Parties To Pay $13.9 Million for Colorado Site Cleanup

The city and county of Denver, Waste Management of Colorado Inc., and six other companies agreed to pay $13.9 million to reimburse money spent by the federal government in connection with the Lowry Landfill Superfund Site near Denver.

The settlement also requires that the settling defendants continue site cleanup and pay costs incurred by the federal government with respect to the site in the future. Although initial cleanup of the site is nearly complete, long-term maintenance is expected to cost $43 million and continue for more than 30 years.

"This agreement brings to a close a contentious chapter in the history of Lowry Landfill," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kelly A. Johnson of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "By resolving several long-standing disputes, the Justice Department and the EPA were able to recover federal money that was spent at the site, making those funds again available for the protection of human health and the environment."

Lowry Landfill is one of the nation's largest Superfund sites. Occupying 508 acres in Arapahoe County, Colo., the site received approximately 138 million gallons of liquid industrial waste from 1966 to 1980. The liquids were placed in unlined trenches and pits, most of which are covered by 25 to 60 feet of municipal refuse. Wastes included industrial solvents, metal-plating wastes, petroleum products, pesticides, sewage sludge, paints, tires, animal carcasses, household wastes and medical wastes. The waste disposed at Lowry Landfill contaminated the soils at the site and eventually contaminated shallow groundwater. Additionally, gases from the buried wastes contaminated the air spaces in subsurface soil.

The initial complaint filed by the Justice Department and the EPA on July 15, 2002, names a total of eight defendants, including two owner/operators, one transporter, and five generators. The five generator defendants are responsible for contributing nearly 94 million gallons of industrial waste to the site, about 68 percent of the total volume of industrial waste found there. Small amounts of radioactive materials have also been detected in the waste pits, sediments, groundwater, and soils. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, more than 50 chemicals of concern have been identified through the risk assessment process. These include, but are not limited to, volatile organic compounds (e.g., vinyl chloride, 1,2-dichloroethane, 1,1-dichloroethylene), polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (e.g., benzo(a)anthracene); and metals (e.g., arsenic and lead).

The investigation and cleanup of Lowry Landfill has been underway for more than 20 years. In 1984, the site was placed on the National Priorities List of the nation's most contaminated toxic waste sites. In that same year, the EPA began its efforts to address hazards posed by the site by issuing a series of administrative orders which resulted in investigatory work and the construction and operation of a groundwater barrier, drain, collection and treatment system. EPA selected a remedy for the site in 1994, and the city and county of Denver, Waste Management of Colorado Inc. and others have been performing that remedy since 1994 under an order from the EPA. The defendants will continue to perform the remedy under the consent decree rather than under the previous order.

On Aug. 22, the Justice Department filed the consent decree, on behalf of the EPA, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html.

Additional information about this and other Superfund sites in EPA Region 8 can be found at http://www.epa.gov/Region8/superfund.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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