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EPA announces final cleanup decision for northeast Denver properties

Release Date: 9/26/2003
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      Denver -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced its final cleanup decision for residential soils in the Vasquez Boulevard/Interstate 70 (VB/I-70) Superfund site in northeast Denver. This decision affects nearly four square miles and homes in the neighborhoods of Cole, Clayton, Swansea, Elyria, southwest Globeville and a portion of Curtis Park.

The final cleanup decision will authorize EPA to remove and replace the soils at approximately 850 homes to protect residents from the potentially harmful health effects caused by elevated levels of lead and arsenic in yard soils at some residential properties in these neighborhoods. The cleanup is expected to cost $31 million and take three to five years to complete.

EPA will remove and replace yards with lead levels that measure above 400 parts per million or arsenic levels above 70 ppm. This final decision is the result of a collaborative process that included input from community representatives and various federal and local agencies.

EPA has already removed and replaced soil at 48 homes that required emergency attention due to high lead or arsenic levels. Before the end of the year, EPA plans to remove and replace an additional 141 yards that have the highest contaminant levels measured. Today's final decision affects those yards that will need a cleanup but have lower levels than the yards being cleaned up this year.

EPA expanded the VB/I-70 site boundaries slightly in this final decision to include a section of Curtis Park. The Agency will continue to sample yards in that area and throughout the site that have not yet been sampled.

In addition to soil removal and continued soil sampling, the selected remedy also includes providing funding for a Community Health Program that will continue as long as soils are being removed in the neighborhoods. The program is designed to inform area residents about the health effects of lead and arsenic, as well as to provide information on a variety of environmental health issues. The program will offer free monitoring for children who live within the VB/I-70 site boundaries and clinical follow-up when necessary.

Since EPA began investigating heavy metals in VB/I-70 site soils in 1998, the Agency has considered these neighborhoods as Environmental Justice areas because the majority of the residents are low-income and minority, and the area is affected by many sources of environmental pollution, including industry, other Superfund sites and transportation corridors.

EPA worked very closely with community representatives in an open forum. The investigation produced numerous studies on the nature and extent of the soil contamination as well as the risks posed to human health and the environment.

EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment signed a Record of Decision Thursday, which is the formal document detailing the final cleanup plan. The final cleanup decision is based on Alternative 6 from EPA's Proposed Cleanup Plan issued in May 2003.

EPA received public comment on the proposed plan for 30 days. Based on those comments and support for Alternative 6 from community representatives, CDPHE and other agencies, EPA selected Alternative 6 as the final cleanup plan. The selected remedy meets all federal and state requirements and mandates and is protective of human health and the environment.