After three months of looking at pollution studies, government reports and talking with officials — the struggle over what to do next centers around four main players the EPA, health officials, academics and city officials. In as simple terms as possible, the EPA does a preliminary assessment and recommends to a community that a Superfund clean up process is needed but the EPA needs the community officials and the state to sign off on the superfund process. This is the stage where the main players find themselves at odds.
Excerpt on the Superfund Process and the EPA’s position:
Currently, the city of Pueblo and the EPA are at a stalemate between the first and second stage of the Superfund process.
The Superfund process, which Pueblo has been involved in since the first preliminary assessment conducted in 1991 by EPA and CDPHE, is a fivefold path to a federal cleanup of a contaminated site posing health risks to citizens.
The first step in the Superfund Process is the Preliminary Assessment and Site Inspection (PA/SI) of a potentially contaminated area and a thorough inspection of the potentially contaminated site. Based on data from the PA/SI, a Hazard Ranking System (HRS) score is given to a site based on human health and environmental risks. If that score is above 28.5, then the area qualifies as a Superfund caliber site.
The EPA’s Position:
The EPA has expressed it wants to work with city council to find a way to make progress toward cleaning up dangerous concentrations of lead and arsenic in the soil around the Colorado Smelter site.
Sabrina Forrest, EPA National Priority List Coordinator in charge of the Colorado Smelter site, explained, “At this point we really don’t know what the overall threat of contamination is.” But what is known by the EPA is of the homes and the remaining slag area sampled there are dangerously high concentrations of arsenic and lead, above health-based screening levels, as well as alarmingly above normal levels for Pueblo soil.
The EPA would not comment on how long a cleanup of our relative scale might take. Nor would they comment on what a cleanup might entail, what it might be projected to cost, or whether Pueblo would be responsible for any of the cleanup costs.