In court documents this week, Xcel Energy revealed it has spent $6 million and may spend up to $25 million more on environmental cleanup efforts in the area of Elitch Gardens.
From 1889 to 1928, the Public Service Company of Colorado, a predecessor and subsidiary of Xcel, operated a manufactured gas plant along what was then Wewatta Street between 7th and 10th. The power plant was demolished in the 1950s and ’60s, according to Xcel.
By the 1980s, environmental testing had revealed contaminants in the soil and groundwater. A few decades later, in 2017, Denver alleged Xcel could be to blame for those contaminants. Xcel agreed to reimburse Denver taxpayers for the city’s environmental investigation.
The 60-acre Elitch Gardens site, located south and east of the South Platte River and west of Speer Boulevard, is owned by Denver-based developer Revesco Properties and Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, parent company of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche.
The companies plan to move Elitch Gardens and create a new neighborhood there called River Mile during the coming decades. Across the railroad tracks, Kroenke also hopes to develop another 55 acres it owns around Ball Arena.
In 2019, Revesco and Kroenke Sports told Xcel that they had also discovered contamination in the River Mile area. The two sides reached a settlement in 2020 that required Xcel to pay $6 million upfront, a portion of future cleanup costs and up to half the cost of installing underground transmission lines at River Mile, court documents show.
It’s not clear from those court documents where the contamination is within the future River Mile site. Reached by email, Revesco CEO Rhys Duggan declined to discuss cleanup efforts there for fear of violating a nondisclosure agreement that he signed.
Xcel is suing its insurance company, Chicago-based Continental Casualty Co., in Denver District Court. The lawsuit, filed Monday, said the insurer has refused to cover the $6 million that Xcel has spent and the up to $25 million that it may have to spend at River Mile. Spokespeople for Continental Casualty did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement, Xcel spokesman Tyler Bryant indicated the property was already cleaned up to some degree when Elitch Gardens was moved to the site from northwest Denver.
“Denver’s Central Platte Valley has a long history of industrial uses starting in the late 1800s,” Bryant said in an email. “In the 1990s, we worked with the state and others on cleanup efforts to allow the property to be used for an amusement park and paved parking lots.”
Xcel is represented by attorney Kirk Mueller with David Graham & Stubbs in Denver.