- Environmental Health
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Rocky Mountain Arsenal: From Munitions to Wildlife Refuge
A visit to Rocky Mountain Arsenal today is peaceful. Bison, prairie dogs, black-footed ferrets and bald eagles call it home. Visitors can be found fishing, birdwatching and viewing wildlife from a nature trail. It’s hard to believe this site’s history was as a munitions plant and pesticide and rocket fuel production facility. In the early 1980’s, the site was one of the most polluted sites in America.
When bald eagles were discovered on the site in 1986, the potential for the site was made clear. Through decades-long collaboration between many local, state and federal agencies, including Tri-County Health Department, the site was successfully cleaned up and repurposed as a National Wildlife Refuge.
During the cleanup, Tri-County’s responsibilities included off-post domestic well sampling, groundwater monitoring and arrangements for acquiring alternate water supplies. Staff performed daily oversight of the groundwater and shared information and observances out with partners and the public. TCHD also regularly monitored cleanup activities at the fence line of the property to make sure odors did not impact the community and established the Rocky Mountain Helpline for community members to speak directly with health professionals about any concerns. TCHD also supported community involvement, which helped build support for the project both initially and throughout the remediation, and stakeholder collaboration, which ensured the project moved along seamlessly.
In 2010, the 15-year, $2.1 billion environmental cleanup of surface areas was completed. The following year the visitor center opened and the refuge became fully accessible to the public. Today, the refuge is home to more than 330 species of wildlife including badgers, coyotes, deer, migratory song birds, pelicans and waterfowl. Rocky Mountain Arsenal sees more than 340,000 annual visitors, making it one of the most visited wildlife refuges in the country.
This project was a tremendous success and example of what can be accomplished when stakeholders work collaboratively to create a healthy, active asset for the community. Full EPA Report.