11 News Investigation: Montrose community searching for answers

By: Jessica Zartler Email
By: Jessica Zartler Email

In an 11 News investigation we join a Montrose neighborhood in asking questions, searching for answers.

They want to know why a property with toxic chemicals has not been cleaned up after six years of state inspections.

Peter Crowell, a nearby resident, says, “I had a policeman come to my door and say we might have to be evacuated.”

Plumes of black smoke, noise and constant worry.

That's what Peter Crowell has lived with for the last six years.

Peter says, “We're very concerned about what's going on next door.”

Crowell has lived in the Bluff Harbor Retirement Community for 10 years.

But unlike the sign says, it has been anything but the lap of luxury.

“When we see plumes of things and what-not we don't know what's going on there or what was going on.”

What was going on, according to records from the Colorado Department of Public Health, was an amateur catalytic converter cooking operation.

Former County Commissioner and Hazardous Waste Commission Member Bill Patterson says, “They were just using ordinary crock pots for part of the process.”

Patterson says Elizabeth Mining and Owner Steven Casebolt were breaking down the car part to get platinum, gold and other precious metals to sell.

“It emitted vapors that were potentially lethal and if we had a fire there, there was worry that we could have a, I hate to use the word but, a kill radius of five miles,” Patterson says.

Patterson says it wasn't just what was being released in the air, according to court documents Elizabeth Mining was dumping acids, lead and other cancer causing chemicals all over their property. Several years later it's still not cleaned up and neighbors wonder if it ever will and who will pay for it.”

Patterson says Montrose County doesn't have the resources, “We don't have the Hazmat crews.” And the Department of Health says it's the company's responsibility.

No one was available for an on-camera interview but the Department of Health told 11 News it has done everything possible to get the company to clean up their act, including shutting it down.

Barrels of chemicals remain on the site and Patterson says the property is now in foreclosure and he doubts it will ever get cleaned up.

It’s frustrating for peter Crowell and says, “I doubt very much the guy who did it is going to do it.”

And although Crowell doesn't worry about smoke from the cooking car parts anymore, he does worry about what the cost could be to taxpayers if the state has to mop up the mess.

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