Tempers flare over safety of Rocky Flats former nuclear weapons site; will soon be open to public

Wildlife refuge could open for public use in 2018
Posted at 9:47 PM, May 15, 2017

ARVADA, Colo. -- A meeting to discuss the safety of Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge was marked by shouting and boos from opponents.

A buffer zone around the former nuclear weapons site, infamous for plutonium contamination, could open for public use in 2018.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held its final "sharing session" on Monday night to calm fears about safety. Officials with the department envision hiking trails, public facilities and exhibits on the site's history. Trail heads would have markers addressing what happened on the site and if there's any potential for residual contamination.

"So the bottom line assessment is we believe that the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is safe for our workers and for anybody that wants to come to visit and we base that on these experts," said David Lucas, the Refuge Manager with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Lucas insists the site is safe and said he's taken his kids there.

Several experts spoke at the meeting but people in the audience became upset when there was no opportunity for public comment or public questions.

"We’ve been cut off this is, I understood this to be a sharing session. I don’t think they shared any opportunities with the public to make their concerns known," said David Snow, a nearby resident and former nuclear waste consultant.

Other residents say they would be open to visiting the site if they felt the research showed it's safe.

"It’s hard to find space that’s open that’s close by anymore so if it’s open and it’s safe, if they’re showing it’s safe," said Sandra Wieber, a local resident.

Five fast facts to know about Rocky Flats:

  • Rocky Flats began operation in 1953 to serve as a manufacturing site for plutonium. It was used for nuclear war-heads produced in this country during the Cold War.
  • A major industrial fire happened in 1957 and 1969.
  • Site operations and fires in buildings spread contamination to off-site land and the water supply.
  • Cleanup began in 1995. Over the next 10 years it cost $7 billion.
  • 21 tons of weapons-grade material was removed along with 1.3 million cubic meters of waste.

RELATED: Colorado's Superfund sites: Where are they and how is cleanup going?