Act ignores many Copperweld worker


It was 12 years ago when Copperweld Steel closed its doors to hundreds of mill and office workers. In November a reunion was held; it was nice to see past co-workers and remember the many who passed on.

It was about Oct. 20, 2011, a number flashes across the TV screen; they were looking for Copperweld workers. It was the U.S. Department of Labor with information about the Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000.

I learned that there was an ex-order signed by then President Clinton on Dec. 7, 2000. Ex-order 13179 required the Department of Energy to list covered atomic weapon facilities. Copperweld was on the list. These companies for a period of time produced nuclear weapons or did radioactive-material-related work.

This program compensates workers or their family members who died, became ill or contracted cancer. For Copperwelders, you or your family member had to have worked at Copperweld in 1946 to receive up to $250,000 in part of the program. COURAGEOUS workers continued working there in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, 2000s and even now, and workers were never informed of the occupational hazards to which we were exposed. What a coincidence to search for workers in 2011.

The government knows the latency period for cancer can be 10 to 50 years. They know of the spikes in cancer-related illnesses of my many co-workers. The government knows the hazards that still exist in Copperweld Steel’s soil environment. This act needs to be expanded to cover workers to 2000 and beyond if they are going to have people still working on this property.

Working people should not have to be exposed or die because of their work environmental and incremental health risk while the government continues to hide their hands and leave out the past employees who they know are being affected by the radioactive materials used decades ago there.

Gale Johnson