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Significant Cleanup Progress at Colorado Smelter Superfund Site Accelerated by Trump Administration Commitment to Superfund Program

EPA Administrator Wheeler Wraps Up Western Swing in Colorado

07/27/2020
Contact Information: 
EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov)

DENVER (July 27, 2020) – Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler visited the Colorado Smelter Superfund site in Pueblo, Colorado as part of his Western swing with EPA Associate Deputy Administrator Doug Benevento and Regional Administrator Greg Sopkin. This site was targeted in 2018 for additional funds to accelerate the cleanup of lead, arsenic and heavy metals in the surrounding community.

“The decision to accelerate funding for cleaning up the Colorado Smelter is one of the best decisions EPA leadership has made in the past several years,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We’ve sampled over 1,000 homes in the Eilers, Bessemer and Grove neighborhoods and have done soil and indoor dust clean-ups in hundreds of homes with the expectation of completing the project by 2023 – accelerating the cleanup to be completed in 5 years rather than over 12 years. Cleaning up these neighborhoods is the reason EPA was created; so I’m proud of our progress.”

“This community deserved better than a decade-plus cleanup schedule for yards and homes,” said EPA Associate Deputy Administrator Doug Benevento. “We re-allocated much needed money to this site to accelerate cleanup for the residents of Pueblo.”

“Finishing the job at the Colorado Smelter site is a high priority for EPA and our state and local partners in Pueblo,” said EPA Regional Administrator Greg Sopkin. “We continue to make progress in meeting accelerated site goals and completing the soil and dust cleanups that will protect the health of individuals and families.”

While at the site, Administrator Wheeler saw firsthand the tremendous cleanup progress being made since accelerated cleanup funding was awarded to reduce public exposure to lead and other hazardous substances. Additionally, the Administrator visited with local officials to learn about and discuss revitalization efforts focused on the impacted neighborhoods.

The Colorado Smelter site includes approximately 1,900 residential and commercial properties. To date, EPA has completed sampling activity at 84% of properties requiring soil sampling and 59% of properties requiring indoor dust sampling. The Agency has also completed cleanup actions at 48% of properties projected to require soil cleanups and at 30% of properties projected to require indoor dust cleanups.

Following the tour, Administrator Wheeler met with state and local officials including the office of U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pueblo Mayor Nicholas Gradisar, City Planner Scott Hobson, County Commissioner Terry Hart, and City Council Members Dennis Flores and Ed Brown.

In addition to the accelerated cleanup, EPA provided funding to bring the Superfund Job Training Initiative to the site, which is an environmental remediation job readiness program, providing career development opportunities for 15 trainees living near the site through a partnership between EPA, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Through this program, EPA is training and hiring local labor to help with the cleanup, which reduces residential exposure to lead and other heavy metals, while providing opportunities for local economic development.

Tomorrow, Administrator Wheeler will hold an all hands meeting at the Region 8 office and participate in a series of meetings with water, air and radiation, and tribal affairs staff in the region.

Background

The Colorado Smelter was a silver and lead smelter active in the Eilers, Bessemer and Grove neighborhoods of Pueblo, Colorado, from 1883 to 1908 and listed on the National Priorities List in 2014.

EPA Region 8 began work last year to achieve an accelerated cleanup at the Colorado Smelter Site in Pueblo, Colorado. In 2018, EPA announced a new funding strategy to advance and expedite the cleanup of this site. As a result of the accelerated funding, EPA estimates residential cleanups will take four to six years to complete, instead of the ten-year or more timeframe originally estimated.