Colorado Smelter Added to the National Priorities List
On December 11, 2014, EPA added the former Colorado Smelter to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites. Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites to protect public health and the environment.
EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) completed a site assessment that revealed elevated levels of lead and arsenic in residential soils and large slag piles in the vicinity of the former Colorado Smelter. The results indicated a comprehensive cleanup is necessary to reduce health risks for current and future residents. EPA and CDPHE met with city and county officials, community groups, interested stakeholders and neighbors to understand the problems and risks and to gain support for listing on the National Priorities List (NPL).
Based on the size, complexity and anticipated costs, the best program to undertake the cleanup is the CERCLA (more commonly known as Superfund) National Priorities List. Cleaning up the remaining slag and neighborhood soils will result in reduced public health risks, can have a positive impact on property values and can benefit community and neighborhood revitalization efforts.
According to the National Property Values and Institutional Controls guidelines put out by the EPA
Will a Superfund designation decrease property values or hurt the economy?
Studies indicate that it is the discovery of environmental contamination that can negatively impact property values. Because the listing of a site on the NPL triggers a federal commitment to do cleanup work, this step reduces uncertainty and may act as a signal to real estate markets that property improvements are imminent.
What Happens if a contaminated property is not cleaned up and the owner tries to sell the property? How does this affect property values in the neighborhood?
For those property owners who volunteer to have their property cleaned up, they will receive a letter stating the property is clean, which not only provides comfort for the existing property owner but future property owner as well.
For those property owners that do no volunteer to have their property clean up, they will not have the benefit of showing that the contamination o on their property has been addresses, which may make it more difficult to sell in the future.
So what does all this mean if I want to buy or sell a home in the Eilers affected area?
Of course, their are other factors in addition to Superfund cleanup that affects property.,values, including the general conditions of a property, market trends and other unrelated factors.
My understanding is that at some point when funding becomes available, if you have a property that has been properly tested the EPA at tax payer expense will mitigate the affected grounds of your property. The mitigation process could involve removing top soil on your property, which the EPA upon successful mitigation will make your property whole including replacing any landscaping that was on the property before mitigation.
It could take years before proper levels are determined and the mitigation process moves forward. Currently there are no lenders that have indicated that they will be willing to lend money on any home in the proposed affected areas. You can have the ground/soil tested if you are considering a purchase in this area. However, since there is no accepted agreement on what constitutes a level of unacceptable risk this road block to obtaining funding is certain to continue into the future.
There are many homes for the sale in the potentially affected areas that if you are a cash buyer looking to invest in property in these areas you are sure to find a few good buys. At this point in time there is no indication that rents are being affected or that home prices have been severely eroded.
For a list of homes that may be available in the affected areas give me a call anytime and I’ll be more than happy to help or to answer any questions you may have about the Superfund site.
Here is a link to the The official EPA Colorado Smelter Site – Real Estate in Pueblo
The Eilers Heights Neighborhood Association has a website that will keep you up to date with the on-going developments.