We Support Dr. Mark Johnson

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Jefferson County Public Health Director Dr. Mark Johnson made a declaration filed May 31st in Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center vs. United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge (RFNWR) should stay closed to the public for lack of a truly independent assessment of plutonium contamination both on and off the federal property.

He elaborated on his concerns in newspaper interviews, saying he wouldn’t buy a house or raise children in developments near the refuge.  He expressed doubts about the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's (CDPHE) expertise on the health effects of radiation, and about the Department of Energy's trustworthiness with respect to Rocky Flats (the same DoE that kept the 1957 fire and 903 pad leakage secret from the public until reaction to the 1969 fire outed those contamination incidents).

For taking a morally responsible stance on the safety of the area, Dr. Johnson was viciously attacked by RFNWR manager David Lucas in a letter quoted by the Associated Press, and by ex- Denver Post editorial page editor Vincent Carroll.  Lucas called Johnson's statements "reckless and irresponsible", and asserted that his letter to Johnson was "very professional".

We the undersigned disagree strongly.  We admire Dr. Johnson for having the moral courage to speak out in the interest of public health and safety.  We believe his actions are an example of how responsible government should treat the Rocky Flats issue.  We feel it is the USFWS that is being reckless and irresponsible by potentially exposing members of the public to plutonium contamination as high as one thousand times background radiation according to CDPHE's own data.  We remind all parties that the refuge area was not remediated at all during the Rocky Flats cleanup, and is still contaminated.  We have no confidence in the soil contamination standards and mathematical modeling used by DOE and CDPHE to assert that the area is "protective of human health".  We believe those standards and models are outweighed by the findings of credible past public health studies and by obvious evidence of health impacts in surrounding neighborhoods.  We condemn David Lucas for the tone of his letter to Dr. Johnson.

But most of all, we support Dr. Johnson as a public official responsibly expressing his concern over the safety of the area.  We do not want to see the same fate befall him as befell his courageous predecessor, Dr. Carl Johnson, the first and only scientist to ever publish a public health study of surrounding residents in a peer-reviewed medical journal (which found increased cancer rates in the surrounding population), who was ousted in a political maneuver by the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners and Board of Health.  Government at all levels needs more people of conscience and courage like Dr. Mark Johnson with respect to Rocky Flats.