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20 Bald Eagles Roosting at Polluted Arsenal

February 14, 1987

DENVER (AP) _ Twenty bald eagles have taken up residence at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, one of the nation’s most polluted pieces of property, wildlife experts said.

The arsenal was once used to manufacture chemical weapons and later as a pesticide and herbicide factory. It is a federal Superfund cleanup site.

The four adults and 16 young eagles began building a roost in a grove of trees in the arsenal’s southeastern corner in November, Army officials said Friday.

Wildlife experts said they don’t know whether the eagles will stay as the weather warms. If the birds are wintering at the arsenal, they probably will return for subsequent winters, the experts added.

Because the bald eagle is an endangered species and is protected from any activities that would disturb its roosting, the birds could affect how the Army cleans up the arsenal grounds, officials said.

They could also influence proposals to expand Stapleton International Airport south of the arsenal and build a new airport east of the property, officials said.

″But right now I can’t see there’s any conflict with air navigation,″ said Walt Barbo, manager of the regional office of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also is interested in the eagles because it is researching the effect of contamination on the bird in Colorado and Utah.

″All of a sudden, we have a large concentration of bald eagles at the arsenal that we can study,″ said Jeff Opdycke of the agency’s field office in Grand Junction.

″I guess we didn’t fully appreciate the value of the arsenal as a wildlife habitat until this year,″ he added.

The arsenal produced military supplies that included nerve gas, mustard gas, rocket fuel and white phosphorous grenades. Shell Oil Co. and smaller companies also made pesticides and herbicides there until 1982.

Seepage from the arsenal has polluted nearby groundwater sources, and a 93- acre pond of liquid hazardous waste and its surrounding land have been named ″the most polluted square mile in the United States″ by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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