Someone stole a barrel of chemical waste from the Thornton Shopping Center cleanup site, according to state officials. The Colorado Department of Health and Environment did a surprise inspection …
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Someone stole a barrel of chemical waste from the Thornton Shopping Center cleanup site, according to state officials.
The Colorado Department of Health and Environment did a surprise inspection March 2 at the shopping center, where contractors are cleaning up the dry-cleaning chemical perchloroethylene (PERC). There, inspectors learned a barrel containing two gallons of “purge water” mixed with PERC was missing.
City officials assured the community, though, that it isn't in danger.
Cleaning up the PERC — which seeped from the property to its subsurface and into the groundwater decades ago — is one part of a larger cleanup effort that district, and municipal courts ordered property owner Jay Brown to do. CDPHE brought a lawsuit against him last year to remediate the PERC, while a municipal court judge ordered Brown in January to address 76 city code violations related to the property's appearance and structure.
For the chemical cleanup, contractors use a large rig to inject water in the ground to force out the PERC, which is then transferred to 55-gallon drums. When CDPHE inspectors visited the shopping center March 2, they “observed no drums, buckets, or other waste storage containers outside the former dry cleaner location,” where the equipment was previously stored, the CDPHE report said.
Thomas Harp, the environmental consultant that Brown hired for the PERC cleanup, told inspectors that someone likely stole a barrel that was previously there. Not securely storing the waste is a violation of federal law, explained Chad Howell, Thornton's redevelopment administrator, at a city council study session March 16. CDPHE will handle any subsequent enforcement.
Going forward, Harp told CDPHE that chemical waste will be stored in the Thornton Shopping Center facility, not outside of it.
The area the stolen purge water was extracted from had low levels of PERC, Howell said. Plus, since the drum only contained two gallons of purge water, the waste won't threaten the community.
At the study session, Councilor Julia Marvin asked what would happen if the drum thief dumped the waste down a drain. Howell responded, “You don't want to be flippant about it because it is serious, but given the quantity of material, there is literally zero chance it would present a human health problem.”
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