Thursday Newscast, 9/17/15, 6:04 PM

Sep 17, 2015

Newscast for Thursday, September 17, 2015, 6:04 PM:

Results of bloodwork and soil testing done in the area of the former Colorado Smelter Superfund site in Pueblo were released this week. KRCC's Shanna Lewis reports that evidence of toxins was found.

135 people considered most at risk for exposure to lead had their blood drawn two years ago. Seven children were found to have elevated levels.  The report notes that even low levels of lead could cause serious health problems in children.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

The 143rd Colorado State Fair closed on Monday with strong attendance, but the discussion continues on whether to move the fair out of Pueblo. KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports.

More than a half million people attended the 11-day event this year, surpassing 2014.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

The Colorado State Fair is in full swing in Pueblo. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to check out the annual celebration of the state's agriculture and more. They'll have plenty to do from spinning on rides at the carnival to eating festival foods to watching young Coloradans show off their livestock and other 4H projects.  KRCC's Shanna Lewis captured some of the sights and sounds from the fair, starting in the swine barn.

Andrea Chalfin

The Colorado State Fair is full swing in Pueblo this week, and early numbers show a possible increase in turnout over last year.

The Fair saw an average of 45,000 people a day over opening weekend, a 2% increase in attendance says Chris Wiseman, Colorado State Fair General Manager.  Wiseman says he's optimistic about the coming weekend, but adds anything could happen.

Wednesday Newscast, 8/26/15, 5:32 PM

Aug 26, 2015

Newscast for Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 5:32 PM:

Friday Newscast, 8/21/15, 5:32 PM

Aug 21, 2015

Newscast for Friday, August 21, 2015, 5:32 PM:

  • Construction is underway in Pueblo County large solar array that will generate enough electricity to power around 30,000 homes.
  • Colorado’s apple orchards are bearing less fruit this year.

Thursday Newscast, 7/30/15, 5:32 PM

Jul 30, 2015

Newscast for Thursday, 7/30/15, 5:32 PM:

The city of Colorado Springs is continuing steps in smoothing over a contentious stormwater issue with its southern neighbor.  City Council yesterday passed a resolution allowing Mayor John Suthers to put $150,000 toward funding a restoration master plan for the Monument Creek Watershed.  Monument Creek flows into Fountain Creek.  High flows there have been causing problems for Pueblo downstream.

Pueblo City Council President Steve Nawrocki says he's been working with Mayor Suthers to address the chronic issue, adding that he's satisfied with the efforts thus far.

A testing and manufacturing center for rocket propulsion is launching in Pueblo.

The project from Centennial-based United Launch Alliance is for a next generation rocket called the Vulcan. The company is looking to commercialize space access and help make it more cost-efficient.

The facility will create 34 new jobs in Pueblo that are expected to generate around $19 million yearly in revenue for the local economy. 

Pueblo Economic Development Corporation President Jack Rink says the impact could be even bigger.


Mosquitoes in Pueblo have tested positive for West Nile Virus.

No human cases of West Nile Virus in Pueblo have been confirmed, but the Pueblo City-County Health Department says recent rainfall means more mosquitos.

Health officials urge residents to take precautions to avoid contracting the virus, including draining standing water, using insect repellent, and dressing in long sleeves and pants.

Symptoms typically show up within two weeks and may include fever, fatigue, and headache. Residents are urged to seek medical attention at any sign of the virus.

Andrea Chalfin

Some lawmakers are rumbling about possibly moving the Colorado State Fair from Pueblo. Colorado's Legislative Audit Committee took up the issue of State Fair finances Tuesday, noting that the annual event has lost money each year for more than a decade. 

The Fair receives state and local support, but some committee members questioned Pueblo's commitment, and suggested it might make the Fair more financially viable if it moved.

Pueblo City Council President Steve Nawrocki says the city's contributions are on a rebound.

Wednesday Newscast, 07/15/15, 6:04 PM

Jul 15, 2015

Newscast for Wednesday 7/15/15, 6:04 PM:

  • The Colorado Board of Health has voted against adding post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of ailments eligible for treatment with medical marijuana. The 6-2 vote today came despite the backing of the state's chief medical officer. The board has voted at least three times against adding PTSD to the list of eight debilitating conditions that qualify for medical pot.
  • Pueblo officials are downplaying the threat of the State Fair moving from the Steel City.  
Shanna Lewis / KRCC

A lot of dirt needs to get moved to repair the Arkansas River levee in Pueblo, and plans for the repairs are changing so that dirt can be put to use on other projects. Those changes may affect efforts to preserve historic sections of the murals painted on the levee.

Originally plans called for reducing the height of the levee by 12 feet in phases, but now other projects can use the dirt quicker than first thought. Pueblo Conservancy District consulting engineer Kim Kock said that means they need to keep moving forward.

Record-breaking rains leading to high water levels have prompted Colorado Parks and Wildlife to restrict access in some recreational areas. 

Boat ramps, shoreline access points and parking areas are limited at Lake Pueblo State Park. The department isn’t sure when they’ll reopen.

Near Lake George, the South Platte River is running usually high, resulting in the closure of Spinney Mountain State Park’s river access lot. The department is discouraging fishing along many areas of the river.


In a newly released survey, the state Health Department says nearly 14% of Colorado adults currently use marijuana.

Of those who currently use pot, one third use it every day. About 19 percent drove after using. Slightly more than half of Colorado adults have never tried marijuana.

