Denver Direct: Contaminated water source to be expanded (Chatfield)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Contaminated water source to be expanded (Chatfield)

(Ed. note: This post is in response to a Denver Post article published today (1/2/2010) entitled “Chatfield Reservoir expansion would flood bird habitat”. Because the Denver Post is actively suing bloggers who quote from its articles, even with attribution, no link to the Denver Post is provided here. If you want to read the Post article, Google “Denver Post Chatfield”.)

by Adrienne Anderson

The use of Chatfield Reservoir for drinking water – given the documented saturation of the vicinity’s groundwater and underlying limestone formation with the highly deadly and cancer-causing rocket fuel compounds from the neighboring Lockheed Martin/USAF plant – is a macabre public health experiment that should be avoided. Communities getting water from this source risk having children with neuroblastoma and other cancers, as was the tragic experience of communities receiving Martin-contaminated water in past decades. Also, Lockheed Martin built disposal ponds for their wastes on the west side of the reservoir which they used for years. Elevating the water level will subsume these waste discharge pond areas and disperse residual contamination more widely.

The breakdown product of the chief rocket fuel ingredient that was in use at the Martin/USAF plant adjacent and upgradient of Chatfield for the Titan Missile Program, n-nitrorosodimethylamine (NDMA), is so carcinogenic that it is capable of causing a variety of cancers on single exposures, and at doses below which laboratory testing can even detect its presence. A teaspoon of the substance is enough to contaminate a water body the size of Chatfield with related public health risks. The State of California monitors this substance at a stringent level; the State of Colorado, however, has virtually ignored the risk, apparently to deny and cover up its own history of failing to enforce existing laws against criminal-level pollution violations from the Martin/USAF plant going back to the 50’s. The regulatory agency and local politicians have caved into longtime political pressure from Martin and Denver Water, which distributed contaminated water downhill from the highly contaminated Martin complex for decades, despite the agency’s knowledge that the water was subject to routine poisoning by the rocket plant. Documents evidencing this history was revealed in an independent citizens’ investigation during the 1980’s and 1990’s, when the State of Colorado and EPA attempted to deny the impacts of their histories of negligent enforcement.

Disturbingly, the Denver Post makes no mention of any of this, though a very good environmental reporter at the Denver Post in the late 1980’s reported on these conditions.

Note also that there is a public comment period on this proposal.


For more information and background on the Lockheed Martin contamination and Chatfield, see articles Anderson previously wrote and published for the Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center. The articles are archived and can be read here, here, and here. The history of Martin’s contamination of the area, and the public controversy over the tragic deaths of over a dozen children in a Denver suburb receiving contaminated drinking water from the area was chronicled by the New York Times in 1987, and can be read here. During the 11 years Anderson served on the University of Colorado at Boulder faculty from 1993-2005, teaching environmental investigation and ethics courses, numerous student groups also added to the documentary record of this contamination catastrophe, and the collusion, corruption and conflicts of interests that allowed it to happen, and which continue, to this date. Those reports are archived and can be read at the CU Boulder Environmental Center’s library. Records obtained from CU under the Colorado Open Records Act in 2005 by Environmental Studies students revealed the intense corporate and governmental pressure that was being applied to CU top officials to squelch this research and silence these and other facts of record by liable parties at interest. This spawned an academic freedom fight between CU faculty, students and members of the public, which is chronicled here by the CU chapter of the American Association of University Professors.