Regulators to begin removal of toxic waste at old landfill in Erie

Up to 84,000 gallons of waste could be buried

ERIE, Colo. -- Contractors will begin removing gallons of toxic waste uncovered at an old Erie landfill.

The site is located at the southwest corner of Weld County Road 5 and Weld County Road 6 in Erie.

The property owner of the Neuhauser landfill is conducting the work with direct oversight from the Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

State regulators said they uncovered two 55-gallon toxic drums at the site over the summer.

"That contained liquid waste and it was industrial solvents," Kelly MacGregor, a spokesperson for the state health department said. "We need to remove them and get the site cleaned up."

Records show up to 84,000 gallons of toxic waste could be buried at the site where computer company IBM is believed to have dumped its waste several decades ago.

"During the 1960s when the drums were disposed, this was a legal method of disposal," Katherine Jenkins, a Denver EPA spokeswoman said.

The state health department said it found the toxic waste after being asked by the property owner, who has plans to build homes in the area, to investigate.

"With the housing boom, developers are looking at land that maybe previously wouldn't have been considered," MacGregor said.

She said once regulators started looking at the area they had concerns.

"We did find some ground water contamination, with the geology of this site though it's very localized," MacGregor explained.

"We wanted to take action quickly, and we also wanted to take action before the Colorado winter," Jenkins said.

Drum removal work is scheduled to begin at the site on Dec. 11, and the EPA said will take four to six weeks to complete.

While some ground water contamination was found, MacGregor stressed there is no threat to Erie's drinking water because all of its residents use municipal water.

She also said there is no threat to public health during the removal work.

Additionally, EPA will conduct air monitoring tests throughout the process to ensure no chemicals are leaking into the air.

"If there are high levels of readings during the air monitoring, the site activity will stop," Jenkins said. "We will be conducting a thorough investigation of the drums and how many there are."

Once removed, the drums will be taken to another landfill that is permitted to handle the waste.

"I am very concerned," Christiaan van Woudenberg, who lives a mile away in Erie's Vista Ridge subdivision, said. "We don't know what's under the ground."

His biggest concern is for the potential new homeowners.  

"I can't believe that they're building, that they intend to build homes here at all," van Woudenberg said.

State regulators also said the toxic waste is not connected to any fracking in the area.

A community open house will be held at the Erie Police Station on Dec. 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. where residents can ask questions and learn more about the removal process.

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