for immediate release, Thursday, July 6, 2017
MOVING 200+ PRAIRIE DOGS TO NUCLEAR WEAPONS PLANT SITE
OPPOSED BY ROCKY FLATS PUBLIC USE LAWSUIT PLAINTIFFS;
ANIMALS’ 18-FOOT-DEEP TUNNELS COULD MOVE PLUTONIUM TO SURFACE;
GROUPS CALL FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT OF RELOCATION PLAN
Groups suing to block construction of trails and a visitor center at a former nuclear weapons production facility today expressed alarm at a new proposal to relocate a colony of more than 200 prairie dogs from Longmont, Colorado to the plutonium contaminated Rocky Flats site between Denver and Boulder. Media reports indicate that a U.S. Fish & Wildlife official offered to transfer the animals to a portion of Rocky Flats now designated as a federal wildlife refuge.
In a letter to the lawyer defending federal agencies who want to open Rocky Flats to the public, plaintiffs’ attorney Randall Weiner explained, “As we stated in our recent complaint regarding the Refuge, prairie dogs and other burrowing animals can dig as far as 18 feet into the ground . . . . Prairie dogs particularly create deep burrows and wide tunnels, and build surface mounds by accumulating dirt from below ground and nearby surface area. There also are no barriers to prevent the prairie dogs from migrating back and forth between the Refuge and the Central Operable Unit, and then later leaving the site altogether.” Many radioactive Rocky Flats building components were covered with dirt and buried eight feet below the surface, within range of prairie dog diggings.
Rocky Flats manufactured plutonium components for U.S. nuclear weapons. In June 1989, the FBI raided the site for alleged violations of environmental laws. The plant shut down and never reopened. Parts of Rocky Flats are on the Superfund list of the nation’s most polluted sites.
Plaintiffs in the federal environmental lawsuit include the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Candelas Glows/Rocky Flats Glows, Rocky Flats Right to Know, Rocky Flats Neighborhood Association, and Environmental Information Network.