DENVER — The Suncor Refinery has been closed for weeks now, but the neighborhood that lies in its shadow is as open as over: People driving into work, living their everyday lives, taking in breathes of air.
In the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, whatever residents are breathing in is relatively unknown, so Olga Gonzalez and a group of other women in the neighborhood decided to do something about that.
Gonzalez and the other women make up a group called "Cultivando." They focus on organizing within the Latinx community and more recently, are helping monitor air quality in the region.
The group was able to get air quality monitors in several parts of the neighborhood.
"It'll tell us at what point we should be concerned, and maybe decide to stay indoors, and not have our children play on site," said Olga Gonzalez.
"It's telling us at what level and our data will tell us at what level is it of concern to people who have compromised immune system or children or anyone in general," she said, "It's a very complex monitor, and inside are instruments that are measuring on a continuous basis what is in the air, so things like benzene and particulate matter."
Gonzalez says that despite the refinery being closed until at least March, the women who make up "Cultivando" and others who live in the neighborhood want to make sure their families are safe.
"We had community members, especially mothers, telling us that their children were sick, that they had nosebleeds that they couldn't breathe," she said.
Gonzalez said they want to make sure those air quality machines are able to pick up on everything and anything that could potentially be harmful.