on November 22, 2016 by in Golden News, Comments Off on Rocky Flats health survey documents health concerns

Rocky Flats health survey documents health concerns

Preliminary results of a survey to determine whether people who lived downwind from the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant are at risk for unusual illnesses showed reasons for concern and further study.

“Everyone is asking, is there a correlation?” said Carol Jensen, the principal investigator for the survey and a professor of integrative health care at Metropolitan State University of Denver. “At this point, I don’t know. The more people we hear from, the more valid the data.”

To datethe survey, which is still ongoing, produced the following results: Of the 1,745 people who participated, 848 had been diagnosed with cancer and of them, 414 cases are rare cancers.

“The identified patterns warrant further investigation,” Jensen said. There is “not enough data for it to be quantifiable.”

More than 40 people gathered at the Standley Lake Library in Arvada on Nov. 18 to hear the results of the survey, which became available online May 16. It targeted residents who lived in the area between 1952 and 1992 within the boundaries of Highway 128/120th Avenue on the north, I-25 on the east, I-70 on the south and Highway 93 on the west. Most of that area lies within Arvada and Westminster, but also includes Leyden, Federal Heights and a small area of Golden near North Table Mountain Park.

The Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant operated from 1952 to 1989. It manufactured trigger mechanisms for nuclear weapons from various radioactive and hazardous materials, such as beryllium and plutonium among others.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that “manufacturing activities, accidental industrial fires and spills, support activities and waste management practices” at the facility “contaminated soil, sediment, groundwater and surface water with hazardous chemicals and radioactive constituents.”

The Rocky Flats area consists of 6,240 acres, 5,000 of which has been turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage as a wildlife refuge. The Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2007, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to open the refuge to visitors in spring 2018, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website.

Decommissioning of the plant began in 1992, and cleanup of the site –; which was funded by the federal government and cost about $ 7 billion –; was completed in 2005.

The site was divided into two separate areas known as operable units for the cleanup. The central operable unit, where the weapons were manufactured, consists of 1,308 acres and includes 384 acres that would have been the center of the facility and reportedly deemed to be the greatest risk area for contamination and hazards. The peripheral operable unit, which surrounds the central area, consists of 4,883 acres and is considered a buffer zone to neighboring residential areas. In 2006, the United States Environmental Protection Agency determined no further cleanup was necessary in the peripheral operable unit.

However, some argue that the site is still unsafe for human and animal visitors.

Arvada resident Bonnie Graham-Reed, a member of the citizens’ Rocky Flats Right to Know group who attended the meeting, worries about children visiting the future refuge on school trips. She mentioned not enough people are aware of the site’s potential dangers and health risks.

“We all wish it had never existed,” Graham-Reed said, referring to the nuclear weapons operations. “But it did, and people have a right to know.”

So far, $ 3,000 has been spent on the health survey project –; much of it self-funded, Jensen said. Next steps for the study are to further verify existing data, test soil for contaminants and continue to offer the survey and record oral histories, Jensen said. However, additional funding is needed to help implement the next steps, she added.

It is important for everyone to be aware of the Rocky Flats history, said Kristen Iversen, author of “Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats” and a former Arvada resident.

“I think people in Colorado don’t fully understand the historical significance of the Rocky Flats story,” said Iversen, who presented her book at the meeting. “We were at the heart of nuclear weapons production during the Cold War. Rocky Flats has left a devastating legacy that we cannot forget.”

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