Scientists Debate Rocky Flats Safety

By Jeff Todd

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– With the opening of the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge a few months away, a grass-roots group says it is hoping to get more information about the former nuclear weapon site.

“New residents in Colorado are not really well educated on it,” said Ted Ziegler, a former Safety Representative who worked at Rocky Flats from the 80s into the mid-1990s. “They need to know what’s out there on the plant site. The contamination that exists out there.”

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CBS4’s Jeff Todd interviews Ted Ziegler, a former Safety Representative who worked at Rocky Flats (credit: CBS)

Ziegler was on a panel discussion for a community meeting hosted by the group Rocky Flats Right to Know. Other panelists included former FBI agent Jon Lipsky, and professors who have studied the site for decades.

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Ted Ziegler at the meeting (credit: CBS)

“The whole eight square miles of the refuge has not been remediated at all,” claimed Dr. Harvey Nichols who teaches biology at CU Boulder and has studied plutonium concentrations at Rocky Flats since 1974. “Ultimately we’re talking about cancer risk. There’s said to be a latency period for tumors of 15 to 20 years and we’re proposing to send school kids out there.”

rocky flats recreation 21 Scientists Debate Rocky Flats Safety

(credit: CBS)

Many people disagree on what the science shows.

The Department of Energy, EPA, and Colorado Department of Health have consistently denied these opinions, and have given the green light for the wildlife refuge to open to the public at the end of 2018.

1996 clean up begins Scientists Debate Rocky Flats Safety

1996: Environmental Clean Up Begins (credit: CBS)

At a meeting in May, state health officials said the average level of plutonium spread across Rocky Flats averages out to a safe level for humans.

“The plutonium dust in low quantities is all over the site,” Dr. Nichols said. “My evidence is, there is over 20 million potentially fatal doses of plutonium per square mile out there.”

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The panel discussion about Rocky Flats (credit: CBS)

The Rocky Flats Right to Know group wanted to hold a meeting after many of the scientists weren’t given an opportunity to speak and debate study findings at public meetings held by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Those meetings were about the planned public opening of the site.

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(credit: CBS)

Several miles of trails and a visitors center are likely to be built beginning in 2018.

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.

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