The survey also showed young adults aged 18 to 24 are ten times more likely to use pot than older adults over the age of 65.

Work on the first phase of rebuilding the Arkansas River levee in Pueblo is complete, and the conservancy district that oversees the levee is starting to at potential recreational opportunities as they plan the rest of the repairs.

In addition to a new pedestrian walkway on the top of the levee, the district is considering adding footbridges across the river, more access points and redoing the kayak park. Corrine Koehler leads district’s recreation committee. She says they want to be sure that ideas for recreation aren’t just coming from the engineers.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

Repair work on the Arkansas River levee in Pueblo is destroying the world’s largest mural. KRCC's Shanna Lewis reports on the discussion about repainting it.

The Pueblo Conservancy District board oversees the levee. It’s preparing guidelines to cover design, approval, and maintenance for new artwork. They got mixed comments from the couple of dozen people at a public meeting last night.

Initial work to rebuild the aging Arkansas River levee in Pueblo is winding down. KRCC's Shanna Lewis reports that structural issues discovered during this phase will likely mean the project will cost more than originally projected.

Work began late last year to lower the height and replace the concrete facing on the levee in order to meet FEMA flood control requirements. The bottom of the 90-year-old structure is about nine feet deeper than expected, according to Rick Kidd, the administrator for the Pueblo Conservancy District, which oversees the levee.

Brett Levin Flickr / Creative Commons

The state of Colorado is facing new lawsuits over recreational marijuana legalization. The Washington DC based Safe Streets Alliance is suing the state in federal court to try and close down the industry.

“It is illegal under federal law to sell marijuana and in this country federal law is the supreme law of the land,” said David Thompson, the lead attorney for the Safe Streets Alliance.

The Environmental Protection Agency and public health officials held open meetings Tuesday to talk with residents in the south Pueblo neighborhoods listed as a Superfund site in December. KRCC’s Shanna Lewis reports.

The EPA eventually wants to test soil samples around some 1900 homes. Previous testing found toxic lead and arsenic levels around the site of the former Colorado Smelter, which closed in 1908.

The Palmer Land Trust has received funding from Great Outdoors Colorado, or GOCO, to conserve a large working ranch just east of Pueblo.  

KRCC’s Rachel Gonchar has more.

The conservation group says the 25,000-acre BX Ranch south of Boone is one of the largest working ranches in Pueblo County.

Palmer Land Trust Executive Director Rebecca Jewett says this funding will help preserve that history.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

Demolition work has begun to remove the top 12 feet of a section of the Arkansas River Levee in Pueblo. It’s part of the first phase of a project to repair the aging structure and meet FEMA flood control guidelines.

Heavy equipment moves dirt and concrete as the contractors build a ramp to access the top of the levee. Part of the pedestrian path near the work area has been closed for safety reasons. 

Consulting engineer Kim Kock says they expect the first critical section to be complete by mid February, despite the delay in beginning work.

The former Colorado Smelter site in south Pueblo is now designated a Superfund Site by the Environmental Protection Agency. As KRCC's Shanna Lewis reports, this means the federal agency will investigate and clean up toxic waste in the area.

In 2010 state health department tests found elevated levels of lead and arsenic in properties surrounding the smelter - which closed more than 100 years ago.

The EPA’s Chris Wardell says residents have a variety of concerns about the Superfund listing, ranging from costs to the effect on real estate values.  

Pueblo County Health officials say a resident there has died from issues related to the flu, and 60 have been hospitalized since October. Statewide, cases are occurring a month earlier in many locations. KRCC's Tucker Hampson reports. 

About 100 people have been hospitalized so far this year statewide as compared to 85 at this time last year.  Lisa Miller, state epidemiologist for the Colorado Department of Health, says a change in the flu virus may have lessened the vaccine effectiveness, but it’s still important.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

The start of a massive repair project on the Arkansas River levee in Pueblo is being delayed until December due to historic preservation concerns and some delays in the funding.

The project’s consulting engineer Kim Kock says the state historic preservation officer has said the levee could be deemed historic because it was constructed in response to the deadly 1921 floods and used methods of that time period.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

The Pueblo Conservancy District awarded the contract for phase one of the project to repair the aging Arkansas River levee. The estimated cost for this initial phase is $3.6 million and is expected to begin in November and end in March.  KRCC’s Shanna Lewis reports.

The full repair project is likely to span three or four winters and will destroy the collection of murals painted on the levee by hundreds of artists since the 1970s. It’s the largest outdoor mural in the world.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

The mural that covers most of the 2.8 mile long Arkansas River levee in Pueblo is facing its demise. Hundreds of huge images painted over the last forty years by at least a thousand artists combine to make this artwork. It’s so massive, it’s listed by Guinness World Records as the largest outdoor mural on the planet. But it’ll be destroyed during the forthcoming repair project.

Pueblo Conservancy District

The levee that protects much of downtown Pueblo from potential floodwaters in the Arkansas River is about to get a major facelift. After levees failed in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, FEMA made a push for levee certification. And for Pueblo’s aging Arkansas River levee this means an estimated 15 million dollar repair project and the destruction of its famous mural. The alternative is downtown properties would have to buy flood insurance. The process has brought to the forefront structural deficiencies.


Update: 10/7/14, 10:38 am

The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office has announced same-sex marriage licenses are available at the clerk's office, effective immediately.  In a statement, the office says they received "final clearance" from the office of Attorney General John Suthers.