EPA rushes to clean toxic Montrose site

Hazardous waste removal contractors with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shovel dry acid waste from a metal drum to a more secure poly container Wednesday morning at the Elizabeth Mining and Development Inc. near Montrose.

Cleanup crews worked Wednesday at an abandoned industrial site near Montrose to transfer hazardous materials from rusting metal drums into more stable containers.

The Environmental Protection Agency began work Monday on what the agency termed a “time-critical” cleanup of the Elizabeth Mining and Development Inc. site at 11948 Road 63000, about four miles northwest of Montrose.

“This is basically just a junk yard,” Christopher Wardell of the EPA said Wednesday morning as he surveyed the cleanup effort aimed at removing an estimated 6,000 gallons of acids, heavy metals, caustic substances and other chemicals.

The EPA considers the site abandoned, which played into its decision to step in and clean up the site before leakage from the containers could make its way into the groundwater or be taken by trespassers.

The Uncompahgre River runs near the site, which also sits near a residential neighborhood.

The substances were used in acid baths intended to recover valuable metals from catalytic converters by Elizabeth Mining and Development Inc., which was operated by Joseph and Steven Casebolt.

The EPA expects to remain at the site through at least this week working on the cleanup, EPA spokesman Richard Mylott said.

Officials are working to contain the hazardous materials and wastes and will decide where to send them for disposal, Mylott said.

“We’re just plowing forward with the cleanup right now,” Mylott said.

Staff writer Gary Harmon contributed to this story.


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