From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder):
Benefits for workers sickened by Cañon City’s atomic legacy will be outlined at a federal Department of Labor town hall Wednesday morning.
The department oversees a program designed to compensate nuclear workers for cancer and other maladies associated with mining, hauling and processing uranium. Over the years, dozens of workers at Cañon City’s Cotter Mill have claimed their illnesses were caused by exposure to uranium and other toxic substances.
Now, the federal government wants to make sure sick workers get paid.
“The goal of the meeting is to make current and former nuclear weapons workers living in Colorado aware of the program and to assist them in finding information to determine eligibility for available compensation and medical benefits,” the Labor Department said in a news release.
Miners hit massive uranium deposits along the Front Range in the 1950s and the mill in Cañon City was built to process it into “yellow cake” – uranium oxide – which can be refined into fuel for reactors and weapons parts.
Processing uranium, though, left the mill in Cañon City marred by toxic leach fields and tailing ponds that were later deemed to be a federal Superfund cleanup site.
The leaching left water contaminated with heavy metals and solvents in unlined storage ponds that continue to drive worries over groundwater contamination.
The site, under supervision from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, has been at the center of a controversy over how to clean up the damage.
A settlement agreement reached over the summer says Cotter will pay for continued cleanup under state supervision.
Taking care of workers falls under the Labor Department, which has administered health care and compensation for nuclear workers since Congress in 1990 approved the Radiation Exposure Act.
The act offers lump-sum payments and health care coverage for those sickened by radiation work that fell under the federal Department of Energy.
In recent years, Labor Department experts have held regular meetings in Cañon City to advise workers on the payments.
More nuclear coverage here.