The Buffalo News - National

Bill would aid steel plant workers harmed by radiation


News Washington Bureau


WASHINGTON - Rep. Jack F. Quinn on Tuesday introduced a bill that would help former Bethlehem Steel employees win compensation from the federal government for health problems stemming from the company's nuclear weapons work.

While 907 former Bethlehem employees have applied for federal compensation under a 2000 law, only 138 have been approved. That's largely because that law offers compensation only to people who worked at nuclear sites while weapons work was going on there - in Bethlehem's case, 1949 through 1951.

A recent National Institutes of Health study showed that contamination could have hurt workers long after nuclear work was completed at at least eight onetime industrial sites in Western New York, including Bethlehem.

That's why Quinn, R-Hamburg, introduced his bill, which would make former workers eligible for compensation through the time when all nuclear materials were removed from the Bethlehem site.

"Many of these former workers are running out of time, and they deserve congressional action to ensure the security and welfare of their families' future," Quinn said.

Reps. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, and Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, signed on as original co-sponsors to Quinn's bill.

If the bill is passed, additional former Bethlehem workers would be eligible for $150,000 lump-sum payments if it's proved that they contracted cancer or other diseases through radiation exposure.

An aide to Quinn said the bill only covers the former Bethlehem workers because they're the only ones who have had the full battery of required tests.

Quinn and Slaughter may introduce another bill aimed at expanding the same benefits for former workers at other onetime nuclear sites in the region, the aide added.

Those other sites include Linde Ceramics, Seaway Industrial Park and Ashland Oil in the Town of Tonawanda; Bliss and Laughlin Steel of Buffalo; Titanium Alloys Manufacturing in Niagara Falls; Simonds Saw and Steel in Lockport; and the West Valley Demonstration Project.


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