By Jeff Todd
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – With the potential for wide public access just a year away, several activist groups are suing to keep Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge closed until more evidence proves it’s safe.
“I just want people to be aware of that by going out to Rocky Flats they’re taking a risk,” said former FBI agent Jon Lipsky. “When someone goes out to Rocky Flats they don’t know if they’ve picked up a particle of plutonium.”
Lipsky joined other activists in suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, its acting director and the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke claiming the 2018 plans to open Rocky Flats with a visitor’s center and hiking trails haven’t gone through proper vetting.
“This lawsuit isn’t trying to put a lock around Rocky Flats, it’s simply trying to make sure the agency studies the environmental impacts and looks at the questions of plutonium migration, as required by the nations environmental laws,” said attorney Randall Weiner.
The lawsuit claims U.S. Fish and Wildlife hasn’t conducted proper Environmental Impact Statements under the National Environmental Policy Act for what’s now proposed at the site.
Rocky Flats operated as a nuclear trigger manufacturing plant for decades before being shut down in 1989. Lipsky served the search warrant that shut down the plant. The plant was cleaned up by 2004.
“They did what’s called an accelerated, under budget remediation, or clean-up,” Lipsky said. “The most dangerous chemical that man has ever made is Plutonium-239 and the federal government, the state government and municipalities won’t even put an informed consent sign (at Rocky Flats).”
“Perhaps there are hot spots of plutonium that haven’t been accounted for and that plutonium has migrated in ways that weren’t anticipated 12 or 15 years ago,” said Weiner.
The lawsuit says one of the most concerning aspects of Rocky Flats widely opening to the public is that there hasn’t been a comprehensive environmental review since the 2013 floods greatly reshaped drainages on the property. Some concerned citizens believe plutonium buried on the property likely surfaced.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife has maintained the land is safe from several sources. The agency told CBS4 it doesn’t comment on pending litigation for this lawsuit and says final plans on where trails and the visitor’s center exact locations aren’t determined yet.
One source told CBS4 the agency has been sued for environmental impacts before regarding the Jefferson Parkway in the same area and won the cases.
“Shouldn’t our federal agency comply with environmental laws and take a close look at where that plutonium might be before it opens the refuge for biking and horseback riding and hiking?” asked Weiner.
“The truth is there’s a risk. And I don’t think it’s safe,” said Lipsky.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.