JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– The health impacts of those living miles away from a former nuclear weapons plant are being studied, more than 25 years after it closed down.
Earlier this week, thousands of homeowners reached a $375 million settlement over their claims that plutonium releases from Rocky Flats damaged their health and devalued their property.
A federal judge must approve the agreement before it officially ends the 26-year legal battle between the residents and two corporations that ran the plant for the federal government.
Rocky Flats manufactured plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads until it closed in 1989 because of safety and environmental concerns. It’s the most prominent of Colorado’s Cold War relics, which also included a nerve gas manufacturing site east of Denver.
“We used top ride horses back in those areas where it was not developed,” said Tiffany Hansen.
Hansen grew up less than four miles away from Rocky Flats.
“We were outside all the time,” said Hansen. “This is 3.75 miles exactly from where I live to the core of the most contaminated part of the plant which is known to be the most contaminated building in the country.”
Until she started having her own health issues, Hansen never knew that growing up near Rocky Flats could have been the cause.
“I wanted to try and find and see other people that had similar experiences and coordinate and organize people,” said Hansen.
The Rocky Flats Downwinders began a community survey designed to compile health impacts of those living in the area.
“I’m hoping to hear from anyone who lived here during the time of 1952 through 1992,” said Hansen.
Hansen believes the publicity from the settlement between Rocky Flats and homeowners will spark more interest, “We think we can piggy back on that in terms of using the information that is going to be learned through the claimant process.”
Metro State University of Denver, University of Colorado and Colorado State University professors will study the surveys and compile the data from the former residents.
“The concern is a lot of development has happened here and there’s been no health surveys. We don’t know what’s going on with people who grew up here, with people I went to school with, how is their health now. If we don’t know how are we making decisions to do further development when we haven’t done the research,” said Hansen.
To be eligible for the survey, residents must have lived in the area from the plant east to Interstate 25 during the years the plant was in operation.