DENVER, C.O.—More than 20 years after the fact, several former employees of Denver Water, the city’s main provider of drinking water, are coming forward with information that has the potential to seriously harm the reputation of the environmentally-friendly company. Joseph Pacheco, one of the former workers, told a local Denver news station that he and others were ordered to dump asbestos materials, along with other hazardous materials, in an abandoned lot in the city. He says he and his co-workers were ordered to stay quiet, and not to speak with the media or even with family members about what they had done. “I have to go to bed every night knowing what happened,” Pacheco said. “Everybody’s been exposed to cement asbestos, radiation asphalt. There’s paint thinners.”
The revelation could strike a serious blow to Denver Water, which prides itself on promoting water conservation and environmentally-friendly services. A statement released by the company said, “The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) regulates asbestos. Although handling procedures and disposal methods have changed over time, Denver Water has always followed all applicable regulations regarding asbestos.” Asbestos is a harmful mineral material that requires removal and disposal be done by certified workers, and must be done according to regulations that are in place according to local law. Illegal removal and disposal can result in fines or even jail time. Once used in the construction of nearly every building constructed in the United States during the twentieth century, asbestos has resulted in thousands of deaths due to mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer caused by exposure to the harmful material. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they become trapped inside the body and cannot be expelled.
They remain inside the body for decades, damaging cells and tissues, and may eventually lead to mesothelioma. The cancer is also found in many former navy veterans, ship builders, and manufacturing workers, where the material enjoyed widespread use for its heat- and flame-resistant properties.