Preview of Guilty Knowledge – the history of the smelter and site studies

Slag sits on a railroad embankment near the old Colorado Smelter Site near Santa Fe Avenue.
Slag sits on a railroad embankment near the old Colorado Smelter Site near Santa Fe Avenue.

For three months PULP has been investigating the pollution from the Colorado Smelter site also call the Eiler’s Smelter. The Environmental Protection Agency wants to move forward in the process to designate the site a Superfund which would allow for the Federal Government to clean up lead and arsenic pollution in the area. Pueblo City Council wants to see more conclusive evidence before it agrees to move forward with the Superfund process. Scientists who are studying the issue say there may never be conclusive proof of lead and arsenic. 

PULP went on the record with the EPA, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Pueblo City Council and the CSU-Pueblo professor whose study Pueblo City Council is using as one of the reasons it doesn’t find sufficient evidence for lead and arsenic pollution. 

Excerpt of the history of smelter 

An estimated 3,500 acres of wetlands are located within four miles of the Colorado Smelter site,


including Runyon Lake. This area is a designated State Wildlife Area, and is located between one quarter and one-mile northeast of the smelter site.

The Arkansas River Valley, east of the smelter site, has been classified as a potential conservation area due to its rich biodiversity. Several threatened or endangered species call Pueblo’s ecosystems home.

Excerpt of what lead to studying the site

1989: Red Discharge in the Arkansas and the Pueblo County Health Department

Scientific attention was originally directed at the region near sites of Pueblo’s old smelters in 1989 when a concerned citizen reported, to the Pueblo County Health Department, seeing a red-orange discharge into the Arkansas River coming from an eighteen inch culvert. This culvert extends from the levee on the south side of the Arkansas River, directly below the Santa Fe Avenue Bridge. Pueblo County proceeded to collect a grab sample of the discharge on September 26, 1989.

Results of the first samples confirmed that there were in fact elevated concentrations of several metals in the flow coming from the Santa Fe Bridge culvert. This information was reported to the CDPHE.

2006: CSU-Pueblo’s Research May Point to Larger Problem

Sampling and analysis was also conducted on Pueblo soil by Professor of Biology at Colorado State University- Pueblo, Moussa Diawara. Sixty-eight soil samples were collected at 33 locations and analyzed for arsenic, cadmi- um, lead and mercury. All 68 samples exceeded the carcinogenic risk threshold for arsenic. The study concluded that a higher-density geochemical survey would be needed to identify smaller and possibly higher amplitude “hotspots” of toxic metal contamination around Pueblo.

Tomorrow will releasing excerpts on the health risks and the EPA’s Superfund Process.

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