April 21, 2011—University of Denver (DU) Sturm College of Law students this week are demanding a North Denver shingle recycling business oozing potentially contaminated runoff onto area streets and possibly into the Platte River either come into compliance or face a federal lawsuit over violations to the Clean Water Act.
Working with DU's Environmental Law Clinic Director Michael Harris, student lawyers Stephanie Fairbanks and Eric R. Wilson today sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue letter to Shingles 4 Recycling on behalf of area residents and environmental activists.
The largest shingle pile is visible at the corner of East 51st Avenue and Columbine Street and reaches more than 30 feet into the air. Harris says neighbors are concerned about runoff from the unsightly debris, which is uncovered and is threatening to spill past damaged container fences.
"Locals call it 'Shingle Mountain,' for obvious reasons," Harris says. "What we see here of course is, for community members, quite an eyesore. But it's also a potential fire hazard and an environmental hazard. There's asbestos and other types of metals and organics coming loose, getting into the air, and on a rainy day washing right off into the street here and into the Platte River, which is just 1,100 yards away."
Even if those materials don't make it to the river they pose a threat, Harris says. Chemicals and metals left behind on the street are kicked up into the air by passing vehicles, he says.
Community activist Drew Dutcher says the pile has been haunting his neighborhood for more than a year, concerning residents who worry about air and water borne contaminants.
"There are just so many questions about it. There are health questions, there are ground water questions, storm water questions, and there are fire questions," Dutcher says. "What happens in the case of winds, and rain and snow? Where does the runoff go?"
The Law Clinic is representing four residents in the Elyria, Swansea and Globeville neighborhoods of North Denver as well as the 4,000-member nonprofit environmental group WildEarth Guardians. A video of the pile is available at http://bit.ly/gKziUd
Harris says the hope is that business owner William Scott will come into compliance within the 60-day notice window without involving regulators. But if the situation isn't addressed, he says the students are prepared to file a complaint in federal court.