Building a tolled four-lane highway and future hiking and biking trails on Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge, formerly Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, will cause plutonium and other radioactive materials to be released into the air, soil and water endangering the health, safety and well-being of surrounding communities. We need to set a precedent to every superfund site that any development on former nuclear sites is not acceptable!
I am hoping that we still live in a time where ordinary people can do extraordinary things. I am a stay at home mom, an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Pepperdine University and I consider myself an ordinary resident of the Town of Superior. I have not owned my home for one year yet I am already contemplating moving. This was my dream home and the house where I hoped to raise my two young boys. Finding out about Rocky Flats “Wildlife Refuge” has changed everything!
We have only lived in Colorado for two and a half years and in the Town of Superior for less than one year. After reading Kristen Iverson’s book, “Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats,” I attended her lecture/book signing in Superior on February 6, 2013. I cannot believe what is planned for the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge land in the near future. The Town of Superior, along with the City of Golden and the Rocky Mountain Wild and WildEarth Guardians, are currently involved in litigation to stop the construction of an extension of Jefferson Parkway on the eastern edge of Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge. This land, which according to the DOE (Department of Energy) was supposed to take until 2065 and $36 billion to cleanup, was “cleaned up” in less than 10 years for only $7 billion. It was cleaned up to standards set for a wildlife refuge worker, that being someone who is a mature adult and will have very limited exposure to the air, water and soil.
The National Academy of Sciences has stated repeatedly, in their studies of low-dose radiation exposure, that any dose of radiation is potentially harmful. The Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge was cleaned up to the following measurements (curies being a measure of radiation that a radioactive particle emits): the first 3 feet of topsoil was cleaned to 50 picocuries per gram, the soil from 3-6 feet below the surface was cleaned to 1,000-7,000 picocuries per gram and below 6 feet there is no limit to the amount of plutonium and the radiation it is emitting. Average background radiation levels are 0.04 picocuries which means the “cleanest” part of Rocky Flats was cleaned up to 1,250 times the average backround level of radiation. Natural background radiation levels before man experimented with nuclear devices did not contain plutonium. There is no disputing there is plutonium in the soil at the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge because it was “cleaned up” in a matter that left it there. The no limit to the amount of plutonium below 6 feet is what really scares me! Obviously digging for anchors to support a major toll road will require digging further than 6 feet into the ground. No one knows how much and exactly where the plutonium is buried throughout the refuge. The exposure to surrounding towns could lead to major health repercussions for residents, especially those that are downwind.
There are no studies to review the effects of plutonium exposure on the residents of surrounding towns while Rocky Flats was producing plutonium triggers, which is why there is no known impact to what building the Jefferson Parkway toll road extension will have. While there are many cases of different cancers in people and animals that lived near Rocky Flats during operation and cleanup, due to many fires that emitted plutonium into the air (the last one being in 2003) as well as the storage of leaking barrels onsite seeping into the water supply, a formal health study has not been conducted since Dr. Carl Johnson’s report in the 1980s (which states that workers and local residents had higher than normal rates of cancer, brain tumors and leukemia). There are over 3,000 pounds of plutonium that was unaccounted for when Rocky Flats was operational; that is beyond unacceptable! I am not against the building of a Jefferson Parkway toll road; I am against the building of a Jefferson Parkway toll road on land that is part of the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge and formerly part of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant. I am also not against extending and connecting trails around the metro Denver area and Boulder county; I am against connecting and building new trails on the land that is part of the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge and formerly part of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant.
In Washington D.C. Rocky Flats has already been used as a “successful” cleanup and conversion of a nuclear site and it is being used to rationalize “cleaning up” and converting other nuclear sites around the United States. Japan is also watching what we are doing to provide insight to the cleanup they have in store due to the catastrophic nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011, which was the result of a tsunami. This is a local, national and international issue. We need to set a precedent that disturbing land that contains an unknown amount of nuclear, radioactive contaminants is not acceptable and should not be lawful. No one, no matter how high in government they may be, should be allowed to build roads, clear trails or construct homes near land that has formerly been involved in nuclear activities.
National, state and local governments need to finally bear the burden enacting legislation that forbids public access on Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge for the next 24,000 years and beyond. Plutonium has a half life of 24,000 years. In 24,000 years, half of the plutonium that exists on Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge will still be radioactive and we have no clue what is below 6 feet on the refuge land. There should not be a toll road, citizens hiking and biking, field trips for school children, or homes and businesses on this land or butting up against it. This will undoubtedly open up health risks once again for citizens residing in the area. There has already been enough risk taken in the last few decades when Rocky Flats was an operational plant producing plutonium triggers. In the center of the the wildlife refuge there is still a 1,300 acre portion that is so contaminated with plutonium that federal and state officials say it is not safe for human activity. We need to rally together and say that this small portion of land in our state is a remarkable part of local, national and world history but needs to stay just that, history. We do not need to continue the history of medical problems that have plagued the area while Rocky Flats was operational and being cleaned up. There is no argument that can trump the well being of humans. Almost exactly a year ago the Boulder Daily Camera published an article: “Study: Rocky Flats area still as contaminated with plutonium as 40 years ago”. Is it not enough to know that the site is still as contaminated as it was before the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant was closed and cleaned up? What can I do to urge you and your colleagues to protect everyone living in the area of Rocky Flats? Please put pressure on the city councils of Boulder, Broomfield, Arvada, Westminster, Superior, Golden and ALL state elected officials to prevent construction of a toll road, hiking and biking trails and any public access on Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge. Please take a moment to sign my petition at: https://www.change.org/petitions/local-city-councils-and-all-colorado-state-elected-officials-stop-toll-road-and-trails-bike-paths-on-rocky-flats-wildlife-refuge