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  • Compensate workers, Ohio legislators say

    Friday, October 29, 1999

    Revelations that Piketon workers were exposed to more dangerous materials than originally suspected has some Ohio members of Congress demanding that those workers be compensated.

    "There's no question there is a serious problem (at Piketon) . . . and they for sure, in my opinion, should be included in any kind program forthcoming to deal with the needs of workers,'' said Sen. George V. Voinovich, R-Ohio.

    The Clinton administration has proposed a "pilot project'' to compensate workers at Piketon's sister plant in Paducah, Ky., who might have suffered cancers or other illnesses because of their exposure to plutonium and related radioactive elements that are more dangerous than uranium.

    The fact that Piketon workers so far are not included in the initiative has legislators such as Voinovich outraged.

    The former governor said what might have happened at Piketon isn't unique; from the Fernald, Ohio, nuclear site to the one in Los Alamos, N.M., the government's Cold War actions sacrificed health at the altar of national security.

    In a program unrelated to Piketon, the government has paid almost $100 million to settle claims by workers and community members stemming from problems at the Fernald nuclear plant near Cincinnati.

    But Piketon has been excluded from the compensation proposal because of Clinton administration concerns that it could spark similar demands from former nuclear workers, said Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville.

    "The Department (of Energy) has got to accept responsibility for this,'' Strickland said. "There shouldn't be any attempt to be coy or to be careful. People who may have been injured in any way need to be evaluated and cared for.''

    Strickland and Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., are co-sponsoring a bill to redistribute about $1.6 billion in a special federal fund for cleanup efforts at the plants.

    The two also said they want a new Department of Energy operations office in place by March 30. The office would focus solely on cleanup of the nation's only two gaseous- diffusion plants, located in Paducah and Piketon.

    Carolyn Huntoon, the Energy Department's assistant secretary for environmental management, told a Senate subcommittee that a separate office would only increase overhead costs for cleanup.

    The Associated Press contributed to this story.


    Copyright © 1999, The Columbus Dispatch