By Rick Sallinger

ERIE, Colo. (CBS4) – Plans for 600 homes to be built in Erie are on hold after a hazardous waste dump was discovered near the site.

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It’s doubtful anyone envisioned the waste to be near masses of homes when the barrels were buried decades ago.

The houses are planned for what is to be Redtail Ranch in Erie.

(credit: CBS)

Dave Walker with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says the chemicals were found during an environmental assessment required by the state.

“Back in 60s when this disposal occurred, it was perfectly legal to take this chemical waste and to put it a landfill like this,” he said.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger interviews Dave Walker. (credit: CBS)

The state health department, EPA and the developer are now involved in testing and of the removal of the hazardous waste.

(credit: CBS)

It consists mainly of chemical solvents, but some may be more dangerous and could potentially cause ground water contamination.

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Walker indicated it hasn’t affected where the homes are to be built.

(credit: CBS)

“You don’t have to get rid of the contaminated soil. You just have to prevent people coming into contact with it,” he said.

The houses are not be be built on top of where crews are taking out the barrels. That is what is to be a buffer zone between the subdivison and an old landfill.

(credit: CBS)

Richard Dean, the developer, is paying for the removal of the chemical waste.

He told CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger they plan to make sure the land is cleaned up and safe for homeowners.

Labels found on barrels indicate they came from IBM in Boulder, but could have come from other businesses as well.

IBM issued a statement saying there isn’t enough information at this time to make any determination.

As the waste is dug up, the chemicals are being sent to incinerators for disposal.

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CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.