Rocky Flats Nuclear Plant to Become Wildlife Refuge
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to delete 25,413 acres of the Rocky Flats Plant Superfund site in Jefferson and Boulder Counties, CO, from the Superfund List and designate it as a national wildlife refuge.
The 1,308-acre Central Operable Unit at the former nuclear weapons production plant is not being considered for deletion and will remain on the Superfund List.
Rocky Flats operated as a nuclear weapons production facility from 1952 to 1988. In 1953, the plant began production of bomb components, manufacturing plutonium triggers, which were used at the Pantex plant in Amarillo, Texas to assemble nuclear weapons.
In 1991, due to the fall of the Soviet Union, production of most of the weapons systems at Rocky Flats was no longer needed. In 1992, production of submarine-based missiles using the W88 trigger was discontinued, ending the need for production at Rocky Flats.
Numerous incidents of radioactive contamination of air, soil, and water surrounding the Rocky Flats plant were documented over the years.
In 1989 the FBI raided the facilities and ordered everyone out. They found numerous violations of federal anti-pollution laws including massive plutonium contamination of water and soil.
Long-term cleanup of the facility began in 1994. Throughout the remainder of the 1990s and into the 2000s, cleanup of contaminated sites and dismantling of contaminated buildings continued with the waste materials being shipped to the Nevada Test Site, the Envirocare company in Utah, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.
Clean up was declared complete on Oct. 13, 2005. About 1,000 acres of the new wildlife refuge–the former Industrial Area–will remain under control of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to allow ongoing environmental monitoring and remediation.
The 25,413-acre deletion reflects the completion of all response actions for the offsite and peripheral parcels and will allow the DOE to transfer the deleted part of the site to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for management as a national wildlife refuge.
Areas affected by the proposed deletion include the 4,933-acre Peripheral Operable Unit and the 20,480-acre Operable Unit 3. These areas consist of open space, residential development, and agricultural lands.
A 1997 Record of Decision for Operable Unit 3 and a 2006 Record of Decision for the Peripheral Operable Unit determined that all appropriate response actions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act have been implemented in these areas, and that no further response action by responsible parties is appropriate.
The state of Colorado, through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, concurs with the proposed deletion. The DOE will be responsible for all future response actions required at the area deleted if future site conditions warrant such actions.