The Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge sits on more than 5,000 acres of trees, wetlands and pristine rolling prairie about 16 miles northwest of Denver. It hosts 239 migratory and resident species, from falcons and elk to the threatened Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.
It also used to be the site of a federal nuclear weapons facility — and it’s reopening to the public this weekend.
The Environmental Protection Agency says soil was tested in this buffer zone and determined safe for “unlimited use and unrestricted exposure” more than a decade ago.
But there are skeptics. One of them is University of South Carolina Biological Sciences Professor Tim Mousseau. He is not convinced study of the grounds has been nearly rigorous enough. He says there is still plutonium in the soil around Rocky Flats.
“Just the simple action of walking through some of these areas during the dry season will kick up the dust from the ground,” Mousseau says.
Plutonium particles could be floating in that dust. Mousseau says even the smallest, most imperceptible particles can be ingested and lodge in the lungs.
“Often they don’t get released, they get stuck there for the entire life of the organism,” he says, adding that could, in theory, lead to higher cancer risk.
Attorney Tim Gablehouse is representing Superior. He says the government has not done a full environmental assessment on what the effects could be from recreational use, and the threat of dust from Rocky Flats being carried into wider connected trail systems and into Superior itself.
Read more at A New Wildlife Refuge On The Grounds Around An Old Nuclear Weapons Plant