Department Of Interior

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CONTACT: Hugh Vickery, DOI
For Immediate Release:April 14, 2004
Matt Kales FWS
Ruth Mecham, Army
Interior Secretary Norton to Dedicate Former Army Chemical Weapons Facility as National Wildlife Refuge

(DENVER) -- Interior Secretary Gale Norton will dedicate Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a former Army chemical weapons facility once described as the "most polluted square mile on earth," as a national wildlife refuge on April 17.

Norton, who as attorney general of Colorado in the early 1990s successfully sued to require higher cleanup standards at the arsenal, will be joined by Sen. Wayne Allard, Rep. Bob Beauprez, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations and Environment Geoffrey Prosch, EPA Deputy Administrator Steve Johnson, Shell Oil Vice President Ray Collins company and other partners in the clean-up of the arsenal.

"Working together, we have transformed a vestige of the Cold War into a permanent home for bald eagles, mule deer, white pelicans and hundreds of other species of wildlife," Norton said. "We've also provided people a unique area near in an urban setting to enjoy and learn about wildlife and its habitat."

The April 17th ceremony will mark the formal transfer of nearly 5,000 acres out of the 17,000 acres of land at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal from the U.S. Army to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the National Wildlife Refuge System. Eventually, when the clean-up of the arsenal is complete, the Army will transfer a total of 15,000 acres to the Service.

The 27 square-mile Rocky Mountain Arsenal, located in Commerce City, Colorado, approximately 10 miles northeast of downtown Denver, is one of the largest cleanup sites in the country. In 1942, RMA was built to manufacture chemical weapons to be used in World War II as a war deterrent. In 1946, some of the facilities were leased to private industry for the production of industrial and agricultural chemicals. The Arsenal later became a site for chemical agent demilitarization programs. Since 1985, the sole mission of the Arsenal has been environmental remediation. In 1987, RMA was listed on EPA's Superfund National Priorities List.

Currently, RMA is undergoing an extensive and safe environmental cleanup of the site's soil, structures and groundwater. Cleanup plans were developed and approved by the Army, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state of Colorado, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Shell Chemical Company. The site now provides sanctuary for nearly 300 species of wildlife, including deer, coyotes, bald eagles and white pelicans.

What: Dedication of Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Who: Interior Secretary Gale Norton
Sen. Wayne Allard
Rep. Bob Beauprez
Rep. Diana DeGette
Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army Geoffrey Prosch
EPA Deputy Administrator Steve Johnson

When: Saturday, April 17th, 10:30 a.m. (Media photo opportunity with Secretary Norton at 10 a.m.)

Where: Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
72nd and Quebec Street, West Gate entrance


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