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Remember a long-ago movie, “Deliverance,” starring Burt Reynolds? A prominent scene involved two musicians playing melodies back and forth. The music is called “Dueling Banjos.” The movie chronicles an ill-fated canoe trip taken by four Atlanta businessmen.

While we have worked for years to close down Rocky Flats and keep it closed forever, the Department of Energy and now the Division of Fish and Wildlife have maintained that the site is safe and poses no health risks for visitors from breathing in alpha particles of plutonium. They present what they see as definitive scientific evidence regarding water, air and soil around and downwind of Rocky Flats that they trust as scientifically accurate and comprehensive. On the other hand, the Rocky Flats Technical Group and many activists have their own scientific evidence that they see as scientifically accurate and comprehensive. Back and forth, the “facts” have been quoted. Like “Dueling Banjos.”

With the scientific facts that we trust, the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center has mounted a campaign to halt public recreation at the Rocky Flats National Refuge, which is now open to the public. Chris Allred and Brittany Gutermuth, employees of the Center, have collected both individual and group signatures to accompany a letter they have authored, to Carmelo Melendez, director of the Office of Legacy Management of the Department of Energy, and Cynthia Martinez, chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The following is excerpted from the text of their letter:

“In the best interest of public health, DOE Legacy Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must immediately halt public recreation at the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge (‘the refuge’).

“The refuge is located on the buffer zone of the Rocky Flats Plant (1952-1989), which produced 70,000 weapons-grade plutonium pits for the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. Activities at the plant led to contaminated soil, sediment, groundwater and surface water due to accidental leakages and serious fires in 1957 and 1969, emitting plutonium into the air. The land where the plant was located is now a federally designated Superfund site.

“Remediation from the Rocky Flats Cleanup Agreement was limited to the Central Operable Unit and no action was required for the refuge land. According to Kaiser Hill’s 2006 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Facility Investigation, there is plutonium above background level on the refuge.

“Scientists and medical doctors around the world have researched the impacts of plutonium and have found significant risks attached to inhaling a microparticle of plutonium, invisible to the human eye.

“Seven school districts have made commitments to not allow field trips to the refuge, protecting nearly 300,000 students from contamination.

“We call on USFWS and DOE to acknowledge these events and the public opposition to opening the refuge. Considering the health and safety concerns, it is paramount that USFWS and DOE Legacy Management permanently close the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.”

The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.

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