Plutonium in Soil near Rocky Flats

There has been recent controversy about whether cities and counties will contribute to construction of a bridge and underpass for hiker and animal access to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge as described in a recent commentary. Some cities and counties are planning to collect soil samples of the area “to determine whether the trail would be safe.” Those cities and counties might want to save their money and take a look at the information included in the most recent Rocky Flats Museum Newsletter. “The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) years ago determined that additional sampling at the former Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant is not required because vast amounts of data regarding plutonium contamination at and near Rocky Flats had already been gathered.” “During characterization and remediation projects at the former Plant Site, about 1.3 million analyses were compiled from approximately 7,230 surface soil sample locations and from about 15,890 subsurface soil samples.”

Perhaps the massive characterization of plutonium in soil around the plant is less important than the assessment of health risk. The same State report concluded that there was “…an excess cancer risk below one in a million for any exposure scenario. There was essentially no plutonium in the subsurface soils of the Refuge. Because of these very low concentrations, no remediation was required in the Refuge portion of the former Plant Site.”

Another Colorado Department of Health and Environment report describes the extensive off-site sampling conducted over many years by many different agencies. One off-site study collected 144 surface soil samples from a 38-square mile area to the north, east, and south of Rocky Flats. Only 19 of the samples found plutonium concentrations above background levels. Perhaps the people who continue to try to frighten people about plutonium around Rocky Flats should move on to spend their energies on something that might have some value.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *