Public Health Advocate, CoPIRG Foundation
Public Health Advocate, CoPIRG Foundation
CoPIRG Foundation calls for dramatic pollution reductions to protect rivers, streams
DENVER – As the Clean Water Act turns 50 tomorrow, a report from the CoPIRG Foundation, Wasting our Waterways shows industrial facilities dumped more than 1.3 million pounds of toxic chemicals into Colorado’s waterways in 2020. High volumes of chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental harm were released into watersheds across the state, including the South Platte, Fountain, Clear, Yampa, and Arkansas rivers among others.
The Clean Water Act is the bedrock legislation behind cleaning up our nation’s waterways, and set a goal of eliminating direct discharges of pollution by 1985. However, CoPIRG Foundation’s report shows high volumes of toxic chemicals continue to reach waterways in every corner of the state.
“Our children deserve a toxic-free future,” said Public Health Advocate Alex Simon with the CoPIRG Foundation. “Yet polluters too often recklessly dispose of chemicals linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive damage. It’s time to stop this toxic dumping.”
CoPIRG Foundation’s report is based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2020. Industrial facilities self-report to the TRI how much toxic material they release into surface waters. While these reports are likely an undercount, major findings include:
- Industrial facilities dumped 1.3 million pounds of toxic chemicals into Colorado’s waterways.
- 22 facilities reported dumping of toxic chemicals to the EPA across a range of industries, including Cargill Meat Solutions Corp., Leprino Foods Co., U.S. Army Fort Carson, Molson Coors USA LLC, Carestream Health Colorado, Climax Molybdenum CO-Henderson/Climax Mines, Suncor Energy Commerce City Refinery, and Evraz Rocky Mountain Steel.
However, TRI data captures only a portion of the toxic pollution released to waterways by industrial facilities, meaning that the amount of toxic substances released to waterways by industrial facilities is likely significantly higher. For example, reporting for releases of some PFAS, a class of chemicals linked to serious health impacts, was only required as recently as 2020, and is still not required for the vast majority of these “forever chemicals.”
The report follows a round of testing in 2020 that revealed over 100 public drinking water sources in the state had concentrations of PFAS chemicals.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there is no safe level of these so-called “forever chemicals” in drinking water and exposure to PFAS, even in small amounts over time, has been linked to serious health effects including cancer, thyroid disruption and reduced vaccine response. Colorado recently passed a bill, HB22-1345, which will limit the use of PFAS chemicals going forward in some consumer products like rugs and food packaging.
The 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act also comes as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a case that could decide which waterways receive Clean Water Act protections. Colorado’s Attorney General, Phil Weiser submitted a brief in support of expansive clean water protections.
The report recommends several steps to stem this tide of toxic pollution including requiring industry to switch from toxic chemicals to safer alternatives. CoPIRG Foundation is also calling on the EPA to move quickly to update pollution control standards in order to end or at least dramatically reduce toxic releases into our waterways. This includes standards for meat and poultry processing plants, power plants, and all industrial dischargers of PFAS chemicals.
“Polluters shouldn’t be able to use Colorado’s waterways as a dumping ground,” said Simon. “As the Clean Water Act turns 50, we should be setting stronger protections for our rivers and streams, not sliding backwards.”
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2020:
|Facility||Industry||City||Receiving watershed||Total chemicals released (lbs)||Toxicity-
weighted chemicals released
|CARGILL MEAT SOLUTIONS CORP||Animal (except Poultry) Slaughtering||FORT MORGAN||Middle South Platte-Sterling||576957||363079.8|
|LEPRINO FOODS CO – GREELEY||Cheese Manufacturing||GREELEY||Cache La Poudre||426529||268713.6|
|US ARMY FORT CARSON (CANTONMENT)||National Security||FORT CARSON||Fountain||164533||103655.637|
|MOLSON COORS USA LLC – GOLDEN BREWERY||Breweries||GOLDEN||Clear||63357||2862540|
|CARESTREAM HEALTH COLORADO||Photographic Film, Paper, Plate, and Chemical Manufacturing||WINDSOR||Cache La Poudre||38140||29610.58|
|CLIMAX MOLYBDENUM CO-HENDERSON MINE||All Other Metal Ore Mining||EMPIRE||Clear||28500.2||23840|
|CLIMAX MOLYBDENUM CO-CLIMAX MINE||All Other Metal Ore Mining||CLIMAX||Blue||11756.1||107875|
|SUNCOR ENERGY COMMERCE CITY REFINERY||Petroleum Refineries||COMMERCE CITY||Middle South Platte-Cherry Creek||11527.40024||1852238.438|
|EVRAZ ROCKY MOUNTAIN STEEL||Iron and Steel Mills and Ferroalloy Manufacturing||PUEBLO||Upper Arkansas||6500.2||3350271.31|
|LEPRINO FOODS CO||Cheese Manufacturing||FORT MORGAN||Middle South Platte-Sterling||1169||736.471|
|PUBLIC SERVICE CO OF COLORADO COMANCHE STATION||Fossil Fuel Electric Power Generation||PUEBLO||Upper Arkansas||220.0142||868|
|TRAPPER MINING INC||Bituminous Coal and Lignite Surface Mining||CRAIG||Upper Yampa||116.7||2456.7192|
|SCHLAGE LOCK CO LLC||Electroplating, Plating, Polishing, Anodizing, and Coloring||SECURITY||Fountain||15.1||984755|
|LOCKHEED MARTIN SPACE||Guided Missile and Space Vehicle Manufacturing||LITTLETON||Upper South Platte||2.1||37800|
|WEATHERFORD ARTIFICIAL LIFT SYSTEMS LLC||Electroplating, Plating, Polishing, Anodizing, and Coloring||COLORADO SPRINGS||Fountain||1.67||171660|
|TRI-STATE GENERATION & TRANSMISSION-CRAIG STATION||Fossil Fuel Electric Power Generation||CRAIG||Upper Yampa||1.66||1247.739|
|BAND IT IDEX INC||All Other Miscellaneous Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing||DENVER||Middle South Platte-Cherry Creek||1||91|
|ROCKY MOUNTAIN METAL CONTAINER||Metal Can Manufacturing||GOLDEN||Clear||0.76||13680|
|LOVELAND PRODUCTS||Pesticide and Other Agricultural Chemical Manufacturing||GREELEY||Cache La Poudre||0.3||0.189|
|BASALITE||Concrete Block and Brick Manufacturing||DENVER||Middle South Platte-Cherry Creek||0.00482||67.48|
|CEMEX CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS SOUTH LLC||Cement Manufacturing||LONGMONT||St. Vrain||0.0003||9.8|
Through research, public education and outreach, the CoPIRG Foundation serves as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being. More at https://pirg.org/colorado/foundation/