Federal funding will speed up work at the Colorado Smelter Superfund site in Pueblo

Shanna Lewis/KRCC News
Signage warns people away from part of the Colorado Smelter Superfund site in south Pueblo.

Some $4.7 million from the federal infrastructure bill targets the site of the former Colorado Smelter in south Pueblo. The funding will allow the Environmental Protection Agency to resume soil sampling and testing at the site this year, instead of in 2024.

This phase of the project determines what contaminants are onsite and how they are affecting the environment. The process is likely to take several years and a decision as to what to do at the site is expected in 2027.

The former silver and lead smelter stopped operations more than a century ago, leaving behind toxic materials. The building was torn down in 1923, but a huge 700,000 square foot slag pile remains. The Colorado Smelter Superfund site, which was placed on the National Priorities List six years ago, includes the slag pile and industrial area and more than 1,800 properties surrounding it.

Meantime, the work to clean up toxic lead and arsenic in soils at nearby homes is likely to wind down in September. After that, the EPA said it will no longer cover the costs for testing and removing contaminated soil from affected properties. Cost estimates for that work could be upwards of $50,000 per property which will become the homeowner’s responsibility and possibly interfere with future real estate transactions, according to the agency.

Yards and outdoor soil around more than 1,700 homes have been tested already, resulting in more than 780 that have needed clean-up work. 

The EPA is also working with state and local health departments to sample and test indoor dust at properties in the Superfund area. The testing portion of that work is expected to end in May of 2023 and the clean up work finalized in the fall of next year.

Previous coverage of the Colorado Smelter Superfund site: