Members of the Montbello and Commerce City communities are raising their voices over what they say is unsafe drinking water. The Colorado People’s Alliance last year canvassed neighborhoods in Montbello and Green Valley Ranch on another environmental issue, fracking, but Elizabeth Murphy, a justice community organizer with COPA, says that through that canvass they heard from a majority of people in Montbello who feel they don’t have safe drinking water. “Many people have gone to the hospital and have been sick and their doctors have told them not to drink their water, and we heard similar stories in Commerce City.”
Murphy says that unsafe drinking water is a racial justice issues as there has been a lack of investment in lower income communities and communities of color leading to degraded infrastructure.” (We) are calling for more accountability and further community input in the way our communities are developed and the way our infrastructure is improved.”
COPA has launched a Water Justice Campaign in Montbello and Commerce City and will be convening a Water Justice Community Meeting on Wednesday, May 31st from 6-7:30pm at Montbello Recreation Center for neighbors concerned about the safety of their water and infrastructure. Murphy says that following the meeting they’ll be calling on Denver Water to carry out comprehensive testing in the concerned neighborhoods. “It’s not on community members, it’s not their responsibility to ensure that they have safe drinking water, it’s our cities and municipalities and water districts.”
KGNU contacted Denver Water about the concerns raised by COPA. They emailed the following response:
“We have not had water quality issues reported to us from the areas you mentioned below. Denver Water takes its water quality very seriously and works directly with any customer who has a concern or question. We have a team of water quality experts that will go out and meet with customers, test the water and help identify any issues that may be present. If there are concerned customers we would encourage them to reach out to us so we can immediately investigate the situation.”
Denver Water says they have a 5-year, $1.3 billion Capital Plan (including $76 million to repair and replace old water mains) to stay on top of the upgrades and new projects needed to keep the system running and safe. They say that in 2016 they collected more than 35,000 samples and conducted more than 68,000 tests, sampling water in the mountains and throughout the distribution system in the city.