Rocky Flats Plutonium Plant has affected the Arvada community and the surround communities of Denver and Boulder throughout history. Please read the information below outlining the history of environmental and legal issues related to the Rocky Flats area to learn about many of the environmental abuses that have occurred.

Full-Body-Burden-pamphlet-2
The timeline above is from a brochure written and produced by Kristen Iverson, author of "Full Body Burden: Growing up in the Shoadow of Rocky Flats."


Rocky Flats Plutonium Plant has affected the Arvada community and the surround communities of Denver and Boulder throughout history. Please read the selections below from the Rocky Flats Plant Wikipedia page that outline the history of environmental and legal issues related to the Rocky Flats area to learn about all of the environmental abuses that have occurred.

- The Rocky Flats Plant was a United States nuclear weapons production facility near Denver, Colorado that operated from 1952 to 1992. - Weapons production ended in 1989 after FBI agents raided the Rocky Flats plant. Operators of the plant later plead guilty to criminal violations of environmental law.

- On September 11, 1957, a plutonium fire occurred in one of the gloveboxes used to handle radioactive materials, igniting the combustible rubber gloves and plexiglas windows of the box. Metallic plutonium is a fire hazard and pyrophoric; under the right conditions it may ignite in air at room temperature. The accident resulted in the contamination of Building 771 and the release of plutonium into the atmosphere, and caused US $818,600 in damage.

- Barrels of radioactive waste were found to be leaking into an open field in 1959. This was not made publicly known until 1970 when wind-borne particles were detected in Denver. The 1960s also brought more contamination to the site. In 1967, 3,500 barrels (560 m3) of plutonium-contaminated lubricants and solvents were stored on Pad 903. A large number of them were found to be leaking, and low-level contaminated soil was becoming wind-borne from this area.

- Dr. Carl Johnson, Jefferson County health director from 1973 to 1981, directed numerous studies on contamination levels and health risks the plant posed to public health. Based on his conclusions, Johnson opposed housing development near Rocky Flats. He was fired. Later studies confirmed many of his findings.

- In 1988, a DOE safety evaluation resulted in a report that was critical of safety measures at the plant. The EPA fined the plant for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) leaks from a transformer. A solid waste form, called pondcrete, was found not to have cured properly and was leaking from containers.

- In 1989 an employee left a faucet running, resulting in chromic acid being released into the sanitary water system. The Colorado Department of Health and the EPA both posted full-time personnel at the plant to monitor safety. Plutonium production was suspended due to safety violations.

- Insiders at the plant started to covertly inform the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about the unsafe conditions in 1987. After several months of collecting evidence both from workers and via direct measurement, the FBI informed the DOE on June 6, 1989 that they wanted to meet to discuss a potential terrorist threat. When the DOE officers arrived, they were served with a search warrant. Simultaneously, the FBI and EPA raided the facility. They discovered numerous violations of federal anti-pollution laws, including limited[3]contamination of water and soil.

- In 1992, Rockwell was charged with environmental crimes including violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the Clean Water Act. Rockwell pled guilty and paid an $18.5 million fine. This was the largest fine for an environmental crime to that date.

- Despite decades of nuclear processing, accidents, fires, and mismanagement, and Plutonium’s (Pu-239 is the plutonium isotype used in weapons production) 24,000 year half-life, Rocky Flats is now been labeled a “Wildlife Refuge.”

The information above can be found on the Rocky Flats Plant Wikipedia page Read more

Contamination and Health Studies of Rocky Flats

- Plutonium-239 and 240 emit ionizing radiation in the form of alpha particles. Inhalation is the primary pathway by which plutonium enters the body, though plutonium can also enter the body through a wound.[44] Once inhaled, plutonium increases the risk of lung cancer, liver cancer,bone cancer, and leukemia.[20] Once absorbed into the body, the biological half life of plutonium is about 200 years.

- Following the public 1969 fire, surveys were taken of the land outside the boundaries of Rocky Flats to quantify the amount of plutonium contamination. Researchers noted that plutonium contamination from the plant was present, but did not match the wind conditions of the 1969 fire. The 1957 fire and leaking barrels on Pad 903 have since been confirmed to be the main sources of plutonium contamination.

The information above can be found on the Radioactive Contamination from the Rocky Flats Plant Wikipedia page Read more

Plutonium plume from the 1957 fire at Rocky Flats, per Colorado state dept of public health


Leaking drum from pad 903


Damage from 1969 Rocky Flats Fire


Rocky Flats nuclear facility workers in a plutonium storage area, 1988. Photograph: US Dept of Energy


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