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Public will decide what's next for Pueblo smelter issues

By Joe Dominguez, Multimedia Journalist - Pueblo Chieftain Bureau , j.dominguez@krdo.com
Published On: Feb 22 2013 01:27:51 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 22 2013 02:40:37 AM CST

Further study and clean up not possible without public support and city council action.

PUEBLO, Colo. -

Helen Lyons is torn over the findings of a study put out by the Environmental Protection Agency. On one hand, she'd like to see the federal government address high levels of arsenic and lead found in the yards of some Pueblo homes close to the steel mill. On the other hand, she doesn't want to see the neighborhood she grew up in become a Superfund site.

"It makes me sad that it's going through all this change," said Lyons.

The EPA has been looking at the Eilers neighborhood as a potential Superfund site since 2007.

The soil sample study was done in 2010. Three years later, the EPA is still in wait-and-see mode. The agency said it needs support from the community if it's to move forward with clean up and treatment.

It means spreading the word about the study and coming to a conclusion as a community; address the issue or ignore it.

"Get in contact with people and let people know what you're thinking and what you'd like to see done and I think that goes for both sides," said Sabrina Forrest with the EPA.

Forrest said, in this case at least, the EPA cannot come in and declare the area a Superfund site without the blessing of local and state government. The distinction would open up millions of dollars in funding to address problems.

"In order for Pueblo city council to speak with the state about supporting this it would mean that the community would need to be behind it," said Forrest.

Lyons is concerned with health issues across Pueblo. The metal and arsenic from the steel mill and smelting activity can travel by air and water. It's not necessarily which properties are closest to the smelting activity but where the wind and water has carried those elements. Too much arsenic and lead can lead to neurological problems especially in children and still developing embryos in pregnant women.

Lyons said it shouldn't just be the Eilers neighborhood stigmatized by the problem.

"I think we should open (the tests) to a bigger section of Pueblo," said Lyons.

She said denying the problem to protect home values isn't in the city's best interest.

"I think you just need to figure out what's going on," said Lyons. "I don't think it's going to help to gloss over the truth."

If you'd like more information on the study or the EPA's involvement in Pueblo call 1-800-227-8917 ext. 6622.

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