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Colo. gets $35 million from Army, Shell for arsenal cleanup


The San Diego Union-Tribune

Colo. gets $35 million from Army, Shell for arsenal cleanup


1:55 p.m. May 29, 2008 

DENVER – Colorado will get $35 million to help clean up and restore a former nerve gas and chemical manufacturing site near Denver that had been deemed one of the most polluted in the country.Shell Oil Co., which made pesticides and other chemicals at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, will provide $21 million in cash and land under an agreement announced Thursday to settle a 25-year-old state lawsuit. The Army and the federal government are providing the rest.

A federal court must approve the deal, said Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.“The settlement was 25 years in the making but we believe that it was very much worth the wait,” Gov. Bill Ritter said.

The Army manufactured chemical weapons at the 27-square-mile site northeast of Denver starting in 1942. Shell leased part of the land and produced chemicals there until 1982. Cleanup began in 1985.

The arsenal became a Superfund site in 1987, and the area was declared one of the most polluted in the country by the Environmental Protection Agency. To date, the Army and Shell have spent $2.1 billion in cleanup costs, Suthers said.

Part of the arsenal has been turned into a national wildlife refuge.

Colorado filed suit in 1983 alleging the Army and Shell had damaged Colorado’s natural resources.

The settlement will compensate the state for estimated damages to wildlife, vegetation, groundwater and surface water, Suthers’ office said.

Thousands of birds were affected by pesticides at the site. Some 4,100 acre feet of groundwater was contaminated. Badgers and prairie dogs had to be killed because their high levels of poisoning posed a danger to bald eagles that fed on them, said Vicky Peters, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.

“The resolution of this case was, quite frankly, one of the highest priorities I had as attorney general of Colorado,” Suthers said.

John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., praised the settlement agreement, saying his company was proud to be a part of it.

To date, the largest environmental settlement with the state of Colorado is $10 million from the operators of the former Rocky Flats plutonium manufacturing plant west of Denver.

Officials closed the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge on Oct. 31 after the discovery of a chemical weapon called lewisite inside a restricted area.

Lewisite is used with mustard gas and can cause vomiting and pulmonary edema, eventually leading to death. The chemical can penetrate rubber and clothing.

Cleanup continues at a five-acre site connected to the 1943 production of lewisite, which is an oily, colorless liquid in its pure form.


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