Report: Nation’s most environmentally impacted urban area includes Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, RiNo

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo
The busy I-70 and I-25 interchange above a playground near Garden Place Elementary. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The busy I-70 and I-25 interchange above a playground near Garden Place Elementary. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

North Denver’s 80216 zip code, covering some of the city’s most intensely developing and gentrifying areas, scored high in a pollution impact index created by ATTOM Data Solutions.

The research company analyzed the presence of former industrial sites, including “Superfund” sites, and existing polluters in ZIP codes with 1,000-plus homes. North Denver earned its spot largely thanks to existing polluters and Superfund sites.

Overall, the area’s air quality scored moderately well. However, it’s worth noting that most of the ranking (besides air quality) is not based on measures of actual exposure to these pollutants. Instead, it shows that this is an area that is still dealing with a long industrial legacy.

The area, which includes Globeville, Elyria-Swansea and parts of River North, historically was home to smelters and other polluting industrial functions. It includes two Superfund sites – the Chemical Sales Co. site, where chemicals were stored and repackaged, and the former smelting center at Vasquez Boulevard and Interstate 70.

A “Superfund” designation means the government is working to minimize or remove environmental risks at a site. However, the Environmental Protection Agency also listed 23 active polluters in the area for 2015.

That long history of environmental impact, which we have detailed in earlier reports, is one reason that area residents want to see Interstate 70 moved from the area rather than widened.

It’s also worth noting that the South Platte River has undergone a significant transformation in the last few decades. Denver hopes to make it safe for swimmers in the next few years.

North Denver pollution in 1889. 38th and Blake is at center-right. (Library of Congress)

North Denver pollution in 1889. 38th and Blake is at center-right. (Library of Congress)