NO to Jefferson Parkway

In Democracy, Environment, Jefferson Parkway, Nuclear Guardianship, Plutonium, Public Health, Rocky Flats, Wildlife Refuge on January 28, 2014 at 6:24 am

Published in the Boulder Daily Camera, 1-26-14

            A December 28 Camera article suggests that the proposed Jefferson Parkway is moving ahead. This toll road would add about ten miles to C-470, almost completing the loop around Denver. Some call it the “plutonium parkway,” because it would be built on the contaminated edge of the Rocky Flats site, where for four decades the explosive plutonium pits for nuclear warheads were made.

Plutonium released from Rocky Flats is present in soil on and off the plant site in the form of particles too small to see but not too small to do harm. Plutonium emits a type of radiation that cannot penetrate skin but that may wreck one’s health if it is inhaled or otherwise taken into the body. Lodged in the body, it continually irradiates surrounding cells, probably for the rest of one’s life. The result may be cancer or other ailments, including harm to offspring. Because it remains dangerously radioactive for a quarter of a million years, it poses an essentially permanent danger.

In 1970 P. W. Krey and E. P. Hardy, scientists with the Atomic Energy Commission (predecessor to the Department of Energy), sampled soil on and off the Rocky Flats site to a depth of 8 inches and analyzed it for its plutonium content. The heaviest concentrations were in soil along the eastern edge of the site in the area now intended for construction of the highway. In September 2011 Marco Kaltofen of the Boston Chemical Data Corp. collected soil samples along Indiana St. precisely where the proposed road would be built. He found plutonium concentrations roughly equivalent to what Krey and Hardy found in 1970.

Sampling done as part of the Rocky Flats cleanup on what is now the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge showed only a scant presence of plutonium near where the highway would be built. But these samples were collected in shallow surface soil, not at the deeper levels analyzed by Krey and Hardy.

Building the road would affect the environment. In 2004 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service performed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to create the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. But this EIS did not analyze the effect of construction of a highway in an area known to be contaminated with plutonium. Fish and Wildlife nevertheless provided land for the road.

The Camera article says proponents of the highway “cite a letter written by officials with the EPA and the Colorado health department in late 2011 stating that the risk of excessive cancer incidence for people who work at the refuge is below standards set by the state” and the federal government. This letter is meaningless, because there’s a latency period of 20 to 30 years before plutonium taken into the body produces cancer. Not until refuge workers have been at the site without interruption for at least this long will we have a better sense of the incidence of cancer among them.

People who live or work near the Rocky Flats site or who visit there may be unwittingly exposed to plutonium left in soil by those responsible for the ten-year Superfund cleanup completed in 2005. They made no effort to clean the site to the maximum extent possible with existing technology. Assuming incorrectly that plutonium left behind would remain in place, they willingly allowed an unknown quantity of plutonium to remain in the soil, with no limit on the amount allowed below six feet.

Plutonium particles brought to the surface by burrowing animals will be carried hither and yon by wind. They can be readily inhaled. The result decades later may be cancer or some other illness. Children are without question the most vulnerable. There is no certainty that any of us will be exposed or will become ill. But it is a definite risk. The inadequate cleanup done at Rocky Flats gambles with peoples’ lives. Constructing the Jefferson Parkway would up the ante on the gamble. The wise move is to avoid the site and to abandon the highway.


LeRoy Moore, PhD, is a consultant with the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. For more on Rocky Flats, see www.rockyflatsnuclearguardianship.org

  1. Dr. Moore, I was wondering if you could give further insight into how far away from the Rocky Flats site and the proposed Jefferson Parkway would be far enough to live safely? I have read several articles (here and elsewhere) that detail how plutonium and uranium, and all the other miscellaneous toxins, travel through the soil, groundwater, air, etc. I have seen the map used by Boulder Blue Line that shows contamination as far as Indiana and 72nd in Arvada, but I have also seen maps that show contamination that spreads across much of the Denver metro area. So where is it safe to raise a family in this area? Golden? South of Green Mountain?
    Any insight would be appreciated.
    E Lee

    • Hello E. Lee:

      You ask a difficult question. I assume the map you saw in Blue Line is the one by Atomic Energy Commission scientists that was included in an article I published in Blue Line. That map, made in 1970, shows contamination near the Rocky Flats site. One of the authors, P. W. Krey, published another map from their study in HEALTH PHYSICS in 1976 showing that plutonium released from Rocky Flats had been carried by wind and deposited across most of the city of Denver and areas north of Denver. Officials at the state health department would tell you not to worry, that this plutonium won’t bother you. Others would say that tiny particles of plutonium deposited here and there can be brought to the surface and be picked up by wind and made available for inhalation, the worst way to be exposed to plutonium, since if it lodges in one’s body it continues to irradiate surrounding tissue probably for the rest of one’s life, perhaps wrecking one’s health two or three decades later. My view is that it’s best to be cautious. Therefore I’d prefer to live in areas not contaminated or contaminated by very small amounts. Areas west of Rocky Flats are certainly less contaminated, since the prevailing wind was to the east and southeast of the plant. Boulder was upwind. Areas north of 120th would mostly be free of contamination, the further north the better.

      Thanks for your query. I hope this proves helpful.

  2. Thanks so much for your reply Dr. Moore.

    For a number of reasons, south works much better for us than north. Understanding your suggestions are the farther north the better, can you offer your opinion on going south. Specifically, knowing the wind patterns was generally southeast, the two areas we’ve focused on are Golden (west and south) and Green Mountain (due south).

    Recognizing there is no black / white answer, do you have thoughts on either of those areas – or anywhere south you would be comfortable?

    Thanks again, E Lee.

