Letters to the Editor

From the week of August 3

Blowing Hot and Cold

Feel the burn: Our thanks to Westword and Eileen Welsome for bringing the dirty and disturbing history of Rocky Flats to a whole new audience in the current series "From Cold War to Hot Property." She does her homework, and it shows.

In 1986, my sister Susan Hurst learned of the radiotoxic spray irrigation at Rocky Flats that was running off into tributaries that flowed into our public drinking supplies, and it alarmed her. She took these concerns to the City of Westminster and was promptly threatened by the city council with public censure and jail time for trying to "incite the public to panic." Sue then contacted FBI Special Agent Jon Lipsky, who was very interested in the Clean Water Act violations that Rockwell International pleaded guilty to in 1991, after the unprecedented FBI raid on June 6, 1989, and the subsequent grand jury.

In the fall of 1988, Standley Lake made the Superfund list because of plutonium held up in the sediments -- but not wanting to alarm the public, it continues to allow and encourage recreational boating, swimming and fishing activities. The Superfund recreational area has been written off as "okay" because the agencies and cities decided that it would be more hazardous to disrupt the sediments than it would be to just leave them alone.

Nothing has changed, except more people have moved in that don't know the local area's history, political climate and aggressive developers.With the many documented and undocumented incidents of clandestine dumping and burial of nuclear waste in the Rocky Flats buffer zone (the one-mile area surrounding the industrial area), many consider it to be a high-risk area that should have permanently restricted access status.

On April 6, 2000, Rocky Flats conducted a very controversial burn of fifty acres of buffer-zone vegetation, and the plant wants to continue this practice until it has burned off all sections of the zone. Our radiation monitor captured alarmingly high readings that persisted for about a week from this blaze. We urge members of the public to express their concern that further prescribed burns not be allowed at this site. Too many millions of lives are at stake in the Denver metro area, and there is no escape from breathing this contaminated smoke.

We look forward to the rest of Eileen's series.
Paula Elofson-Gardine, executive director
Environmental Information Network

Toxic shock: "You handle plutonium; you die." So states my brother-in-law, a scientist at Ball Aerospace who has a doctorate in physics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. It may be now, it may be twenty to thirty years from now, but the end is inescapable. I am appalled that Rocky Flats's management appeared to be so callous that they began causing American deaths to protect Americans.
John Rasmussen
Boulder


Panned Parenthood

Bird brains: Regarding Karen Bowers's "Suffer the Children," in the July 27 issue:

Do you suppose the bio-parents who so horribly abused these RAD kids are still out there breeding? I say we need a mandatory neutering policy for "parents" who have proven that they are incapable of caring for a parakeet, never mind a baby human being.
Anne Lambert
Denver


A Radical Notion

Fire when ready: Michael Roberts's July 13 "Failure to Communicate," on the arrest of Brian Hansen, was insightful, but I take exception to the use of the word "eco-terrorist." The burning of Vail's Two Elks Lodge was not an act of terrorism, but vandalism.

The distinction is fine, but very important. Detectives arrest vandals, while SWAT sharpshooters assassinate terrorists. "Terrorist" is a label used to dehumanize the enemy before elimination. Most ecological activists are compassionate people who wish to protect the environment from the real "eco-terrorists": extractive industrial corporations. Even the most radical groups attempt only to disrupt activities that are disruptive to nature, not to terrorize the general population. The only eco- terrorist, violent revolutionary I know of is Ted Kaczynski, and he is in prison. Otherwise, the word "eco-terrorist" is a bit of counter-environmental propaganda coined to discredit and add a sinister element to the activities of some of the most concerned, serious and responsible citizens of this nation. Say what you will about the criminal arson of the lodge, but don't call it "terrorism." (Keep in mind that corporations also commit destructive crimes in their pursuit of resources, and -- far worse -- they corrupt our political system to make their unethical predations "legal.")

As an alternative newspaper, I hope you can find an alternative term that more accurately describes what's going on instead of latching onto the buzzword of the day. A few suggestions: monkey-wrenching, eco-vandalism, eco-arson (there's a nice irony), eco-action, eco-demolition...
Mike Patterson
Longmont

Moral twerpitude: Roberts's excellent, even-handed "Failure to Communicate" clearly unmasked the real news of the events -- that being the epic dumbness that permeates both the journalism of the Colorado Daily and the news management of the U.S. Forest Service.

As both a former Colorado Daily reporter and editor (1991-94) and a former media official (assistant director of university media relations, University of Colorado system, 1996-2000), it is my humble contention that not just Hansen, but Daily editor Pam White, Daily publisher Chris Harburg and the entire media management team of the Forest Service ought to be jailed as a First Amendment education project. Hansen for letting his zeal get the better of his reportorial judgment (he has a proud tradition of this); editor White for letting Hansen get out of control early on in his coverage of this and a good many other stories; Harburg for allowing this combined dumbness to put her newspaper in the newspapers; and the Forest Service flacks for taking a ham-fisted, dim-witted, Bull Connor approach to clearing the area of protesters, a questionable act in itself and one executed with skill reminiscent of, say, the Boulder Police.

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