EPA tests air quality after massive fire at recycling plant

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DENVER -- The Environmental Protection Agency was called out to monitor the air quality near a recycling plant after it caught fire Tuesday afternoon in Adams County, sending up a massive smoke plume seen across the metro.

The EPA said that workers ran tests on the air quality Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning after local health officials and firefighters expressed concern about hydrocarbons present in the material that burned Tuesday.

The EPA said its tests showed chemicals in the air did not exceed levels of concern.

The EPA also tested the water that pooled near the South Platte River during firefighting efforts. The EPA's tests found the water presented "no threat to the river."

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also issued a statement about the smoke. It said there were harmful chemicals in the smoke, but since the fire and smoke plume did not last long, it's not concerned about long-term impacts for people who breathed it in.

“The plume and fumes from a fire like this would be harmful if directly breathed. If fires with noxious and potentially toxic fumes burned longer term, there would be more concern, similar to longer term emissions like we experience on high ozone days," said Dr. Larry Wolk, the chief medical officer and executive director at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

"We have stationary monitors in the area to alert us to longer term issues which would necessitate health warnings but as expected, nothing was triggered given the relatively short duration of this particular fire. Therefore, it's possible that folks in direct proximity to the smoke plume may have experienced short term respiratory irritation but there is little concern for long term health effects based on the information that we have right now,"

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