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EPA to handle ‘biohazards’ after Penrose funeral home owners fail to respond to clean-up notice

PENROSE, Colo. (KRDO) -- In early October, law enforcement officials discovered nearly two hundred bodies decomposing in the Return to Nature Funeral home in Penrose. With all 189 bodies now removed from the building, Fremont County officials have ratified a resolution to address the public health hazards inside the building.

Fremont County Commissioners passed the resolution Tuesday, Oct. 24, and ratified it Tuesday, Oct. 31. The document required funeral home owners Jon and Carie Hallford to remove public health hazards from the building within 24 hours or health officials will step in.

"There's not going to be anybody that's equipped necessarily to do this as individuals, as property owners," said Fremont County Commissioner Kevin Grantham. "The fact of the matter is there's probably not anyone in the state necessarily that's qualified to come in and do this."

The 24-hour clock started on Oct. 26 when commissioners signed it, meaning the 24 hours have elapsed.

Still, Grantham explained it would have been virtually impossible for a situation at this scale to be addressed by any group other than the Environmental Protection Agency.

"This is going to be more EPA-driven than anything because of the nature of the beast," said Grantham. "What can be cleaned up? What's the most efficient way to take care of this problem? What's the most cost-effective way to take care of this problem? And if the answer to that is knock it down, then that's what will be done."

Within the document, the Fremont County Board of Health said "Federal, state, and local law enforcement and health agencies have examined the premises and all agree that the interior of the building is contaminated with biohazardous waste and medical waste and is a threat to the public health, safety, and welfare."

The resolution also states because the Hallfords own this property, they're responsible for the financial burden.

The resolution explains the county will calculate the expenses incurred while removing contamination and charge the Hallfords a "special assessment" which will be collected by the county treasurer in the same way property taxes are collected.

Though this is in the hands of Fremont County, Grantham said the EPA will take the lead on addressing the building and determining future steps.

KRDO attempted to reach out to the Return to Nature Funeral Home and Jon and Carie Hallford for comment on the resolution but were unsuccessful.

Article Topic Follows: News
Colorado Bureau of Investigation
fremont county
Jon Hallford
Penrose Funeral Home

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Annabelle Childers

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