Workers compare old wounds of the Cold War

Former Rocky Flats workers gather for breakfast event

Posted 4/19/19

Former employees of the Rocky Flats Plant gathered together on April 10 in Denver, for the Building Trades Unions Breakfast. Put on by Nuclear Care Partners, an organization that provides Energy …

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Workers compare old wounds of the Cold War

Former Rocky Flats workers gather for breakfast event

Posted

Former employees of the Rocky Flats Plant gathered together on April 10 in Denver, for the Building Trades Unions Breakfast. Put on by Nuclear Care Partners, an organization that provides Energy Employee Occupational Illness Program Act (EEOICPA) benefits guidance and no-cost in home care to former atomic workers, the event gave former Rocky Flats workers a chance to learn about benefits and to meet with other workers.

Rocky Flats, which is located 16 miles northwest of downtown Denver, produced nuclear weapons parts for nearly 40 years. According to the state of Colorado, over 8,000 chemicals were used as well as radioactive materials. Weapon production stopped in 1989.

Here is what some former employees of Rocky Flats had to say about working at the plant.

Glenn Link

Glenn Link worked as a pipe fitter apprentice for Dow Chemical, one of Rocky Flats’ plant operators, from 1968 to 1972. When he reflects on his time at the site, Link says it was a good job. His father worked there his whole life and never got sick from exposure to chemicals and radiation, but Link did.

During the late 1990s, Link learned that he had an “enormous” amount of skin cancer — something he says was a direct result from radiation exposure out on Rocky Flats. Employees would wear dosimeter badges, a material used to record the amount of radiation exposure a person has over a period of time.

“At that time every month, they would take your old (dosimeter) badge, read it and give you a new badge and tell you everything is fine. They went back and read the badges from that era, and the exposure was 10 times what it should’ve been,” said Link, who also has been exposed to asbestos.“When they gave me the report it was mind boggling.”

Clyde Christman

Clyde Christman worked at Rocky Flats for 21 years where he worked different jobs, including as a radiological control technician. His job required him to make sure people didn’t get exposed to elevated levels of radiation and to monitor for contamination.

He said enjoyed his job, and if he could still work there, he would. Christman says he would catch some Rocky Flats employees walking in areas without their respirator mask. When he reminded some of them to wear their masks, they would hold their nose, violating safety rules.

“I saw that a number of times. People can become complacent,” said Christman. He is 66, and he considers himself to be healthy. “You can’t see the contamination, or smell it, so you develop a sense of complacency.”

Rod Williams

“It was one of the safest places to work, but they didn’t know what we were working with,” said Rod Williams, a pipe fitter at Rocky Flats. In some instances, when some of the employees would get rid of waste, they didn’t know what they were working with, because the instruments they used couldn’t detect the radioactive waste.

Williams went back and forth working at the site for years, and today says he deals with health issues as a result of his job. He declined to discuss specifics.

“I felt if you followed the precautions, you were good — but any job has its point where precautions are good to take, but things happen,” said Williams.

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