This letter is in response to the “Windorski calls for transparency” letter to the editor printed in the May 12, 2022 edition of the Herald Democrat.
We appreciate the Windorskis’ interest in the Lake County Community Justice Center project location. We understand the concern regarding disturbance of potentially contaminated soils next to residences and are committed to being good neighbors through the process of construction and beyond.
Like many of the areas in Leadville, that site was impacted by historic mining and related operations that left contamination behind. Historically, the site housed the Harrison Reduction Works smelter, which generated slag piles from the smelting of ore as far back as 1877. In 1999, under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) oversight, most of the slag, but not all, was removed. As a result of the work by the EPA and others, soils containing elevated concentrations of metals were exposed in some areas. Those soils were determined at the time to be stable enough to leave in place, along with some remaining slag and fine slag, with the understanding that the remaining material would be appropriately handled in the future if the site were ever developed.
In large part due to the history of mining and the site conditions, negotiations on the property took many years. The county stepped up where private buyers in the past had been unwilling to address the legacy of contamination at the site and came forward with a vision for the new justice center. Leading up to the purchase of the property, the county did extensive research on the contamination, looking back into the history of the site and conducting preliminary sampling of the entire property. Some of these documents are currently protected by legal requirements imposed as part of the sale and require that we follow the open records request process for release of certain reports.
As mentioned, considerable removal of contaminated material occurred years ago as part of the Superfund cleanup work conducted throughout Lake County. What was left on site can be dealt with, in large part by managing it in place as part of the redevelopment by capping it with new buildings, roads, parking lots and landscaping. This will minimize disturbance of the materials, disposal off site and transport through the community.
Because the site was historically located within the boundaries of multiple Superfund Operable Units, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) must approve any plans for handling the slag and soils remaining on the site, and the EPA’s approval is required for certain actions relating to Starr Ditch, as that area remains within one of the not yet deleted Operable Units. Construction activities will be tightly regulated.
The county has accepted the recommendation of a general contractor (FCI) with recent successful experience working in Lake County (new elementary school), including direct experience with CDPHE and the EPA, to address both off-site material removal and on-site remediation and reduce impact to neighbors. Best practices will be followed to mitigate activity on the site, as we require of others. This capability was critical to selecting our general contractor.
The county has worked and will continue to work closely with its longstanding environmental legal counsel and specially retained environmental technical consultants to meet all applicable environmental standards for the redevelopment and construction on the site. Additionally, we are working with our project management firm to ensure the general contractor is committed to communication with neighbors and our community about the process and through development.
The county has established a dedicated website for the project (www.lakecountyco.com/justice-center), which includes a calendar of upcoming opportunities for public engagement.
Board of County Commissioners