EPA Certifies Rocky Flats Cleanup

According to the Rocky Mountain News, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has certified the cleanup of Rocky Flats.  This certification is another step in moving the site towards becoming a full fledged National Wildlife Refuge.  The official turnover of the site to the Department of the Interior from the Department of Energy should happen within a matter of weeks.  It is a testament to the many people that worked at Rocky Flats over the years that the Rocky Flats site has now become the first major nuclear weapons site cleanup to be certified by the EPA.  I will definitely be looking forward to being able to tour the buffer zone areas that were off limits when I worked there when the site is officially opened to the public.

On a related note, I support all of the Colorado representatives to the U.S. Congress in their appeal to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt to reject the recommendation of the Radiation Advisory Board to deny expidited aid to any workers outside of those who worked at the plant between 1952 and 1966.  Having worked at various points on the computer systems involved in the dose calculations that the board is using, I have no doubt that the record keeping is inadequate to come up with an accurate lifetime dose for the workers of Rocky Flats who are sick with radiation related cancers.  Workers routinely were given new employee numbers when they changed companies (a common occurance as most DOE workers are contractors), typos abound, and, prior to implementing the dosimiter exchange program in 2005 that I worked on, dosimeter exchanges were problematic.  For an individual claim to be approved all of this potentially problematic data must match exactly.  The data at Rocky Flats clearly falls under the exception clauses in the 2000 legislation authorizing payments to these affected Cold War workers as intended by Congress. 

Thus far, the government has only paid 299 of the 1253 Rocky Flats workers with cancer who have requested help and denied 631.  The legislation passed by Congress authorizes workers with certain cancers known to be caused by radioactive exposure to be paid $150,000 in compensation and to have their medical expenses covered.  As both a taxpayer, and a former Rocky Flats worker, I find it disgusting that the Department of Health and Human Services Department has now spent vastly more money fighting the claims of these 1253 workers who have had their lives shortened working in the service of this country than it would have cost to simply approve all 1253 claims, as they should have done under the record keeping clauses in the legislation. 

Quoting Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, “This panel has existed for several years.  Scientific studies, examinations and reviews have been conducted for decades. The time is long past for action. Each day of delay means another sick employee comes closer to death. “

“If you fail our Cold War heroes, members of Congress seem poised to step in. On behalf of these workers and on behalf of the people of Colorado, I urge you to fulfill your charter and provide the efficient service and aid that our Rocky Flats workers deserve.”

More information on the history of this claim is available from the Rocky Mountain News here, here, here, and here.  The controversy surrounding the Radiation Advisory Board was also covered in detail by the New York Times on June 12.