Local News

Neighbor airs toxic waste concerns to council

PUEBLO, Colo. - History is having a current effect on a southside neighborhood in Pueblo - and it could be a dangerous one for residents. The area is called Eiler Heights. It was home to a smelting refinery in the 1800s and left behind traces of arsenic and lead.

Pam Kocman went before Pueblo City Council Monday night. She was the voice of many Eiler Heights residents. She says many neighbors want to know why if high levels of lead and arsenic are in the neighborhood, why aren't people sick? Of course, many are still concerned about their health.

"The wind blows a lot and when it starts kicking dust up and if the seniors are out, where they can breathe they can still be ingesting lead," said Dennis Sowell, who lives near the toxic site.

Sowell has been living in the neighborhood for 15 years. Like Kocman, he says he wants City Council to do more research on the EPA's involvement, before it allows the EPA to take action. The EPA says if the area is declared a Superfund site, which would allow the EPA to clean it up, it would take years to do.

"The amount of time would really be a function of just how many properties we end up doing. The slag pile- we already have some information about the levels of contamination there and just based on the nature of the material we know we need to look at doing some remedial work," said Steve Wharton, unit chief for the Superfund Remedial Program for EPA's region 8.

Neighbors are worried being put on the EPA's Superfund list would stigmatize the otherwise quiet area.

"It's a quiet, beautiful, ethnic neighborhood. It's a working class neighborhood and we're gonna stick with this neighborhood and when all the hullabaloo is over we will still be there," Sowell said.

City council says for now it's not going to send a letter to governor to give to the EPA. Council members say they need more information before making a decision.

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