Denver zip code named the most polluted in the country

Globeville, RiNo, Swansea in most polluted area

DENVER – Denver is home to the most polluted residential area in the country, according to a new report from RealtyTrac.

Using data from ATTOM Data Solutions, RealtyTrac found the 80216 zip code, which includes Elyria-Swansea, Globeville and part of the River North neighborhood (RiNo), has the highest “environmental hazard risk” of more than 8,600 zips codes nationwide.

That risk assessment comes from four different environmental factors: Air quality, the number of pollution-generating facilities in the area, the number of Superfund cleanup sites and the number of brownfield sites, which are former industrial or commercial properties where redevelopment is difficult due to leftover pollution or contamination.

"I knew we were the highest in Colorado, but I didn't know we were the worst in the nation," said Eugene Rodriguez who has lived in Globeville for 45 years. "It's not surprising. It's still a great neighborhood."

Combining those four factors, the 80216 zip code had the largest overall risk level by a pretty big margin.

The pollution data is nothing new to residents of the Elyria-Swansea and Globeville neighborhoods, who have cited air quality and other environmental concerns in opposing a plan to widen Interstate 70 through the area and cover part of it with a park.

"I'm not surprised," said Chris Oletski, whose family still has several homes and acreage in Globeville. "A lot of people have cancer, but I don't know that it's related to the pollutants. I'm lucky. And both my parents lived here for 84 years without many health issues."

Still - leaders of neighborhood groups have said they believe widening the freeway will dramatically increase the amount of air pollution in the area and negatively affect the health of its residents.

The RealtyTrac report says areas with high environmental risks have had a much harder time recovering from the great recession and housing crisis.

But, that certainly isn't the case in 80216. In a paradoxical phenomenon of sorts, home values are up 250 percent in the last five years in the 80216 zip code, and 30 percent in the last year alone.

"Everybody wants to live here," said Rodriguez. "Condos are going up all over Brighton Blvd., and they're coming north. There seems to be a lot of money coming from out-of-state. People are moving here and they have money to spend." 

“Home values are higher and long-term home price appreciation is stronger in zip codes without a high risk for any of the four environmental hazards analyzed,” ATTOM Data Solutions Senior Vice President Daren Blomquist said. “Corresponding to that is a higher share of homes still seriously underwater in the zip codes with a high risk of at least one environmental hazard, indicating those areas have not regained as much of the home value lost during the downturn.”

Here are the 10 most polluted zip codes, according to the report:

  1. 80216 – Denver, CO
  2. 92408 – San Bernardino, CA
  3. 21226 – Curtis Bay, MD
  4. 90670 – Santa Fe Springs, CA
  5. 93725 – Fresno, CA
  6. 14303 – Niagara Falls, NY
  7. 63133 – Saint Louis, MO
  8. 91752 – Mira Loma, CA
  9. 19526 – Hamburg, PA
  10. 33619 – Tampa, FL

Nationwide, the report found 17.3 million single-family homes and condos are in zip codes with high or very high risk in at least one of the four environmental factors included in the analysis. Those homes make up about a quarter of all homes and have a combined market value of $4.9 trillion.

Read more about the environmental hazards report at RealtyTrac.com.

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