    • Hello E Lee:

      Golden, I think, is a good choice. Ditto for areas immediately south of there. It’s probably best not to go south beyond Alameda, because there was serious contamination from the Lockheed-Martin plant of water in that area, an issue brought to light b y a colleague of mine.

      Best, LeRoy Moore

  3. Dear Dr. LeRoy Moore,

    I have only recently become aware of the Nuclear Bomb Manufacturing Site of Rocky Flats.

    The more I read, the more I’m repulsed by the information I find. It’s inconceivable to me, that there has been so much coverup upon coverup, that locals have been kept in the dark.
    And, speaking of dark and light, as an off-comment, I think it’s ridiculous for someone to coin the name, “Candelas”, for the new housing, given the inference of “glowing” from radioactivity!
    Anyway, I only have a moment to write, today, as I’m at work, and on a short break, exploring this information for the first time, and feeling sicker and sicker in my heart each moment.

    You see, I am a horse owner, 2 beloved family members I consider my “children”, that I used to board out at a property called Amen Acres, just East of the cattycorner to Rocky Flats Plant site’s SE corner, (I’m sorry, but you will NEVER hear me call that radioactive site a “Wildlife Refuge” !) —on 96th Ave. and Indiana St.

    I kept my horses there, and visited them almost every day, for more that 4 years.

    Dust storms were an everyday occurance, and they use well water there.
    I am crying as I write this, as I had no idea, and was never informed by the property owner, that that area used to house a Nuclear Radioactive Bomb Plant. He and his wife were constantly sick, with one thing or another, but they are older, and no one gave it much thought. He onve did make the off-comment that he didn’t care if he glowed in the dark.

    Before I left there with my equine kids in February, 2014, another horse boarder had lost 2 of her 3 horses to some sorts of weird cancers, that horses never get. they almost never get cancer.

    her first horse to pass away, got a huge tumor in his nasal cavity, and the 2nd one had some sort of intestinal tumor.

    It was she that originally told me of some kind of radiation, but even she didn’t know that much. She had kept her horses there for over 15 years too.

    I am flipping out at that thought that my lack of research back then, could now possibly have endangerd my horses, and am kicking myself for the bad decision of boarding them, there. I always disliked the place, but it was an economic decision back then

    They don’t have trail acces, or adequate exercise facilities.
    I now have them down at Chatfield Lake and it is Paradise, and ideal!

    Anyway, I wanted to ask you, could the ground water from the wells around there, be contaminated? That’s all that the horses were given, was well water. I just read the story on trucking in water for Candelas, and it got me more worried. Also, with a horse, should I be worried about the amount of dust my babies may have inhaled over 4 years? I myself, am equally concerned about the amount of time I spent there outside.

    I wish I could sue the powers that be, for endangering my beloved family.

    I’ve got to go for now, but I would love to hear from you, as I have other questions!



    • Hello Judy:

      I have know others who had horses in the area immediately east of Rocky Flats. Their horses also had health problems. While the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment would tell you that the area east of the Rocky Flats site is “safe,” I think there is ample reason to question their view. Studies done by the Atomic Energy Commission in 1970 showed that the area is contaminated with plutonium. Because of its long half-life, it’s still there and it will pose a radiation danger for far longer than any of us will live. I suspect the water your horses drank may have contained plutonium. Be glad that they are now elsewhere. I too would wonder about the dust blowing off the Rocky Flats site. It could contain tiny particles of plutonium that could be inhaled. Again, be glad that you and your children are elsewhere.

  4. Dear Dr. Moore,

    Thank you so much for your quick reply.

    I have really wondered about the ground water…as no one thinks about well water being contaminated.
    But just this last minute, I was reading your replies to E. Lee, regarding best places to live, and you mentioned Lockeed Martin contaminating the water around…. I’m guessing,… their Plant at the mouth of Waterton Canyon. Well, my horses are now boarded next to The Highline Canal at the South side of Chatfield State Park, and you know…that boarding place uses well water, and the facility’s well water smells like rotten eggs–sorta like heavy sulfur.

    Could this water be contaminated with something, too??

    They have alot of colics at this barn, I have noticed, a bit more than usual…

    I was actually planning on moving to Littleton, soon, near my horses on Titan Rd. area….maybe Morrison, etc. not sure.
    I still live in Arvada, and I never liked it…to industrial looking and unplanned. I live around 64th avenue and Ward Rd.

    I’ve liked there for 5 years, ever since I lost my house in Evergreen, during the big mortgage scams..etc.
    I gotta tell you, I never dreamed this would envelope my entire life as it has, the last few days!!!

    I want to stop a second and thank you so very much with helpimg so many people make these hard live decision, as I imagine you get asked this alot…and it may get tiring I can imagine!!

    Just know that to us, you are a golden treasure of important information, with which we can get assistance to live our lives ultimately happier and safer!!!

    I think I want to go back to California, at Griffith Park!!! That was the best…but I cannot leave Colorado just yet.

    Any help would be appreciated, as I want to find the safest place for my horses, and a nice safe home for my family.

    Oh! Also, can humans and pets be tested to see if plutonium is in the body for sure???



  5. …oh, by the way, Titan Rd. area horse boarding ranches are all downstream of Lockeed Martin at Waterton Canyon……

  6. Judy:

    I”d stay clear of the area downstream of the Lockheed plant. Littleton or Morrison would be better for your horses.

    You could ask a physician about testing for plutonium. For workers at Rocky Flats they tested the urine. They would be far more likely to have larger deposits than a non-worker. This only shows that you have plutonium within the body, doesn’t tell you where. Locating it is more difficult, well nigh impossible, so far as I know. I don’t think most physicians would be able to find it, and if they did they probably couldn’t remove it. Some workers took a chelating agent into their bodies and the plutonium would v]be drawn to it and it could then be removed.

    LeRoy Moore

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