As of February 27, 2024, demolition of the Return to Nature
Funeral Home has not started due to pending logistical issues regarding
landfill access. EPA, CDPHE, and Fremont County are waiting on a minor
modification to the preferred landfill’s ‘Certificate of Designation’ to
receive the building demolition material. While EPA’s response team and
contractors have worked for many weeks with our partners on a plan, we cannot
proceed until this agreement is in place. We regret this unfortunate delay and
stand ready to initiate the demolition as soon as possible. We will continue to
work diligently together to move forward and are committed to initiating
demolition and removal of the building once landfill access is secured.
EPA understands the stress and impatience among those in the
community seeking closure on this tragedy. We recognize the importance of
transparency and will continue to keep the public informed about next steps and
new timeframes. EPA, CDPHE and Fremont County uniformly agree that there is no
current health risk to the public based on the safety measures in place for
demolition, transport and disposal.
Following the assessment, EPA has determined that demolition of the building is necessary to safely remove all residual medical and biological materials found in the building. The cleanup will be conducted under the direction of EPA’s Emergency Response personnel and its trained hazardous materials contractors. To initiate this cleanup, EPA is drafting a workplan and anticipate our contractors and their crews will begin mobilization to the site around (date to be determined). We expect the demolition to take approximately 10 days, weather permitting.
In order to prepare the site for demolition, EPA will continue to work with Fremont County, CDPHE, and the local utility companies to ensure safety control measures are established at the site. Prior to and during demolition, EPA’s contractors will spray a disinfectant and odor suppressant into the interior of the building. Staging areas for loading trucks with demolition materials will be located next to the building.
Once demolition begins, excavators will start to break up the building from the top down and remove large pieces of the structure, while working to keep it within the foundation footprint. During this process, EPA will use water and other liquid solutions for dust suppression, but not in quantities that would cause runoff of contamination from the interior of the building to the ground surface outside.
Ground crews will manage demolition materials to ensure the loading process into the dump trucks is efficient and protective. These materials will be prepared and loaded into trucks in accordance with applicable regulations and landfill requirements. Once the building and concrete foundation slab have been removed, EPA will conduct a shallow surface scrape of soils on the footprint of the building. The soils will be transported to the landfill through the same process as the building materials.
In the coming weeks, EPA will continue to update local officials and stakeholders about final plans. All updates will also be posted on our website: response.epa.gov/PenroseFuneralHome.
To address the public nuisance identified at the Return to Nature Funeral Home at 31 Werner Road, Penrose Colorado on October 31, 2023, the Fremont County Board of Health ratified issuance of a legal Public Health Order. Following this Public Health Order, Fremont County and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment requested that the EPA conduct a “removal action” including demolishing and disposing of building materials.
In response to this request, an EPA team and their contractors conducted an assessment of the building on Wednesday, November 15, 2023, to determine EPA’s role and next steps. Personnel entering the building wore protective clothing to protect them from any residual medical or hazardous materials remaining inside the building. There were no risks to the public from these assessment activities.
EPA’s Role in Removal Actions
EPA’s emergency response program responds to oil spills, chemical,
biological, radiological, and nuclear incidents, including large-scale national
emergencies. EPA provides support when requested or when state and local first responder
capabilities have been exceeded. Through coordinating and implementing a wide
range of activities, EPA conducts removal actions to protect human health and
In carrying out these responsibilities, EPA coordinates with other
federal agencies, states, tribes, and local governments. This coordination is
done through On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs) who are the federal officials
responsible for monitoring or directing responses.