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Elevated Plutonium Detected In Jefferson Parkway Soil Sample

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4/AP) - Officials with the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority are reporting inconsistent soil sample test results. The area where the Jefferson Parkway is planned is being tested for possible plutonium contamination from Rocky Flats, a former nuclear weapons plant. The elevated sample came from an area just off Indian Street in Northern Jefferson County.

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Rocky Flats manufactured plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads and had a history of fires, leaks and spills. For the first time in 13 years, the soil in and around the former nuclear weapons site is being tested for radiation.

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The Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority says one sample taken near the site of the future toll road indicated elevated plutonium levels. A second test from the same sample had a significantly lower result, which officials say is consistent with all other test results.

Jefferson Parkway is a privately-funded and publicly-owned project to help complete the Denver Metropolitan beltway. The Authority selected three contractors as finalists for the project with construction planned for 2020.

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Many community members are concerned about the project being a public health risk due to residual plutonium contamination on both sides of Indiana Street. Nearly 250 soil samples have been collected since May with the final results expected by the end of the year.

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In July, it was revealed the U.S. Department of Justice lost track of more than 60 boxes of documents from a 27-year-old criminal investigation into safety and environmental violations at the Rocky Flats plant.

The files have remained secret since the investigation ended with criminal charges in 1992.

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Two young women recently began investigating whether plutonium contamination from Rocky Flats could be an environmental cause for breast cancer in young patients. The women started a Facebook page to collect information from other women who were diagnosed at a young age.

The Jefferson Parkway notified the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment about the inconsistent soil test results.

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(credit: Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority)

"Public safety is the number one priority for the Jefferson Parkway," said Bill Ray, Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority Executive Director. "We are committed to working
closely with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on the ongoing soil analysis and will follow their lead on next steps."

Once the soil analysis is complete, Ray said the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority Board of Directors will determine the next steps in hiring a contractor.

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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