Located 15 miles southeast of downtown Denver, the Lowry Landfill Superfund site totals 507 acres near the intersection of Quincy Avenue and Gun Club Road in Arapahoe County. Deeded in 1964 to the City and County of Denver, which still owns the site, the land was home to a landfill accepting municipal and industrial liquid waste from businesses and residences in the Denver metro area until 1980. After that, it accepted only municipal waste until 1990, when it ceased landfill operations.
Contamination and Cleanup
Waste disposed at Lowry Landfill in the 1960s and ’70s included an estimated 138 million gallons of liquid industrial wastes, including chemicals, solvents and sludges. Although disposal methods complied with the environmental regulations in effect at the time, it was determined that those wastes had contaminated soil and groundwater beneath the site and produced landfill gases such as methane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
Because contaminated groundwater had the potential to migrate off the site and further harm the environment beyond it, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency placed Lowry Landfill on its National Priorities List in 1984, which made the site eligible for cleanup under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, otherwise known as “Superfund.” Since then, those responsible for contamination—including private businesses, municipalities, and state and federal agencies—have paid for environmental studies and cleanup in excess of $100 million.
Waste Types at Lowry
When it was an active landfill, the types of waste disposed at Lowry Landfill included industrial de-greasers, paint, pesticides, hospital and veterinary waste, metal-plating waste, petroleum products, sewage sludge, tires and household refuse.
Although the landfill ceased disposal operations, related to municipal solid waste, in 1990, it remains active as a disposal site for two other types of waste. The first is asbestos, which is disposed in a series of monofill disposal units, designed specifically for this purpose. Most notably, theses asbestos disposal cells are designed to be and remain above the water table. The second type of waste is a possible future waste stream involving relatively inert building demolition wastes. Although disposal of this specific inert waste has not yet occurred at the Site, the Site is authorized for future disposal of these inert wastes, specifically to improve the slope of the current landfill cover.