2010 - Present
ROCKY MOUNTAIN GREENWAY
America’s Great Outdoors envisioned a trail connecting the Rocky Mountain Arsenal – Two Ponds – and Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuges to the Rocky Mountain National Park. The 83-mile path is known as the Rocky Mountain Greenway.
2012 - Present
Massive housing developments are under construction on lands contaminated with plutonium239 from Rocky Flats. The construction of Candelas, the largest and closest development to Rocky Flats, began in 2012 and is ongoing. In 2012, an activist group, Candelas Glows, formed to raise awareness about Rocky Flats and potential health risks to people moving into the area. Much of Candelas and other off-site lands were a Rocky Flats Superfund site, delisted in May 2007.
FLOOD OF 2013
An onslaught of rainstorms caused major flooding in Boulder County. Contamination testing monitors at Rocky Flats were overwhelmed and/or swept downstream.
2014 - 2015
The Rocky Flats Technical Group, an ad hoc citizens group of scientists and experts, along with other citizens groups and municipalities were vocal against a proposed 701 acre controlled burn at the Rocky Flats Refuge. USFWS postpones the controlled burn in January 2015. The Rocky Flats Technical Group convinced the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission in February 2015 to delay the USFWS smoke management permit.
Another severe storm event floods Rocky Flats. One of the Landfills left in place, approximately 40 acres with depleted uranium, in the active Superfund portion of Rocky Flats slumped several feet that demonstrated topographical instability, erosion and a potential harm to human health.
COLD WAR HORSE
Jeff Gipe installs the Rocky Flats Cold War Horse memorial, “to acknowledge Rocky Flats, its workers, and the surrounding community.” A stone inscription near the monument reads in part, “The history of this important national and international site, and the workers who sacrificed so much, have yet to be acknowledged by federal, state or local governments. This memorial stands as a reminder of a history that we must not forget.”
April and May 2015
GREENWAY TESTING PROTOCOL
USFWS along with CDPHE, EPA, DOE and US Department of Transportation pushed local municipalities to vote for a cost sharing federal grant regarding the Rocky Mountain Greenway trails through Rocky Flats Refuge. The Rocky Flats Technical Group convinces one municipality to vote no and the other six voted to include a soil analysis plan contingency regarding the grant. The Rocky Flats Technical Group along with other citizens’ groups want the Rocky Mountain Greenway to be constructed around Rocky Flats.
DOWNWINDERS HEALTH SURVEY
A local advocacy group, Rocky Flats Downwinders, initiated a grassroots health survey to study illness in the Rocky Flats area. Initial results indicate a high rate of thyroid and rare cancers.
The Boulder Valley School District is the first to pass a resolution to ban school field trips to Rocky Flats. Activists and experts are working on a campaign, called Keep Kids Off Rocky Flats, which seeks to have all the school districts in the area to ban fieldtrips to Rocky Flats.
WORKER ILLNESS LAWSUIT
Julia Mae Halliburton, the widow of a Rocky Flats worker who died of cancer, sued the Department of Labor who oversees medical compensation for nuclear workers. In 2015, the news organization McClatchy DC reported the startling statistic that 33,480 nuclear workers from across the country who received federal compensation for their illness have died. While this number is vast, it represents only a fraction of the workers who have become ill, many of whom have been denied compensation. Workers must prove that Rocky Flats was “at least as likely as not” the cause of their illness to finally receive compensation. This is a tough if not impossible task with large amounts missing and altered data.
Plaintiffs in a 27 year long lawsuit involving homeowners near Rocky Flats reach a settlement with the Dow Chemical Company and Rockwell International regarding plutonium contamination from Rocky Flats. Over 12,000 plaintiffs have been granted a $375 million settlement for devaluation of property values stemming from plutonium contamination.
Activist organizations filed a lawsuit and preliminary injunction against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to block the construction of the planned visitor facility and public use trails at the Rocky Flats Refuge.
