Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Rocky Flats: Like plutonium, the controversy over this former nuclear weapons plant lasts forever

Plutonium has a half-life of 20,000 years, and the controversy over the former Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant should continue at least that long. With good reason: If we forget that the plant sixteen miles upwind from Denver processed plutonium and other deadly materials, some day the land could turn into an attractive housing development: Contamination Acres.

As it is, thousands of acres have been turned into a U.S. Fish & Wildlife-run wildlife area, much of which will soon be open to the public.

You can hear all about it this morning, when Jon Lipsky, the then-FBI agent who led the raid on the plant back in June 1989, and state representative Wes McKinley, who was the foreman of the grand jury that looked at all the evidence that was seized during that raid, will be on KHOW radio with Peter Boyles.

You may hear from McKinley (or may not, since all of the grand jurors are still under a gag order) how the grand jury wanted to indict eight individuals for environmental crimes in connection with what they termed an "ongoing criminal enterprise" at Rocky Flats -- one with a criminal disregard for the health and welfare of the people who worked at the plant, and lived around it. You'll certainly hear how McKinley wants the Colorado Legislature to make sure appropriate signage is put around the former plutonium plant/future wildlife playground.

Lipsky, who's no longer with the FBI (an environmental expert, he was transferred to a Los Angeles gang project soon after the deal was sealed), is not under a gag order, however. And the discussion should be fascinating when he details how justice was denied when the Department of Justice signed a settlement deal with Rockwell International, which ran the plant. The pact fined the company less than it had been paid in bonuses.

For a quick preview of the case at twenty years, see this column from last August.

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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