PUEBLO, Colo. — Pueblo residents hope President Donald Trump’s plans to slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget will push the EPA to hasten the Superfund cleanup of a neighborhood around an old smelter.

The EPA has told residents it has an interim plan to start the cleanup next year, even though it hasn’t tested most of the homes in the study area, The Pueblo Chieftain reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/2w0WG0e).

“We are at the top of list right now in terms of priority,” Steve Wharton, the EPA’S regional Superfund manager, said at a meeting with residents this month.

The EPA plans to identify and remove soil contaminated with lead and arsenic from the Colorado Smelter, which processed silver and lead in the area from 1883 until 1908. The neighborhood was added to the Superfund list in 2014.

Residents and business owners are eager to get the cleanup underway. They say the Superfund designation and slow-moving cleanup have hurt their ability to sell their property.

When the EPA began testing residential yards in 2015, officials said they planned to examine a few hundred a year, determine how bad the contamination was and then decide where soil needed to be removed.

The new interim plan calls for soil removal to start next year.

“For the first time, I can see that our neighborhood could come out better than before,” resident Pam Kocman said. She and her husband, Joe, opposed the Superfund listing, but once it was done, they pushed the EPA to move faster.

The EPA said the current cleanup plan is expected to cost $44 million. It said it expects to spend nearly $9 million over the next two years.

Trump has proposed cutting the EPA’s budget by a third, although it is Congress, not the president, that will decided the amount.

“There’s so much uncertainty back in Washington right now that I think the agency’s approach is to get funding locked in before anything changes,” said Terry Hart, chairman of the Pueblo County commissioners. Hart takes part in a citizens advisory group on the smelter site.

“What we’re hearing is the Trump administration is taking a hard look at clean air and water regulations first, not Superfund sites. But that could change,” he said. “Right now, the last thing anyone wants is a reason to slow down.”

Information from: The Pueblo Chieftain, http://www.chieftain.com