Aug 292007
 
Authors: Brian Park

Whether it is the Fort Collins mayor giving a speech on how our city must preserve its “quality of life” or a real estate advertisement beckoning someone to move here because of the state’s high “quality of life,” the phrase is a favorite for politicians, economists and real estate agents alike.

But for the thousands of former workers at Rocky Flats, a nuclear weapons plant, their “quality of life” is vanishing, or in some cases, dead.

Over the summer the U.S. government once again backed up its decision to neglect some 15,000 workers, leaving them without medical compensation. A few thousand got lucky by receiving funds for health care, but the majority is left to deal with body-ravaging cancers and excessive medical costs. Scores of ex-workers even died before the bureaucratic bungle was decided.

What a pleasant way to thank these people for all their difficult work through the Cold War – an impending death notice they must foot the bill for.

Rocky Flats, located 16 miles northwest of Denver, was a nuclear weapons-producing compound that opened in 1952 and closed in 1989 amid a federal investigation of environmental carnage on site.

Eighteen years later, this environmental carnage has led to human atrocities – death, disease and feelings of futility – because our government does not want to bear the brunt of the responsibility.

Rocky Flats was a cesspool of pollution. Chemicals were dumped into creeks thus infiltrating nearby water sources, toxic waste was set afire and regulations were repeatedly ignored.

After its closure “Radiation Rocky” became designated a Superfund hazardous waste site by the Environmental Protection Agency. Years of clean up ensued and now the area is a wildlife refuge; no word yet if “Blinky,” the three-eyed fish from “The Simpsons,” has been spotted.

Cancer cases of former workers number over a thousand. Not a couple, 50 or 60, we are talking about over a thousand, which is solid evidence. CU-Boulder and the state health department found 1,259 cases of cancer reported to the Centers for Disease Control by former employees.

For the U.S. government to ignore the plight of these people is as sickening as the illnesses that they possess. In August, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt backed up the disgusting decision not to come to the aid of these people or at least assist in fast-tracking the medical process, which is uber-slow.

The former workers of Rocky Flats will join in the annals of disgraced American history, other people the U.S. government has forgotten, such as the residents of New Orleans and the Iraq war veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Colorado’s entire congressional delegation has come out against these rulings.

Keep the pressure on your U.S. senators and congressperson as well as state senators, representatives and governors to continue to fight for the medical care and human respect these people deserve.

These folks helped defend this country during times when nuclear brinkmanship was the norm and paranoia ran amok. The Cold War was no joke, but the government’s actions are: a sick one at that.

Brian Park is a senior technical journalism and political science major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com

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