The town of Superior filed a lawsuit to keep the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from opening Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, saying the agency hasn't adequately studied safety.
It is the second lawsuit seeking to keep the refuge closed. A group of environmental and community activists filed a similar challenge earlier in 2018. Both lawsuit are ongoing.
SCHOOLS BAN VISITS TO THE REFUGE
Seven Denver metro area school districts have barred school-sanctioned field trips to the Rocky Flats wildlife refuge over contamination concerns. Activists led the push to ban school children from the site.
ROCKY FLATS OPENING
On September 15th 2018, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service opened the “Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge” to the public amid controversy. Activists showed up to contest the opening.
FRACKING ROCKY FLATS
Highlands Natural Resources Corporation submitted an application to horizontally drill four sections of the Rocky Flats site, including the superfund site.
After major backlash from the community, Highlands Corporation withdrew their application.
YOUNG BREAST CANCER
Brittany Kelly was diagnosed with breat cancer on May 1st 2019, at the age of 34. Her younger sister was also diagnosed breast cancer, twice. While searching for answers she stumbled across many other young women with breast cancer. After putting out a few social media posts, Brittany noticed that there seem to be high concentrations in communities near the Rocky Flats site.
The community run survey and monitoring program is ongoing. You can find their page here: https://www.facebook.com/youngBCinCO/
HOT SOIL SAMPLES
Testing near Rocky Flats is being done for the first time in over a decade. On August 8th, CDPHE reported that one sample showed 264 pCi/g of plutonium. The reading is 5 times the allowable limit for the Rocky Flats cleanup and is 13,500 times background radiation.
Dr. Michael Ketterer took his own independent soil samples and found 6 more "hot particles" of plutonium.
More testing results are expected to be announced soon.
PARKWAY HALTED... AGAIN
A planned four lane tollway, known as Jefferson Parkway, was halted following the findings of "hot" soil samples. The toll-way is planned to be construscted on the eastern edge of Rocky Flats. Lawsuits in 2012 put plans on temporary hold and efforts to build the parkway started again in 2017.
Activists and local councils have been fighting to keep the road from being built in its current alignment.
The U.S. production of nuclear weapons has left a lingering legacy of contaminated lands and peoples. Over 300 facilities across the nation have contributed to building the United States' nuclear arsenal. Accidents have plagued the weapons complex, leaving workers, nearby residents, and the surrounding environments, contaminated with long-lived radioactive and hazardous wastes.
In the article “The Half-Life of Memory,” where this film borrows its title, author Hannah Nordhaus writes, “Plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years. The half-life of memory, by contrast, is a much briefer thing. The contamination at Rocky Flats will long outlive our efforts to control or even remember it.”
America's nuclear past is a distant memory, but the threat of nuclear war is on the rise again. Growing tensions between nuclear nations have many people fearing that we’re at the beginning of a new Cold War. The events that have taken place at Rocky Flats, and across the nuclear weapons complex, demonstrate that it is up to us as citizens to remember and prevent these grievous mistakes from occurring again. .
Jeff Gipe is a visual artist who grew up just a few miles downwind of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, where his father worked for many years. Gipe has been heavily engaged with Rocky Flats matters over the past decade and has been exploring a variety of avenues for portraying this complex and highly politicized issue through the arts. In 2015, Gipe installed a memorial dedicated to Rocky Flats known as the Cold War Horse.
See Jeff’s artwork at www.jeffgipe.com
Director / Producer / Videography
Dan de Jesus is a professional videographer and editor with experience in corporate, short films, indie, and documentary work. Dan’s recent projects include, Life In The Balance, a forthcoming documentary, and Ode to NYC, a music video for IRISHLATINA.
View Dan’s video work at: www.dandjlab.com
Dan de Jesus
Mallory O’Connell attended Metropolitain State University where she helped work on the Rocky Flats Downwinders health survey. The survey was created to better understand the impact of health issues related to Rocky Flats.
Interviews / Production Assistance