Until the 1970s, the U.S. Army Chemical Corps was

Responsible for defensive and offensive aspects of biological and chemical warfare, the latter comprising incendiary and smoke activities as well as those of gas; and the defensive aspects of radiological warfare.

One of the Corps’ lead chemical and biological weapons manufacturing facilities was the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (RMA) located near Denver, Colorado. The history of the Corps – and the Arsenal –  is tied to Cold War secrecy and poor record keeping. This situation gives birth to what I think of as “generational pollution,” or demands placed on a current generation to manage the pollution, waste, and risk of a previous generation.

Onpost records tell only part of the waste history of a Superfund or Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) site; due to security restrictions on information such as security classification TOP SECRET, SECRET, Confidential, and a host of informal categories),  historical records concerning pollution practices are often not available to adequately construct Superfund’s Preliminary Investigation and Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study. It is during these “information collection cycles,” which primarily occur during the Preliminary Assessment/Site Inspection Phase and the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study, that waste handling practices, worker safety, and pollution are unearthed. If information is restricted for whatever reason – poor record keeping, a culture of secrecy, and/or lack of due diligence to locate records, the Remedial Design and Remedial Action is ultimately compromised.

Communities rely on Superfund’s research phases to inform them of potential harm. However, it is often necessary for community members to supplement agency research to attain a composite picture of a site’s pollution history. This is an arduous process, and involves consulting the U.S Declassified Documents Online, DTIC STINET database, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Records Groups, and/or requesting documents through FOIA. This research is a journey into the grey literature.

In terms of RMA, newspaper stories are available at the former Commerce City Beacon, Denver Post, former Rocky Mountain News and Westword. Documents may also be located through google (for example, RMA’s Federal Facility Agreement), the EPA’s RMA page, various U.S. Army Web pages (Survey and Analysis Report, second edition), USFWS Web pages (Division of Realty), and the GAO. The Record of Decision and other remediation docs are located in the CERCLIS database @ EPA.

The files provided on this blog are scanned from my personal library and represent a portion of time I served as a volunteer on the Arsenal’s Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) and Site Specific Advisory Board (SSAB) as a former member of Sierra Club. Information reported here is also gleaned from the Administrative Record at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Joint Administrative Records Facility, or JARDF. In many cases, file sizes are large, so be patient when downloading.

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