Employees Recount Stories of Radiation Exposure

From the Pittsburg Tribune

The 1960s and 1970s was a time when some workers for the former Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. (NUMEC) were so contaminated by radiation, health and safety technicians stripped them and scrubbed their bodies for hours. Often, their clothes were bagged and buried at the nuclear waste dump in Parks.

Now, doesn’t that sound like fun?

But they didn’t complain to the boss:

 

 

Back then, most of the workers at NUMEC and later Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) — the former nuclear fuel processing plants in Apollo and Parks, didn’t tell their stories publicly. They feared retribution, loss of their jobs or compromising loyalty to the company and their co-workers.

 

 But some had courage.

Two decades ago, the workers who channeled company documents and government reports on the hazardous conditions at NUMEC and B&W to Leechburg environmental activist Patty Ameno insisted on meeting her in places at night where they could not be seen — in parking lots and along the dark and winding Dime Road in Parks.

 

 They had to expose the shit that was going on.

 

“With regard to health and safety of the workers and the community, the Apollo plant was an abomination,” Ameno said. “NUMEC’s laundry area was a nightmare,” Ameno said in her testimony citing a company confidential document stating, in 1968: ” … health and safety problems are becoming critical … the exposure problem is serious … high plutonium levels in the laundry means someone is being exposed at the plutonium plant (Parks).”

[T]he company was plagued by typical product development issues.

“Through the course of these activities as in any development, occurrences such as spills, overflows on floor, lab benches, hoods, etc., overheats, crusty hot plates and the like contaminated the area and personnel,” according to Haley.

“Health and safety rules were in place but often circumvented by workers to meet priorities,” Haley said. For instance, it was common for a worker, who knowingly was contaminated, to use a family member or a co-worker who wasn’t contaminated to provide a urine or a fecal sample so the employee could continue to work to earn money, according to Haley. “And sometimes the guy in the glove box heard the annoying sounds of the air sampler and unplugged it,” he added. Many of the workers were more accustomed to handling steel than uranium, and that contributed to the contamination,” Haley added.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Employees Recount Stories of Radiation Exposure

  1. Pingback: bastard.logic

  2. Pingback: Uranium, health, and investment « Politics’n'Poetry

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