Environmental Protection

Colorado Settles Rocky Mountain Arsenal Suit

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Gov. Bill Ritter announced the settlement of Colorado's quarter-century-old claim for natural resource damages at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Superfund site.

The state reached agreements in principle with both Shell Oil Co. and the U.S. Army that will result in more than $35 million in acquisition, enhancement, and restoration of natural resources in and around the northeast metro area Arsenal site.

"As a result of very focused cooperation from Shell and the U.S. Department of Justice, we have made tremendous progress in negotiations over the past several months, and I am very pleased to announce the largest natural resource damage settlement in Colorado history," Suthers said.

"This is a historic settlement -- an accomplishment achieved through strong collaboration," Gov. Ritter said. "The funding contained in this settlement will provide long-term compensation to the citizens along the South Platte who have been affected by the natural resource damages at the Arsenal."

As part of the agreement, Shell will pay $10 million in natural resource damages, monies that will be administered by the state's Natural Resource Trustees for restoration projects on or near the Arsenal site. Shell also will donate an additional $10 million to a state natural resource foundation that will be used to fund projects in the Northeast Greenway Corridor. Additionally, Shell will donate approximately 100 acres of land in the First Creek corridor -- with an estimated value of more than $1 million -- to Commerce City to serve as a gateway for a planned trail system linking open space along the South Platte River.

For its part of the settlement, the United States will pay $7.4 million in natural resource damages to be used for restoration projects. To complete its obligation, the federal government is entitled to a credit of $6.6 million for the 1989 construction of the Klein water treatment plant, located just north of 72nd Avenue and Quebec Street.

The parties were able to make significant progress in negotiations as the state began to develop a better understanding of which natural resources are still affected by contamination and how much those resources are worth -- a process that began in early 2005. Using $2.4 million in funds provided by the Colorado General Assembly, the state carefully assessed the remaining plume of affected groundwater and the rate at which it is shrinking. It became evident as the assessment process progressed that the remaining contamination is not as widespread as originally thought.

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal
The arsenal is a federally owned facility in Adams County, Col., just northeast of the Denver metropolitan area. In 1942, the U.S. Army purchased the 27 square-mile property for the manufacture of chemical warfare agents and incendiary munitions, including mustard gas, lewisite, phosgene bombs, incendiary bombs, napalm, and Sarin nerve agent.

After World War II, the Army leased portions of the site to private industry, primarily Shell Oil Company, which manufactured pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and other chemicals, including dieldrin and endrin, at the arsenal from 1952 to 1982.

Manufacturing wastes from both Shell and the Army were transported through chemical sewers to on-site disposal basins that often had no, or inadequate, seals to prevent environmental contamination.

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