Rocky Flats lives on

  • Wes McKinley

    Images courtesy Maria Rogers Oral History Program
  • Jerry San Pietro

    Images courtesy Maria Rogers Oral History Program
  • Norman Warling

    Images courtesy Maria Rogers Oral History Program
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, "The Half-life of Memory."

GRAND JURY FOREMAN WES MCKINLEY:
"... I kind of like the bomb. We are the super country on the planet because we got the biggest weapon ... I wasn't a red-hot activist or had an ax to grind, or anything. ...

"The engineers at Rocky Flats, not in testimony but later, told me we didn't need to do it. Jim Kelly, (who) was a fierce defender of the jobs at Rocky Flats, in his obituary last week, it quoted him as saying, 'The sad thing about it was, we didn't need to pollute like that.' The rabbits were hot. The mosquitoes, you get a mosquito bite, you were polluted. ...

"There's lots of people out there with stories that we didn't hear. Some people say, 'Why didn't you subpoena them? Why didn't you?' Well, we didn't know about it, and how much are you going to haul in your truck? You're not hauling your whole load of wheat at one time, you just haul a load at a time. And that's kind of where we're at. This is a load. This is about all I can carry. I can't carry much, I'm kind of limited."

--interview by Dorothy Ciarlo

 

FORMER ROCKY FLATS WORKER JERRY SAN PIETRO:
"... And then on certain hot jobs, really hot jobs, we'd be in there right with them holding the meter and telling them, 'OK, you got two minutes left, one minute, you're out.' They'd come out of the gloves. They'd had their exposure for a month in, like, 10 minutes. I was right there with 'em. The next guy would come in. I'd count him. 'Time's up!' We went through every lab tech in the building and then we had to shut it down, rope it off, and wait till the next month, when they start over with zeroes! Magically it all goes away in a month! You can be exposed very high this month, and the first of next month you're OK again. So we'd do it all over again. ...

"I had an incident that happened to me. I was standing in a room talking to a guy, no respirator on. He didn't, either. And there was an explosion. And my instrument went 'Kchhhh!' which meant, it's saturated, it's infinity ...

"There's stuff buried out there that'd scare me. I would never go out on that plant site now. ..."

--interview by Hannah Nordhaus


FORMER ROCKY FLATS WORKER NORMAN WARLING:
"The people in 771, they knew what they were doing. You had to know what you were doing to work in that building. It wasn't safe. They came out years later saying it was one of the most dangerous buildings in the whole DOE complex. And it was. It was dangerous. It was unsafe. The contamination was there constantly. ...

"And it wasn't only contamination. We had a lot of acids. We had acid spills constantly. I mean, you had lines -- and although they were made out of stainless steel, the acid would still eat through these stainless steel lines, and you'd have leaks, leaks of highly contaminated acid. They would drip on people, yes. I don't remember ever being dripped on, but I sure as heck remember looking up there and finding the drips. ... Somebody'd come and tell you, as a radiation monitor, 'The floor's hot in room 114.' So you go in there and you start checking the floor to see where it's coming from. You find a hotter spot and you look up and there it is. It's dripping out of the overhead. And it did drip on people. And to decon these people wasn't easy. ...

"I mean, I'm not a chemist or anything like that, but they had every acid known to mankind out there. I mean, they would try anything and everything to dissolve plutonium."

--interview by Hannah Nordhaus

The Rocky Flats oral histories were collected in collaboration with Boulder Carnegie Library's Maria Rogers Oral History Program and made possible by a grant from the Colorado State Historical Fund. The interviews are available at .

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • Take over the reins of a dynamic grassroots social justice group that protects Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - Winter Wildlands Alliance seeks an experienced and highly motivated individual to lead and manage the organization as Executive Director. Visit https://winterwildlands.org/executive-director-search/ for...
  • Background: The Birds of Prey NCA Partnership is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in Boise, Idaho, which was established in 2015 after in-depth stakeholder input...
  • Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor of Native Americans and the News Media The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is...
  • AWF seeks an energetic Marketing and Communications Director. Please see the full job description at https://azwildlife.org/jobs
  • The Southwest Communications Director will be responsible for working with field staff in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico to develop and execute detailed communication plans...
  • An intentional community designed for aging in place. Green built with Pumice-crete construction (R32), bamboo flooring, pine doors, T&G ceiling with fans, and maintenance free...
  • (CFROG) is a Ventura County, CA based watch-dog and advocacy non-profit organization. cfrog.org
  • Take your journalism skills to the next level and deepen your understanding of environmental issues by applying for the 2019-2020 Ted Scripps Fellowships in Environmental...
  • The San Juan Mountains Association is seeking a visionary leader to spearhead its public lands stewardship program in southwest Colorado. For a detailed job description...
  • The Cascade Forest Conservancy seeks a passionate ED to lead our forest protection, conservation, education, and advocacy programs.
  • Mountain Pursuit is a new, bold, innovative, western states, hunting advocacy nonprofit headquartered in Jackson, Wyoming. We need a courageous, hard working, passionate Executive Director...
  • The Draper Natural History Museum (DNHM) at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center of the West in Cody, WY, invites applications for the Willis McDonald, IV...
  • Couple seeks quiet, private, off-grid acreage in area with no/low cell phone service and no/low snowfall. Conservation/bordering public lands a plus. CA, OR, WA, ID,...
  • Former northern Sierra winery, with 2208 sq.ft. commercial building, big lot, room to expand.
  • The dZi Foundation is seeking a FT Communications Associate with a passion for Nepal to join our team in Ridgway, Colorado. Visit dzi.org/careers.
  • Available now for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojaidigital.net.
  • Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • Suitable for planting hay, hemp, fruit. Excellent water rights. 1800 square foot farmhouse, outbuildings, worker housing.