The Lowry Landfill Superfund Site, generated by the City and County of Denver and managed by Waste Management of Colorado, is located on 508 acres near the intersection of Quincy Avenue and Gun Club Road in Arapahoe County, just south and west of the Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site (DADS).
From the mid-1960s to 1980, the Lowry Landfill was operated as a regional landfill serving the Denver Metro area accepting both solid and industrial waste, which was a common practice nationwide at the time. In 1984, it was listed as a Superfund site due to the resulting groundwater contamination from industrial waste.
Engineers and scientists working on Lowry have established a record of environmental stewardship. These highly educated and experienced professionals are constantly looking for ways to continue protecting the community and environment with the most advanced technology that produces the least amount of environmental impact. The site’s gas-to-energy plant removes roughly 5,000 tons of methane annually which is the equivalent to removing 22,000 cars from the road in terms of greenhouse gas.
The plant converts landfill gas from both the Lowry Landfill and the Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site (DADS) to electricity for approximately 3,000 homes annually. An onsite water treatment plant not only degrades 1,4 dioxane, but also leaves a minimal environmental footprint by using natural biological processes.
Over the past three decades, Denver and Waste Management of Colorado, along with federal, state, and local agencies, have worked with the community to remediate Lowry Landfill, and develop the surrounding property in the public’s best interest. Today, Lowry Landfill is surrounded by residential communities, schools, hiking trails, parks, shops, a conservation center, and a golf course.
Although not part of the EPA’s formal cleanup plan, the land was purchased around the former landfill to ensure the community remains protected and future development is compatible with the remedy. Some of this property has been sold to Arapahoe Parks and Recreation District to build a regional park facility with recreational fields and a rec center for the growing community.
For the past ten years, Denver and Waste Management have been working with Arapahoe County and City of Aurora on roadway improvements to meet area growth, including widening the Quincy and Gun Club Road intersection. Denver and Waste Management of Colorado have also provided property for the E470 roadway, Aurora sewer lines, and East Cherry Creek potable water lines, and an Xcel substation and transmission lines that bring energy into the metropolitan area. The site does not impact surrounding home values, according to real estate groups such as Zillow, Trulia, and Denver Homes Team. In fact, home values in the area continue to significantly increase, keeping pace with the surging home values throughout the Denver metro area.
Frequent tours of the Site are provided for regulators, elected officials, and community members. Tours provide transparency to the public and allow visitors to learn more about operations and cutting-edge technologies. Additional information, maps, and regulatory reports are available online at www.lowrylandfill.com
After the Lowry Landfill was designated by the EPA as a Superfund site, it began the cleanup process, and those responsible for the contamination – including businesses, municipalities, and state and federal agencies – paid for environmental studies and cleanup as directed and overseen by the EPA. The Site has been in maintenance and monitoring mode for the past two decades.
As the two lead parties of the Site, Denver and Waste Management of Colorado have spent more than four decades investigating the Site, researching remediation options, and designing, implementing, and fine-tuning a successful cleanup approach using the latest and most effective environmental technologies available.
No tax dollars are used to maintain or provide oversight of the Site. The responsible parties pay for all expenses including EPA, CDPHE, and TCHD oversight costs as well as technical advisors for the CAG.
Maintenance activities at the Site are regulated and overseen by the EPA. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Tri- County Health Department (TCHD) also monitor the site closely in partnership with the EPA.
In 2017, a Community Advisory Group (CAG) was established to provide a public forum for community members adjacent to the site to present and discuss their needs and concerns related to the Superfund decision-making process. This group meets on a regular schedule and representatives from the EPA, CDPHE, TCHD, and local governments attend and these meetings are open to the public.
Denver and Waste Management of Colorado have also attended CAG meetings, delivered presentations, provided multiple Site tour opportunities, and made themselves consistently available to answer questions from the community.
Additionally, Denver and Waste Management of Colorado have built a public website with technical information on the Site, frequently asked questions, maps, contact information for Site managers, and other relevant information.
After evaluating multiple alternatives including complete waste removal, the EPA determined in 1994 that the appropriate remedy at this site was a containment remedy. This approach protects the surrounding environment and human health. As part of this remedy, groundwater is pumped and treated and methane gas is used to power generation. This containment remedy approach is the EPA’s presumptive remedy for similar Superfund sites nationwide.
The groundwater containment remedy for Lowry includes capping the landfill with clay, underground barrier walls to prevent groundwater flow into and from the Site, a system of downgradient extraction systems, and an onsite water treatment plant. In addition, Denver and Waste Management of Colorado, in partnership with Xcel Energy, have an innovative system that converts landfill gases into electricity supplied to Xcel’s network.
Industrial waste disposal at the Lowry Landfill ended forty years ago. Because waste will remain at the Site, by law the EPA is required to conduct mandatory five-year reviews to ensure all containment activities are working as designed. As a result of this oversight, the following points can be made about the safety of the Site:
There is no current human health risk at Lowry Landfill because nobody is being exposed to Site-related contamination.
More than 500 groundwater monitoring wells that extend to both shallow and deep aquifers are regularly monitored within and outside the Site to ensure the community is protected.
While there is a groundwater plume north of the site that has detectable traces of 1,4 dioxane, groundwater extraction and treatment north of the site has led to continued significant decreases in concentrations.
The EPA found that there is no public health risk in the 2007 and 2012 five-year reviews. The EPA also found the remediation plan in place is “protective of human health and the environment.”
While the EPA initially deferred a finding of protectiveness in the 2017 review so they could collect additional data and do further technical analyses, in the Summer of 2021, the EPA and CDPHE formed a consensus opinion that the remedy components at the site are achieving their objectives and operating as designed.
