Denver Superfund Site May Be Leaching Toxic PFAS

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Wednesday, April 13, 2022
Chandra Rosenthal, PEER, (303) 898-0798
Monica Mercola, PEER, (202) 265-4187
Bonnie Rader, CAG (303) 912-2905

Denver Superfund Site May Be Leaching Toxic PFAS

Groups Seek State Testing and Monitoring at Lowry Landfill Superfund Site


Denver, CO — Toxic leachate of “forever chemicals” from a Denver Superfund site may be contaminating local groundwater, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Lowry Landfill Superfund Site Citizens Advisory Group (CAG).  The groups are asking state authorities to test effluent flowing off the site and to alert any communities whose drinking water may be contaminated. 

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) do not break down in the environment and are known as “forever chemicals.”  They are associated with cancer, birth defects, developmental damage to infants, and impaired functioning of the liver, kidneys, and immune system.  No safe means of PFAS disposal has yet been developed.  

Recent tests conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) have shown alarmingly high concentrations of PFAS in both leachate collection systems at the Denver Arapahoe Chemical Waste Processing Facility located next to the Lowry Landfill Superfund Site.  In addition, PEER has obtained data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listing Lowry as a facility that “may be handling” PFAS.  

Two years ago, in December 2020, CDPHE testing at the Denver Arapahoe Chemical Waste Processing Facility found a combined level of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) at 740 parts per trillion (ppt), two of thousands of PFAS compounds.  While in the secondary sump, PFOA and PFOS were detected at a combined level of 171ppt. By contrast, the EPA drinking water Health Advisory for both chemicals is only 70 ppt for PFOA and PFOS.  

Some states are regulating PFAS at more protective levels. For instance, the state of New York requires clean up of drinking water that is tainted by PFOA and PFOS in excess of 10 ppt.   

“These off-the-chart PFAS findings should be setting off alarm bells,” declared Rocky Mountain PEER Director Chandra Rosenthal, noting that EPA does not regulate PFAS.  “The state has to step up and institute immediate preventive measures to protect public health.”  

Leachate from Lowry is likely to contain PFAS due to the fact it received waste similar to that the Arapahoe Chemical Waste Processing Facility managed after Lowry stopped accepting chemical waste in 1980.  Contamination from the facility can be found in nearby surface and groundwater, an area that includes thousands of homes.   

These facilities are near communities drawing on well water, notably the Gun Club Estates Development.  CDPHE is already planning on testing private wells for 1,4-Dioxane and other volatiles.  The groups stress that CDPHE must also test for PFAS in order to protect human health and use a Total Organic Fluorine test in order to screen for all of the thousands of PFAS variations, rather than undertaking a futile approach of trying to find individual constituents.  

Bonnie Rader, Chair of the Citizen Advisory Group for the Lowry Landfill Superfund Site states, “Until either EPA or CDPHE conducts appropriate scientific assessments, they cannot claim that no one is drinking water contaminated with 1,4-dioxane and PFAS leaching from the Superfund site.” 

The Record of Decision for the Lowry Landfill Superfund Site was signed in 1994.  Bonnie adds, “Nearly 30 years later, EPA has identified a highly toxic plume containing ​1,4-dioxane that has traveled at least 3 miles past the Point of Compliance, across private property and into areas with private drinking water well. We strongly suspect that the Forever Chemicals are also present in the plume.” 


View CDPHE’s Test Results 

Read the groups’ letter to CDPHE  

View EPA data on 120,000 potential PFAS sites  

See Colorado’s nation’s highest concentration of PFAS sites 

Look at problems created by PFAS landfill leachate 


***This press release has been updated with corrected numbers since its original distribution on March 30, 2022.***

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