A previous posting mentioned that anti-Rocky Flats activists had filed suit to stop construction of a visitor center at the refuge on the grounds that the requirements for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) had not been met. The good news is that the suit has been dismissed. The bad news is that the court dismissed the suit because the activity is not imminent. The exact wording from the July Rocky Flats Cold War Museum Newsletter is that the “. . .plaintiff’s (the activist organizations) made a motion in the case for a temporary injunction to stop the construction of the Visitor Center. The judge denied the motion citing the fact that construction is not imminent anyway.”
Activists who made a living protesting the Rocky Flats Plant are continuing their careers by using the legal system in an attempt to prevent public access to completely safe areas in the vicinity of the now closed Rocky Flats Plant. Vincent Carroll, a former editorial writer for the Denver Post, has written a powerful editorial filled with pertinent facts that deserves wide readership. I’ll submit a few key points from the editorial to encourage you to click on the link and read it in its entirety.
- The title is “Activists ignore the science that says Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is safe.”
- A lawsuit has been filed by activists to prevent access to the Refuge by the public, which, if successful, “…would also amount to a triumph of fear-mongering.”
- The activists “…have stoked their exaggerated fears of Rocky Flats for too long and the habit is apparently incurable…”
- “The rest of us can only marvel at their dismissal of science that has been conducted at the site and the consensus among relevant government agencies…that the refuge is safe for visitors and wildlife employees.”
There are many more important points in the editorial, and I request you forward the link to everyone you know who has an interest in the Rocky Flats Plant. My hope is that those who remain skeptical of the legacy of the Plant read and consider the information in the editorial. Thanks to Vincent Carroll!
A recent Denver Post article by Bruce Finley has some interesting information about plans for opening twenty miles of hiking, cycling, and horseback riding and a visitor center on the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge in 2018. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is holding public meeting to solicit public input. They undoubtedly will have the usual activists show up to warn of the supposed dangers. Dave Lucas, The refuge manager mentions in the article, “Downwind of the plant there’s residual contamination. Plutonium is one of the contaminants, but it is at levels that were determined to be acceptable.” As I understand the plans, the trails being considered are on the dominantly upwind side of the plant where plutonium concentrations are about the same as fallout levels all throughout Colorado.
One paragraph in the article discusses “…the apparent end of litigation with surrounding suburbs over roadways has the cleared the way for work on relatively undisturbed wildlife habitat that extends into the mountain foothills.” I was unaware that the litigation had ended, but that is good news.
There are some inflammatory comments scattered through the article. For example, it says the “…feds…hope to tell the Rocky Flats story of evolution from American Indian hunting grounds through the Cold War military activities that ruined the environment and workers’ health to the current open oasis amid dust-churning monster house development.” Another short sentence proclaims, “Plutonium-tainted and other radioactive waste was buried at Rocky Flats causing an environmental disaster.” It’s no wonder why some people might avoid going to the refuge when it opens to take a beautiful and safe hike.
The controversy continues over 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. Failure to contribute could kill the Rocky Mountain Greenway Trail, which would eventually connect the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and Rocky Flats Refuges to Rocky Mountain National Park. A recent Denver Post editorial gives an excellent summary of the issue. It says that critics, “…simply do not trust assurances from federal and state officials that the area is safe and the cleanup has been successful. Basically, they don’t trust the available science. This is par for the course for activists who have been pushing exaggerated claims of plutonium contamination around Rocky Flats for decades, but it’s sad to see local officials buying into it.”
Some cities and counties are planning to collect soil samples of the area “to determine whether the trail would be safe” I sent a letter agreeing with most of the editorial, but warning that the results of sampling will be meaningless unless they are compared to samples taken by the exact techniques from some city parks and trails that are considered to be “safe areas.” What will be found is that all of Colorado contains plutonium fallout contamination. An extensive study of transuranics in the environment completed about 1980 found the entire earth is contaminated with plutonium. Denver is in the latitude that had some of the highest average plutonium levels. I predict the area of the project will have virtually the same amount of plutonium as samples from local cities or from the western or eastern areas of the state. Only if they make the mistake of sampling ski areas will there be much of a difference. Snowfall efficiently washes plutonium fallout out of the atmosphere.
There was a recent news article about the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge that reminded me anything about Rocky Flats will be vilified regardless of the facts. The article begins, “Millions of dollars in federal funds to help tie a major regional trail into the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge may be in jeopardy, as communities near the refuge wrestle with the troubled legacy of the former nuclear weapons plant.” Superior and Westminster have decided not to provide their share of the funds needed to support the $6.5 million in federal funds required for the project. The proposed project would “…build two underpasses and one overpass to provide people and animals access to the refuge across Indiana Street and Colorado 128.” The federal grant requires a minimum of $1.1 million from local communities, and Superior and Westminster have declined to provide their required portion of the total. A Boulder official said, “If they’re going to do this, they’re going to have to do additional soil sampling,” she said. “If there is nothing to be afraid of, why can’t we sample to assuage the public of concerns that this is something dangerous.”
I’ve advocated that one unintended consequence of building Rocky Flats Plant is that it resulted in protection of a large swath of high mountain prairie from development. Those who call themselves “environmentalists” should be actively advocating that the proposed project would allow many people to experience that beautiful protected vista. I doubt that it will be possible, because the usual fear mongers will work to attract sufficient negative press to stop the project.
The manager of the refuge commented that “The vision for the Greenway Trail was to connect open spaces… (and that ) He’s confident that with time and accurate information, most communities will buy in to the underpass-overpass project.” I’m less confident based on the Boulder official’s comment about the need for sampling to determine whether there is “…something dangerous.” I assure you that there will be plutonium detected in samples from the area of the proposed project. I also assure you that there would be plutonium detected in the backyard of that Boulder official’s home. There also would be plutonium in the backyard of anyone reading this posting regardless of whether they are in Colorado or any other state. The entire earth was contaminated with plutonium by the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, and there will be little difference in the results from the area of the proposed project or anywhere else on the planet.
I suggest officials should also sample the dust on their office desk and/or the dirt in the landscape around their offices to allow themselves to report a comparison in the amount of plutonium detected. I predict the results would be similar.
Murph Widdowfield is the Board President of the Museum and recently sent an update. He first gave a brief history of the development of the atom bomb and how it changed the outcome of World War II. He then thanked “…the people who worked in the nuclear industry and the others who protected us during the period of the Cold War for their efforts, safety, and labor…”
He added a paragraph that I will quote in its entirety about progress on a visitor center at Rocky Flats. “I also want to tell you about the progress of a Visitors Center at Rocky Flats which will be built by US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on the Refuge. A site selection contractor and USFWS have determined that the building will be on the North side of the refuge, with the entrance on Highway 128, a little West of McCaslin Blvd. The building will not be large with most of the displays based on the refuge with a very small area for the Rocky Flats Cold War Museum. Also, the new Green Way Trail from Rocky Mountain Arsenal through the Two Ponds Wildlife Refuge in Arvada, up to Boulder and then on up to Rocky Mountain National Park will cross over the northern side of the wildlife refuge although it will bypass the new Visitors Center.”
You can email the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org.