You hear about bad water and soil when you hear about countries in the developing world. You see it when you see pictures of smog and fouled water ways. But, these environmental problems are a fact of life in communities right here in Colorado. Clean air and a toxin free environment should be a basic human right.
Too often, people who live in poverty, who are often people of color, live in neighborhoods that are “toxic”. There may be hazardous waste materials and industrial run-off in the soil in the park their children play in; there may be toxins in the air due to local industry smoke stacks; there may be lead in the water due to old pipes and plumbing, old paint and industrial waste.
As the Denver Post reported last year, Elyria-Swansea is one of the most polluted neighborhoods in the country. Because of the soil pollutants, it was less expensive to live there. At least until recently, when the demand for housing and the soaring prices made this area attractive to developers.
This area was affordable to people who couldn’t afford other areas and now they are being squeezed out and there is not enough affordable housing to take its place.
As a community, we have to come together to address these intersecting problems. All Coloradans deserve to live in a safe, clean neighborhood, regardless of their background or income level. And what about those income levels? They clearly aren’t keeping up with rising costs of living, and are perpetuating a cycle where lower income folks bear the burden of polluted environments– from a health standpoint and otherwise.
People in these communities don’t always get the attention their issues deserve, but we understand that this injustice isn’t isolated and affects us all. Air and water don’t respect neighborhood boundaries. Making sure we all have clean air, water and soil– and ensuring that gentrification doesn’t mean displacement– are crucial issues in cities across Colorado.