Lipsky faced his own hurdles. In January 1993, he testified before Congressman Howard Wolpe's subcommittee about what had happened at Rocky Flats. Before the end of the month, he was transferred to Los Angeles, where he was assigned to work on gang issues. Lipsky is now retired from the FBI, but not from talking about Rocky Flats. He testified when the class-action case filed by nearby property owners in 1990 finally went to trial in 2005. Those plaintiffs won a record judgment that was immediately appealed; it's unlikely they'll ever see a cent. And in 2010, Lipsky testified at the Colorado State Capitol, when Representative Wes McKinley, a rancher from the southeastern corner of the state who just happened to have served as the foreman of the Rocky Flats grand jury, proposed some very simple legislation: requiring that "informed consent" signs be posted out at Rocky Flats so that anyone who visited the wildlife refuge would know just how wild life had once been there. That the plant had worked with not just plutonium, but other dangerous chemicals — chemicals that had gotten into the air and water and ground.

Today, the area is marked off with a simple fence and "No Trespassing" signs. The 1,309 acres at the center have a security gate. Early suggestions that a visitors' center with a museum be built by the entrance to the refuge went nowhere; workers and others set up their own Rocky Flats Institute & Museum, but it's running out of money. When the workers are six feet under, their knowledge will be, too.


After the raid, Rocky Flats never made another plutonium trigger. Since then, its main product has been secrets. Uncovering some, covering others. Initially it was estimated that the cleanup would take decades and cost $35 billion. The first mission was to clean up the inside of the buildings, "packing the product," as Surovchak says. But after a certain level of funding was guaranteed in 1999, the DOE said it could finish the job by December 2006. With contractor Kaiser-Hill, it beat that date, finishing in October 2005 for $7.5 billion — over a year and $500 million under budget, and still meeting all the requirements of the Rocky Flats Cleanup Agreement. But were those requirements stringent enough? With all the secrets, it's hard to know.

Building 771 was once called the "most dangerous building in America," says Surovchak. "Turns out it wasn't." When they opened the door to the "Infinity Room" in that building, they found "essentially nothing." The concrete remains of 771 are buried six feet under, as are other contaminated chunks of concrete and infrastructure. "We're here to protect the remedy," Surovchak explains, monitoring the groundwater, making sure that no one — and nothing — disturbs that six feet of ground.

Where the site ends to the south, the building begins; the Candelas development is going up quickly. Between two blocks of future homes is the route the long-delayed Jefferson Parkway will one day take. In exchange for section 16, a big patch of open space, becoming part of the refuge to the west, the Parkway Authority received a 300-foot right-of-way on the eastern edge of Rocky Flats, the edge that showed the most evidence of contamination in 1995 studies. There are signs that indicate where the future entrance of the parkway will be.

There are no signs that tell you the history of the 6,500 acres just up the hill.

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My Voice Nation Help

I was there for the clean up. Bldg. 881 & 883. We did it (clean up procedures) by the numbers. I was impressed. Did not know of the raids until now. Never had time to wonder about its history as we worked 6 days a week of 10-12 hour shifts.


Oops-- the original "clean up" estimate was $35Billion, not million!
Thanks for the article. I'd like to hear more from workers and others who've been concerned about the contamination out there and the plans for development-- the Parkway and the housing.


DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@fabfamilia ... billion, million, gazillion ... it's all the same in stoner math.