Environmental and public health advocates filed a lawsuit Monday in federal district court in Washington, DC in hopes of overturning a decision to build a trail through part of the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production site.
Rocky Flats is the only U.S. government facility ever raided and shut down by other federal agencies for environmental crimes, attorney Randall Weiner said in a news release. It used to produce nuclear weapons for almost 40 years during the Cold War.
The suit accused the Federal Highway Administration under U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the Fish and Wildlife Service with failing to review evidence of serious health dangers from building the trail and consider alternative locations.
Plaintiffs claim walkers, bicyclists and people nearby would risk exposure to highly radioactive "hot spots" of cancer-causing plutonium that were never cleared up, Weiner said.
"Public access could also transport contaminants off site,” Deborah Segaloff, PhD, a board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility Colorado and a plaintiff in the case, said in the news release.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's environmental assessment found that all oil samples in the area were "well within regulatory limits for radiation," the lawsuit acknowledged.
Five times the safety level of plutonium with radioactivity was detected close to the proposed Greenway trail less than a year prior to that assessment, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs in the suit asked the court to halt all work on the Greenway project and make federal agencies review plans that would be in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and Administrative Procedures Act.
"Defendants had previously outlined other trail configurations in 2016, including one option that would avoid the Refuge’s most heavily contaminated Wind Blown Area... and one option that would circumvent the Refuge entirely, the latter of which had been urged for consideration by one of the connecting municipalities (i.e., the City of Boulder)," the lawsuit read.
In a separate lawsuit, Cook v Rockwell, a federal jury found that plutonium from Rocky Flats migrated onto neighboring properties, where it remains “indefinitely” and causes an “increased risk of health problems.”