Over the past four decades, federal, state, and local agencies have worked with the community to not only remediate Lowry Landfill but to develop the surrounding property in the public’s best interest.
Today, the Lowry Landfill is surrounded by residential communities, schools, hiking trails, parks, shops, a conservation center, and a golf course.
Although not part of the EPA’s formal cleanup plan, land was purchased around the former landfill as “buffer property” to ensure the community remains protected and future development remains in the public interest. In fact, some buffer property has been sold to Arapahoe Parks and Recreation District, which plans to build a regional park facility with recreational fields and a rec center for their growing community.
The Site does not have a negative impact on home values. According to real estate groups such as Zillow, Trulia, Denver Homes Team. In fact, home values in the area continue to significantly increase, keeping pace with the surging home values throughout the Denver metro area.
No. Lowry Landfill stopped receiving municipal solid waste in 1990. If you live in the Denver metro area, it is very likely that your household waste ends up at the Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site, a fully permitted, state-of-the-art, non-hazardous municipal solid waste facility located adjacent to Lowry Landfill, but not part of it.
In the last century, few people understood how industrial waste disposal might affect people’s health and the environment, and there were few federal and state regulations overseeing disposal. As a result, dangerous materials were dumped onto the ground, into rivers or left out in the open. Hazardous wastes accumulated in vacant lots, at factories, warehouses, landfills and dumps across the United States. In some instances, waste leached down through the ground to contaminate groundwater.
In response to growing concern about potential health and environmental risks posed by these wastes, Congress established the “Superfund” program in 1980 to clean up waste sites. Administered by the EPA in cooperation with individual states and tribal governments, Superfund locates, investigates and cleans up hazardous waste sites throughout the country—including Lowry Landfill, which was placed on the EPA’s National Priorities List of Superfund sites in 1984. That listing was based on the EPA’s determination that the liquid waste disposed of at the Lowry Landfill had contaminated the soil and groundwater beneath the Site and could cause further environmental damage if it migrated.
The cleanup plan at Lowry Landfill is designed to protect the surrounding environment and human health by preventing contaminants from moving off the site and by preventing human exposure to landfill gas, waste-pit liquids, and contaminated groundwater. This “containment” approach is commonly used at contaminated municipal landfills because the risks involved in removing and transferring large volumes of materials elsewhere are greater than the risks of managing the wastes onsite. The containment approach at Lowry Landfill consists of multiple components, including a clay cap on top of the landfill mass, underground barrier walls designed to prevent groundwater from flowing on and off the Site, a state-of-the-art onsite water treatment plant, and a gas-to-energy system that converts landfill gases into energy. There is also a groundwater monitoring system at the site to track the movement of contaminated groundwater.
The primary focus of cleanup at Lowry Landfill has been to safely contain, collect, and treat groundwater at the site. Water pumped from the ground is treated in an onsite water treatment plant, then pumped to the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District and Aurora’s wastewater treatment facilities for further treatment before being discharged. Both onsite treated water and discharge from the Metro and Aurora facilities must meet strict discharge standards and are routinely tested to assure continued compliance. A portion of Aurora’s and Metro’s wastewater is processed through water recycling plants and used for irrigation at parks and golf courses, and as water supply for park lakes.
The federal government deeded the site to the City and County of Denver in 1964 for use as a landfill. Denver, which still owns the site, operated Lowry Landfill from 1965 until 1980, at which point Waste Management of Colorado took over the landfill’s operations. Under a settlement among the hundreds of entities that at one time used Lowry Landfill as an industrial disposal site, Denver and Waste Management agreed to manage the site’s cleanup together.
Denver and Waste Management spent more than two decades investigating the Site, researching remediation options, and designing, implementing and fine-tuning a successful cleanup approach using the latest and most effective environmental technologies available.
Today, the many components that comprise cleanup at Lowry Landfill are in place and certified complete by the appropriate regulatory agencies. Most of the Site is now in “operation and maintenance” mode, meaning the monitoring and treatment of groundwater and landfill gas will continue until the groundwater is returned to drinking water, background or ambient standards, and until landfill gas is no longer generated at quantities that need to be controlled. Adjustments to remedy components will be made as necessary and as new and better technologies become available.
The 1,4 dioxane investigation described in the “North End Monitoring and Response Action” section of this website is considered part of the overall remedy and will also continue until the same drinking water, background or ambient standards are achieved.
Hundreds of entities transported waste to Lowry Landfill, including private businesses, municipalities, and state and federal agencies. Under the terms of a settlement, those entities paid into a trust fund that is now being used to fund the work at Lowry Landfill, and to reimburse the EPA, CDPHE, and TCHD for their work at the site.
The Site never accepted any unexploded ordnance from the former Lowry Bombing and Gunnery Range, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal or any other military facilities. The only wastes accepted from the former nuclear weapons facility at Rocky Flats were non-radioactive solvents and construction debris.
There is no current human health risk at Lowry Landfill because nobody is being exposed to site-related contamination. Because wastes will remain on the Lowry Landfill site, the EPA by law conducts mandatory five-year reviews to ensure all containment activities are working as designed. The EPA determined the remedy at the Site to be protective of human health and the environment in each of the FYRs until 2017. While the EPA initially deferred a finding of protectiveness in the In the 2017 review so they could collect additional data and do further technical analyses, in 2021, the EPA issued an amendment to the review and determined that the remedy at the Site is “short-term protective” of human health and the environment. For additional information about the 2017 FYR Addendum, please go here.
No, according to real estate groups such as Zillow, Trulia, Denver Homes Team. In fact, home values in the area continue to significantly increase, keeping pace with the surging home values throughout the Denver metro area.