Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
August / September 1999


EARTH MONTH - EARTH YEAR - Rocky Mountain Arsenal

by Rick Warner

reprinted with permission from April 21, 1999 Commerce City (Colorado) Beacon

Environmental cleanup is always very complicated, costly and seldom timely. Once completed, few people believe that the sites are clean enough to withstand legal challenges.

When it comes to environmental cleanup such as Rocky Mountain Arsenal (RMA) it has been the decade of smoke and mirrors. Consider the RMA as the perfect example of this strategy.

GREENWASHING - Turn the country’s largest military Superfund site (RMA) into a wildlife refuge-like facility complete with tours for the most chemically sensitive portion of the population - children. If children are out there, how bad can it be? Massive public relations (greenwashing) is much cheaper than actually doing a permanent cleanup.

RHETORICAL DILUTION - The federal government has the will to scrap the world’s best and most dominating tactical fighter air wing and replace it with a brand new $400 billion fighter wing, but not the will to clean up after their last set of weapons systems. “Cleanup” became “remediation” became “restoration.” Each rhetorical dilution is actually representative of less and less commitment to clean up the mess.

CONTAINMENT - Caps, vegetative covers, slurry walls, intercept systems. What joy! Look busy, spend wads of money, leave all the contamination at the Arsenal and then say it’s all done. Ask experts-not-working-for-the-polluters about containment and they say it fails.

REDUCE STANDARDS - Get the EPA to reduce those standards. Waive land disposal restrictions, don’t characterize what is being contained, don’t monitor too closely and reduce risk standards so they are easier to meet. If anyone says, “hey, you missed something [like dioxin],” then devise a process for an investigation and a study that drags on and on until it can do no good. Never look for actual human health effects.

Instead, always rely on data-shy statistical models.

INSTITUTIONAL CONTROLS - Such things as: deed restrictions for land and water uses, zoning restrictions, fences, etc. Institutional controls are meant to provide long-term protection via restrictions. At the Arsenal the off-post decisions included placing deed restrictions on the Shell property immediately to the north of the Arsenal. Once it was determined that anyone could find this, the EPA was called upon to weaken this already anemic control.

FUZZY FOCUS – The Arsenal has 209 contaminated sites in 25 different medium groups. It is much cheaper to lump everything together into one operable unit so that the public and the regulators will only have resources to focus on the big issues and the other lesser issues can slip through the cracks or at least not be so subject to rigorous scrutiny.

DAD - The means DECIDE, ANNOUNCE, DEFEND. Input from the public is taken but almost never used.

MONEY RULES - In any decision where cost is a consideration, money rules.

What you can do: 

Attend and take part in the upcoming August hearing. Contact Sandy Horrocks for time specific and place 303-470-1352.

* Rick Warner is the president of WorldWorks I, Inc. which is involved with environmental cleanup primarily for federal facilities and especially the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.

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