Broomfield Votes to Put the Brakes on Jefferson Parkway

The Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant three decades ago.
The Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant three decades ago. Department of Energy
The Rocky Flats Stewardship Council executive committee will be meeting this morning, March 2, but the biggest recent development related to Rocky Flats won't be on the agenda. At a Broomfield City Council meeting on February 25, the city determined that it would pull out of the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority, the group that's been trying for more than a decade to build a $250 million, ten-mile, publicly owned toll road along the eastern edge of the former Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons plant, creating one of the last links in a beltway around Denver.

The reason for Broomfield's action? A soil sample taken near the path of the proposed highway read dangerously high, at 264 pCi/g of plutonium, more than five times higher than the 50 pCi/g cleanup standard set for Rocky Flats.

The Colorado Department of Public Health analyzed that sample, as well as 467 others taken in tests last summer authorized by the JPPHA; according to the CDPHE, only that single plutonium sample ranked above historic levels considered safe.

At the March 2 exec committee meeting, there will be some discussion of the CDPHE’s report, which will be presented at the April meeting of the full Rocky Flats Stewardship Council, "but no discussion of development of the road, as those discussions are beyond our scope," says David Abelson, executive director of the Rocky Flats Stewardship Council.

The Rocky Flats Stewardship Council was formed in February 2006 to provide ongoing local government and community oversight of the post-closure management of Rocky Flats, which had just completed a $7 billion cleanup; today, much of the land is open to the public as a wildlife refuge, despite concerns of scientists and activists that the property may not be safe...and that construction of a road near the property could stir up more contamination.

Such concerns had led to the JPPHA's decision to take soil samples in and around the proposed construction site last summer. And that resulted in Broomfield putting the brakes on its participation in helping to build a parkway around the site last week.

Broomfield has a representative on the Rocky Flats council, as do other local governments, including Arvada and Jefferson County, the other major partners in the JPPHA. Broomfield had voted last September to hold off on paying the $2.5 million in dues it owed the authority for 2019; now the authority must decide whether to fight for that money...and how to replace Broomfield's partnership as the project moves ahead.

If the project moves ahead.
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun