PUEBLO – The Environmental Protection Agency is giving people a chance to get a job and to help clean-up the Colorado smelter site in Pueblo.
15 Pueblo-area residents graduated from the EPA’s Superfund Job Training Initiative program on September 27th. Graduates of the program now have the necessary skills to be considered for future jobs with the environmental contractors cleaning up lead and arsenic contamination at the site.
The program provides unemployed and underemployed individuals with the technical skills and specialized training that they need to work on cleanup projects at Superfund sites, on other environmental remediation, and in a broad range of construction projects.
The EPA worked in partnership with NeighborWorks Southern Colorado to recruit students for the program and they conducted the training over a two-week period, which consisted of both classroom instruction as well as hands-on exercises. To be accepted into the program, recruits had to participate in half-day tryout activities where they were evaluated by panelists comprised of community members, Pueblo Workforce, Pueblo Community College, CSU Pueblo and agencies working on the Colorado Smelter project. Roughly 40 people tried out, 17 were selected, and 15 graduated from the program with the certifications that prepare them for work in the environmental remediation field.
EPA anticipates selecting the contractor who will lead the long-term phase of the Colorado Smelter cleanup in October. This work will include the completion of indoor and outdoor remediation of homes within the site boundary. EPA has sampled over 40 percent of the study area. To date, 47 yards and 43 indoor cleanups have already been completed under initial rapid response work.
The Colorado Smelter was a silver and lead smelter that operated in the Eilers and Bessemer neighborhoods from 1883 to 1908. The EPA listed the site on the National Priorities List in December of 2014, due to its concerns about the high levels of arsenic and lead identified in smelter slag and neighborhood soils.
The Colorado Smelter is bound by Santa Fe Avenue to the east, Mesa Avenue to the south, Interstate 25 to the west, and the Arkansas River to the north. The Bessemer, Eiler and Grove neighborhoods are adjacent to the former Colorado Smelter site, which now consists of building remains and an approximately 700,000-square-foot waste pile.
The overall cost of the cleanup is estimated at $43,828,600 and is anticipated to address approximately 817 properties.