Everyone knows that Globeville has industrial areas and some environmental problems, but I would never have guessed that it was the most polluted neighborhood in America and worse than Love Canal (the very first case I worked on after passing the bar exam related to Love Canal where litigation continued decades after the fact).
Not coincidentally, this is a historically African-American neighborhood, although that his shifted somewhat with gentrification.
No other populated area in the country carries as high an environmental risk as a few square miles just northeast of downtown Denver, according to a study from ATTOM Data Solution.
That hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for development, however. Normally, high levels of past contamination and heavy industry nearby would weaken or kill off the surrounding housing market. But northeast Denver’s 80216 ZIP code, home to the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods and the River North Art District and National Western complex, is experiencing some of the strongest developer interest and home price gains along the Front Range.To figure out where the highest environmental risks exist for property owners, ATTOM Data Solutions looked at 8,642 ZIP codes with more than 1,000 homes. It then looked at the number of Superfund sites, brownfield sites, active polluters and overall air quality to create an environmental hazard index. “It is a hot mess. A lot of people developing are cashing in on the market,” said Candi Cdebaca, a fourth-generation Swansea resident whose family has fought for years to ensure that part of Denver gets the remediation needed.
The four measures combined gave the 80216 ZIP code a score of 455 on the environmental hazard index, putting it ahead of the 92408 area of San Bernardino, Calif., Baltimore’s 21226 ZIP, and the 90670 area of Los Angeles.
Denver’s most at-risk neighborhoods scored even worse than the 14303 ZIP code-area near the old Love Canal site in New York, considered one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters.
Many of the area’s environmental wounds came in the late 1800s, when smelters belched lead, arsenic and heavy metals and produced slag that contaminated the soil. Two Superfund sites and six brownfield sites are legacies of that industrial heritage.
A history of past contamination is common among areas across the country that currently rank high for environmental risk, and in many of those places, the generators of contamination are long gone. But that part of northeast Denver still has two dozen active polluters, as defined by the 2015 Toxics Release Inventory. That pushed the risk score over the top, even with a decent air quality score.From here.