Thursday, March 23, 2000

Udall calls for delay of scheduled Flats burn

By TERJE LANGELAND
Colorado Daily Staff Writer

Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., chimed in Wednesday on the controversy over the proposed controlled vegetation burn in the buffer zone surrounding Rocky Flats, saying the site should postpone any burns until another public meeting on the issue has taken place.

Moreover, Udall said he supported a suggestion from the city of Westminster that the Department of Energy conduct a small "test burn" to gather data -- and share the data with the public -- before proceeding with a full-scale burn.

Critics of the proposed 500-acre burn, scheduled to take place sometime between Saturday and April 30, have expressed concern that it could release a cloud of radioactive smoke.

"I urge the DOE to work with the local communities to address their concerns with this proposal," Udall wrote in a letter to Paul Golan, acting Rocky Flats manager. "It is critical that the DOE hold off on any burn until another public meeting can be held so that DOE can more fully explain to the public the plans and the basis for them."

The letter came less than a day after the Boulder City Council voted unanimously to ask DOE to postpone any burns until fall, so that more studies can be conducted. While the city of Arvada supports the proposed burns, other municipalities have expressed concerns similar to Boulder's.

The Sierra Club and the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center have also criticized the proposed burn and held a "call-in" Monday and Tuesday, asking their members to contact Udall, Rocky Flats and their local governments.

The stated purpose of the burns, part of the site's overall vegetation management plan approved last spring, is to remove buildup of dead vegetation. This would help native plants regenerate and would also reduce the risk of accidental, out-of-control fires, Rocky Flats officials say.

In an interview earlier this week, DOE spokesman Pat Etchart said the site conducted a risk analysis and found that the chance of significant airborne contamination was negligible.

And despite claims to the contrary, there have been many opportunities for public input on the plan, Etchart said.

"We have been trying to be very open and up front with this," Etchart said. "We think we've done a lot."

Still, the DOE announced Wednesday it would grant the many requests for another public meeting. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Monday at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.

Information about the burn is also available online at www.rfets.gov.