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Joint Release: Agreement secures protection of the South Platte River in central Denver

Settlement establishes environmental monitoring and directs $500k to protect and enhance river health and underserved communities

Additional Contacts:

City and County of Denver, Environmental Health, Meghan Hughes, Communications Director    720-865-5429

Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment, Mark Salley, Communications Director    303-692-6351

DENVERWildEarth Guardians (Guardians), the City & County of Denver (City), and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (department) announced the approval of an agreement aimed at improving water quality in Denver.  The agreement resolves three years of litigation associated with the former General Chemical industrial site located on the banks of the South Platte River. Under previous ownership, a century of mining, chemical manufacturing and mine tailing and slag disposal occurred at the site.

Beginning in 2008, the City and brownfield redeveloper IRG Bayaud, LLC transformed the previously underutilized General Chemical site to enhance city services. The site is now home to the Denver Animal Shelter, the Public Works Maintenance facility, as well as other facilities.

In 2014, Guardians filed a citizen enforcement lawsuit in federal court under the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The department intervened in the lawsuit to ensure pollution from the former General Chemical property does not pose a threat to public health and the environment.

“The South Platte River is a sanctuary for people and wildlife in Denver,” said Jen Pelz, Wild Rivers Program Director at Guardians. “We are thankful the parties could work together to protect the health of local communities, clean water, and this unique urban river corridor.”

The settlement between Guardians, the City, the department, and IRG Bayaud will result in comprehensive groundwater and surface water quality monitoring at the site and directs $250k from IRG Bayaud to a park redesign project the City will undertake to improve stormwater quality and benefit underserved communities near the river.

“The former General Chemical site is a complicated, multi-media challenge for the State of Colorado,” said Martha Rudolph, director of environmental programs for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.  “Through this settlement, the parties have agreed to implement a precedent-setting water quality monitoring program that will thoroughly investigate the groundwater and surface water impacts of the General Chemical site on the South Platte River.  The information gathered from this collaborative monitoring program will provide in-depth information about water quality without the need for continuing litigation.”

As part of the agreement, IRG Bayaud and the City will drill new wells on the site for monitoring both ground and surface water. It also establishes a robust monitoring program designed to help better understand the arsenic levels in the water under the site and determine if and when any arsenic might reach the river. The settlement also sets out the framework for a response plan if certain arsenic level triggers occur.

As an additional way to improve water quality in the South Platte River, the agreement provides funds and resources to construct the Ashbury and Tejon Park Redesign Project. This project— located just a few miles west of the river between Evans and Jewell—will improve the quality of stormwater reaching the river and create green spaces for local underserved communities.  The project will remove pollutants from stormwater before the water enters the river.  It also will make for a better public amenity, improving recreation opportunities for neighbors.

“The South Platte River is the lifeblood of our city and communities across the front range,” says Zach Clayton, Manager of Environmental Land Use and Planning in Denver’s Department of Environmental Health.  “This settlement will help us improve water quality and achieve our ultimate goal of making the South Platte River an amenity for all.”

Added Pelz, “This settlement is a step in the right direction and a win for urban access to open space and clean water.”


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