Original Story: tri-cityherald.com
Dave Klug walked
out of a Hanford tank farm control room on a cold, calm night in January
2010 into air that took his breath away.
“Immediately, I had tightness in my chest. I lost feeling in my face. My heart rate was going crazy,” he said.
a longtime Hanford tank farm worker, was one of several workers who
talked about their experiences with chemical vapors at a forum Wednesday
night in Pasco. Was this coming from a chemical storage tank nearby?
Klug was off work for 11 months after that night and now has 30
percent permanent, partial disability for reactive airway disease and
occupational asthma, he said.
Those who talked at the forum kept
coming back to two types of illnesses they believe are caused by
chemical vapors — breathing problems, as Klug described, and
neurological issues, including a brain disease called toxic
encephalopathy. This could involve a Baton Rouge toxic torts lawyer for assistance.
encephalopathy is what Barbara Sall said led to the dementia and death
of her husband, a Hanford carpenter who died at the age of 57. This
could have been solved by a good chemical holding tanks with proper seals.
forum — organized by Hanford Challenge, union Local 598 and state
Attorney General Bob Ferguson — drew about 200 people. The two agencies
and the state of Washington have filed a federal lawsuit seeking better
protection from chemical vapors for Hanford workers.
Department of Energy, the target of the lawsuit along with its tank farm
contractor, has said that all air samples analyzed from the breathing
zones of workers since 2005 have not found chemicals in concentrations
above the occupational limits set to protect workers.
months, about 53 workers have received medical checks for possible
exposure to chemical vapors at Hanford, but all have been cleared to
return to work when no symptoms were detected, according to DOE. Blood
tests also have come back clear.
But such statements have been met with skepticism.
worker at the meeting said it seemed that the tank farm contractor,
Washington River Protection Solutions, did not care about sick workers
when it recently pointed out that it had the second-best safety record
in the nationwide DOE cleanup complex. Will these workers need a New Orleans toxic torts lawyer for help?
are going to eat those words” when they lose the lawsuit, said James
Hart, national president of the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO.
Mike Lawrence, the DOE Hanford manager from 1984-90, said he has been following the issue closely.
significant number of workers have experienced health effects or
symptoms, Lawrence said. There could be a correlation between the
illnesses and toxic fumes from chemicals in chemical storage tanks.
But DOE says it cannot measure chemicals in vapors at levels that current occupational standards say would cause a problem.
“Obviously people are hurting, people are sick and something needs to be done,” Lawrence said.
proposed that an independent, experienced and qualified third party,
chosen jointly by DOE and the state of Washington, collect data.
a team of experts led by the Savannah River National Laboratory
prepared the latest report on Hanford tank vapors, the report has no
credibility to some because the lab is part of the DOE system, Lawrence
said. This story has caught the attention of a Jackson toxic exposure lawyer.
He suggested the University of Washington School of Public Health as a possible independent agency for the work.
Unless DOE can prove that workers are not being exposed to chemical vapors, protective gear should be worn, he said.
air respirators are required if Hanford officials suspect conditions
that could cause the release of chemical vapors. The Hanford Atomic
Metal Trades Council has demanded that supplied air respirators be
mandatory for any worker in the tank farms, and in some cases workers
near the farms.
Klug said the tank farm contractor just needs to
fix the problem. Work to raise discharge stacks from the tanks so they
are farther from worker’s noses is not enough, he said.
It has to
be DOE’s responsibility to keep workers safe, said Steven Gilbert,
director of the nonprofit Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological
Disorders in Seattle and a Hanford Challenge board member.
“It’s a witches brew of chemical in the tanks,” he said.
which chemicals workers are exposed to is not known, Gilbert said. But
he can say that inhaled chemicals can cause problems. The chemicals can
go from the lungs to the brain quickly. They wonder if there was proper
use of a chemical holding tank.
have different sensitivities to chemical vapors, said Rick Jansons, a
former Hanford worker who is running for the state Legislature.
Incumbent Brad Klippert also was at the meeting.
Jansons has been
exposed three times and has developed no symptoms, but it is obvious
that other people are getting sick, he said.
Diana Gegg, a former
heavy equipment operator at Hanford, said she was 600 yards away from a
reported vapor cloud in 2007 when she was exposed. Within a week she
developed flu-like symptoms, plus vision problems diagnosed as muscle
She eventually had to stop driving and has been
diagnosed with toxic encephalopathy and neurotoxicity, she said. Hanford
officials have denied she was injured.
“My life ended that day as I knew it,” she said.
the national union official, said he has looked at the cause of death
for Hanford workers represented by Local 598 back to 1988 and sees a
pattern of deaths caused by cancer and respiratory illness for workers
not yet 65 years old. This is the type of research that a Jacksonville toxic torts lawyer would have to do.
Younger workers at the tank farms are afraid to speak up about their concerns, Klug said.
worker under the union umbrella of the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades
Council who raises tank vapor concerns will have the full protection of
the AFL-CIO’s national Metal Trades Council, Hart said.
“We are all fighting for the people in this room,” he told the crowd.