Contamination in Colorado

Contamination in Colorado December 12, 2022

Commerce City, Colorado has a history of industrial pollution and contaminated sites. The city is located near the confluence of the South Platte River and the Sand Creek, and has been home to a number of factories, refineries, and other industrial facilities over the years.

The Suncor Energy refinery in Commerce City has been in operation since the 1950s, and has been a major source of air and water pollution in the area. The refinery processes crude oil into a range of products, including gasoline, diesel, and other fuels. The refining process produces a range of pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter, which can have negative impacts on air quality and human health.

The Suncor Energy refinery in Commerce City has also been responsible for a number of spills and leaks of hazardous materials, including oil and other pollutants. In 2013, the refinery spilled over 500 gallons of oil into Sand Creek, which flows into the South Platte River (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 2013). This spill was one of several incidents at the refinery that have raised concerns about the facility’s impact on the environment and human health.

Another major source of contamination in Commerce City is the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a former military facility that was used to produce chemical weapons during World War II and the Cold War. The arsenal was contaminated with a range of toxic chemicals, including nerve agents, mustard gas, and other hazardous substances.

One of the major concerns at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal has been the potential for supercriticality events, which are accidents that can release large amounts of toxic chemicals into the environment. Supercriticality events can occur when the concentration of chemicals at the arsenal reaches a certain level, and can be triggered by a number of factors, including changes in temperature, pressure, or the presence of other chemicals.

There have been several known supercriticality events at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal over the years. In 1953, an explosion at the arsenal released a large amount of mustard gas, which contaminated a nearby residential area and sickened dozens of people (United States Army, 1953). In 1969, another explosion at the arsenal released a cloud of nerve gas, which forced the evacuation of thousands of people from the area (United States Army, 1969).

Overall, the history of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal is a reminder of the dangers of chemical weapons and the need for careful management and disposal of hazardous materials. It is also a reminder of the importance of addressing environmental contamination and protecting human health from the effects of toxic chemicals.

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