Dec 28, 2017
By Robin Kniech & Debbie Ortega - Councilmembers At-Large, City and County of Denver
Proposed budget cuts for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that could reduce environmental protection in the Denver area worry us and many residents. EPA oversees and enforces environmental laws enacted by Congress and signed by Presidents. Even when local and state governments address clean air and water, waste disposal and hazardous substances, citizens and local officials count on EPA to watch over and ensure the right things are done in compliance with laws and proper standards. When other agencies do Environmental Impact Statements, such as for the I-70/Central project, EPA has critical consulting roles so we know environmental laws are being followed.
EPA has on-going work in our communities protecting our residents and environment and this is threatened if funding is cut. Consider Superfund sites, for instance. Denver has several “National Priority List” hazardous waste sites within its limits, adjacent to it or owned by it. These have been cleaned up or at least made safe, driven by federal law and the efforts of EPA and others. Broderick Wood Products, Chemical Sales Co., Lowry Landfill, Denver Radium Sites, one part of Vasquez Boulevard/I-70 (residential properties) and Rocky Mountain Arsenal have all been remediated or at least brought under control. EPA’s mission continues at all these sites, in the form of overseeing operations and maintenance of the remedies that were done. This was required by Congress to ensure that hazardous waste containment, collection, removal, treatment, monitoring and inspection continue to function as intended and protect health and environment. Two parts of the Vasquez Boulevard/I-70 site remain in investigation for cleanup, at the Denver Coliseum parking lot region and an area west across the South Platte River.
EPA staff are on the ground and in the community working with state and local agencies to investigate metals pollution from smelters gone decades ago and bring about long-term solutions. Conducting, overseeing and monitoring Superfund cleanups is EPA’s job by act of Congress – give them the funds to do it.