The average person moves roughly 12 times in their lifetime, but when serious environmental concerns arise, individuals might feel encouraged to pack up their bags and relocate. And, unfortunately, the local environmental news has been less than positive.
Most recently, in a perfect sign of the absurd times, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in a feud with a Colorado mine. Bizarrely, the mine is accusing the EPA of hurting the environment, not the other way around — let that sink in.
The Denver Post reported this April on the strange tale of Sunnyside Gold Corp. versus the EPA. According to The Post, EPA officials ordered Sunnyside to pay for a study to support a cleanup plan of a superfund site in Southwestern Colorado.
Sunnyside claims the EPA is harming the Animas River by "running a treatment plant below full capacity," which allows mine wastewater to flow into the river. The superfund site also includes the Gold King Mine, which was accidentally flooded with 3 million gallons of wastewater by the EPA in 2015, turning rivers bright yellow. About 3 billion tons of hazardous materials are shipped across the country each year. And while the Gold King Mine produced only a drop in that hazmat bucket, the story drew national attention because of the incident's striking visuals.
For its part, the EPA says Sunnyside officials just want to distract the public from its responsibility to fund cleanup in the area.
Meanwhile, according to Streetsblog Denver, another government agency is drawing ire from Colorado residents. North Denverites are furious with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) over pollution from the I-70 freeway. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 3.3 million deaths per year are attributed to indoor air pollution across the globe. Additionally, 6% of those reported cases were lung cancer. Outdoor pollution, however, is just as dangerous.
Pollution from the I-70 freeway is too much of a health hazard for many Swansea, Globeville, and Elyria neighborhood residents. These people are now protesting, calling for CDOT to not make the pollution matters even worse.
"[The project] means a lot more of these particles in the air that are gonna be hurting us," says Davita Sanchez, a 15-year resident of North Denver.
Sanchez and her three children all suffer from asthma, but never experienced issues until she moved into the area.
The neighborhoods affected by the pollution are already some of the most polluted in Denver, with the highest rates of chronic diseases. Ean Tafoya, Colorado Latino Forum Director, even went as far to call the I-70 pollution expansion the city's own version of Flint, Michigan.
"This is the woeful disregard by the government of people who live in neighborhoods who they represent," Tafoya says.
CDOT officials have gone on record stating that the department was not under an obligation to address pollution issues beyond initial examinations. Additionally, CDOT says it already invested $20 million into assisting the Elyria-Swansea pollution situation, but neighborhood residents have said otherwise.
"It's already been happening as a result of 50 years of exposure to this pollution," says attorney Bob Yuhnke. "But the pollution will be worse — that much we know."
Conversely, CDOT officials, alongside officials from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the Colorado Energy Office, and the Regional Air Quality Council have finalized a plan to spend $68.7 million to cut car and truck pollution in the state by investing in electric-vehicle charging stations.
According to the Denver Business Journal, the plan is for the city to have approximately 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030. For that to happen, however, there needs to be plenty of electric-vehicle infrastructure accommodations.
"Our goal has been for Colorado to use this money to make forward-looking, transformative investments to reduce pollution," says Joe Halso, a Denver-based attorney for the Sierra Club. "This plan takes big steps in that direction. That [$10.3 million] will go a long way to improve the state's infrastructure."
Residents have a right to be upset — pollution is serious business. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 16% of all global deaths in 2015 were linked in some way to outdoor or indoor pollution. For reference, that's much higher than your odds of dying in a natural disaster, which is roughly 1 in 3,500."They haven't done enough," says Rey Gallegos, a lifelong North Denver resident.