

“I appreciate the focus the EPA has turned back to its Superfund program and this announcement of additional funding for the Colorado Smelter site is just another example of that,” said Senator Cory Gardner. “The funding will allow for expedited cleanup, which will more quickly reduce health risks to residents and allow for a return to normalcy for the community. This matters greatly to the health and future of Pueblo.”

“The increase in funding and expedited timeline is truly welcome news and I commend the EPA for their willingness to work closely with my office to prioritize cleanup,” said Congressman Scott Tipton. “There are a lot of good people and important Pueblo history in the Bessemer, Eilers and Grove neighborhoods. It’s critical this work is done for this community as quickly as possible.”

“This is the best news we’ve heard yet regarding funding for the cleanup at the Colorado Smelter site," said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. “The sooner the project is done, the sooner property owners and the impacted neighborhoods can move on to enjoy their communities.

“We are extremely pleased that Region 8 EPA Administrator Doug Benevento has been able to secure additional funds for the project,”
said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart. “This allows us to complete the job faster, which has been a primary goal of our community. We are also pleased with EPA's effort to use local jobs and businesses to accomplish many of the tasks. Securing as many jobs as we can locally is important.”

“I used to be a firefighter and we learned to move fast when responding to threats to life and property,” said Pueblo City Council Vice President Ed Brown. “Things often move more slowly in government, so I am impressed at how quickly EPA is working to keep the community involved and get the resources we need to assess and clean up properties at the Colorado Smelter site.”

Accelerated funding for the site means EPA will be able to clean up approximately 150 properties per year over the next four to six years, resulting in significantly reduced residential exposure to lead and other heavy metals. It also affords the Agency the opportunity to train and potentially hire additional local labor to help with the cleanup as well as improving property values and opportunities for local economic development.

EPA has been successfully addressing lead exposures at the Colorado Smelter Superfund site since it was added to the National Priorities List in 2014. To date, approximately 40 percent of the 1,900 residential properties in the study area have been sampled. EPA estimates that about 43 percent of these properties will need soil cleanups and about 22 percent will also need indoor dust cleanups. EPA has completed 34 indoor dust cleanups and 46 soil cleanups at the site.

In September 2017, EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment finalized an interim Record of Decision for soils and indoor dust at the site. The Agency conducted early cleanup actions by removing contaminated soil down to 18 inches below ground surface and replacing it with clean soil, as well as indoor dust cleanups. This proactive, comprehensive, multi-pathway approach ensures EPA is best protecting public health and the environment around the Colorado Smelter Superfund site.

The Colorado Smelter Superfund site was a silver and lead smelter that operated in the Eilers and Bessemer neighborhoods from 1883 to 1908.

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