Lawmakers Cite Compensation Progress for Ill Nuclear Workers
BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
More employees at Dow Chemical Co.'s former nuclear facility in Madison, Ill., may become eligible for compensation for exposure to radiation during the Cold War.
The federal Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health has agreed to make a recommendation that could have that effect, members of Illinois' congressional delegation said Thursday.
The board will send an "advisory opinion" to the Department of Health and Human Services suggesting that the agency investigate issues that argue in favor of more worker compensation, lawmakers said.
Illinois Sens. Barack Obama and Dick Durbin and two congressmen based in Southern Illinois, Reps. John Shimkus and Jerry Costello, have made the compensation issue a priority.
Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate, addressed the board in Colorado last week, the second time within five months he told the group of his concerns for the needs of former nuclear workers.
The board approved at its Denver meeting a total, tax-exempt payment of $7.05 million for 47 workers who were employed at the Dow site from 1957-1960. They will also receive all medical benefits needed to deal with their conditions.
Further action would affect employees who worked at the facility from 1961 to 1998.
"For the first time the board is considering providing compensation to . . . workers who worked at these sites when the radiation lingered," Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said.
The additional claims the Illinois lawmakers seek are expected to come up for discussion by the board again in mid-July at a meeting in Washington state.
"There remain dozens of workers who became sick because of contamination at the Dow site and at other plants around Illinois," Obama said in a statement. "The facts are on their side, and they deserve recognition, treatment and compensation."
The Madison site has not been owned by Dow for decades. In the late 1950s, employees there worked on behalf of the Atomic Energy Commission.