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EPA asked by governor to help with Eilers clean up

By Joe Dominguez, Multimedia Journalist - Pueblo Chieftain Bureau , j.dominguez@krdo.com
Published On: Jan 28 2014 08:47:16 PM CST

Governor John Hickenlooper backs the Superfund plan for decontaminating the Eilers from lead and arsenic from smeltering. Joe Dominguez gets reaction.

PUEBLO, Colo. -

It's the clearest sign yet that help for a Pueblo neighborhood is on the way.

Last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency asking for help cleaning up contamination in the Eilers neighborhood. Elevated levels of arsenic and lead have been found in the soil that can be traced back to smelter operations from decades ago.

Christopher Wardell, with the EPA said the governor's letter lends conditional support for the clean up project. That's important because it sets up the smelter area at a proposed site for a Superfund listing.

If the area is declared a government cleanup priority it will open up federal money for decontamination.

The idea of cleaning up the neighborhood has been contentious. Some don't believe there's anything wrong with the soil.

"This ground isn't contaminated as far as I'm concerned," said Joe Polkiewicz. "That's a bunch of hogwash."

But others are worried about the test results and the elevated lead levels, including city and county governments and the governor.

Moving forward, Wardell said a proposal could be publicized this Spring, then there would be a 60-day comment period for the public to weigh in with their ideas and concerns.

Wardell said if the draft is approved, the site could be listed on the national Superfund high priority list by the fall of 2014. That would open the door for remedial investigation and a feasibility study. The EPA admits that could take a long time.

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