Former Rocky Flats Contractors Ordered to Pay $925 Million

June 4, 2008

Two former Rocky Flats contractors have been ordered to pay $925 million to residents who claim contamination blown from the nuclear weapons plant drastically reduced the value of their property.

The lawsuit, filed by a group of homeowners led by Merilyn Cook, affects up to 13,000 people who owned land near the former plant when it shut down in 1989 because of safety violations.

A message left for Cook was not immediately returned.

In his final judgment, Judge John L. Kane ordered Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical Co. to pay $653 million and Rockwell International Corp. $508 million in compensatory damages but capped the amount to be collected at $725 million. Kane also ordered Dow and Rockwell to pay $111 million and $89 million in exemplary damages, respectively.

Kane issued his judgment more than two years after a jury returned a verdict after a four-month trial ending in Feburary 2006.

The contractors operated the plant for the Department of Energy between the 1950s to 1989.

Boeing Co., which acquired parts of Rockwell in the 1990s, is responsible for Rockwell’s portion of the judgment, according Kane’s order.

Messages left after business hours for Boeing and Dow were not immediately returned.

Kane stayed his judgment pending appeals.

The lawsuit claimed the contractors intentionally mishandled radioactive waste and tried to cover it up.

Among violations document by state and federal officials was the outdoor storing of barrels of waste oil and solvents contaminated with plutonium. State health officials have said some of those barrels leaked, contaminating the surrounding soil that later blew downwind.

The $7 billion, 10-year clean up at the plant was declared completed in October 2005.

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