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Commerce City site ready for reuse

Release Date: 3/3/2004
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      Denver -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced today that the property in Commerce City where Approved Oil Services once operated a used oil recycling and transporting business is clean and ready for unrestricted land use.

Approved Oil Services operated between 1976 and 1998, and during this time the facility became contaminated. Under orders from CDPHE, the company started cleaning up the site in the 1990s. During this time, EPA also conducted investigations and found numerous contaminants in the soil and groundwater, including solvents, petroleum hydrocarbons, pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The investigations also revealed the potential for contamination of nearby surface waters through storm-water runoff. In 1998, the company went out of business and left significant contamination at the site.

In a groundbreaking cooperative effort, a small number of companies and public agencies that sent used oil to the company organized and approached EPA with an offer to clean up the site voluntarily and asked EPA not to issue any clean up orders. EPA and CDPHE agreed to give the voluntary effort a chance to succeed and provided input and resources to assist the group during the effort. The site was eventually designated by EPA headquarters as one of the first hazardous waste "Brownfields" pilot sites in the country.

Hazardous waste Brownfields sites, unlike standard Brownfields sites, receive no direct funding from Congress. EPA is piloting a small number of these hazardous waste Brownfields projects in an effort to determine whether it is possible for some sites to be adequately addressed without formal enforcement actions from EPA and without federal funding.

The group, which came to be known as the Approved Oil Services Stakeholders Steering Committee, collected about $750,000 to fund the cleanup. CDPHE and EPA worked with the committee to develop a plan to clean up the site and open it up for unrestricted redevelopment.

In a letter to the Steering Committee dated March 3, 2004, EPA and CDPHE congratulated the steering committee on the recent completion of the voluntary effort and made particular note of the fact that the cleanup was so thorough that the land could now be used for residential development. The Agencies said, "This successful effort has resulted in the elimination of all known environmental threats and the return of this property to a productive reuse."

EPA Region 8 Assistant Regional Administrator Carol Rushin said, "The rapid and successful completion of this voluntary clean up shows that at some sites it is possible to achieve a protective clean up in a timely manner without EPA or a State having to issue clean up orders. But, this hazardous waste Brownfields pilot project could not have succeeded without the dedicated effort of a number of private parties, as well as CDPHE, the local governments and members of the community."

"EPA has learned a great deal from this project, and we look forward to working with private parties who step up to this type of responsibility at sites where approaches like this are appropriate," Rushin continued.

“This project demonstrates the value of having the ability to use innovative regulatory approaches and to create productive partnerships. Both good communication and good cooperation are needed to make projects like this happen,” said Gary Baughman, director of the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“With enhanced possibilities for development, Commerce City will benefit from the flexibility that an unrestricted cleanup offers.”