By Laura Frank, Rocky Mountain News
November 7, 2007
More than 800 people who worked in the top-secret Building 881 in the early years of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons site will now qualify for automatic compensation if they develop radiation-related cancer.
U.S. Labor Department officials said Tuesday that they should not have been left off the list of people who could qualify for streamlined aid.
That means people such as widow Marlene Shannon could get immediate help. “I’m glad for everyone else, too,” said Shannon, whose husband worked in Building 881 and died of a cancer with known links to radiation.
It is not clear why Building 881 was left off the list initially. It was one of the site’s largest buildings and was repeatedly brought up to officials as a site for potential neutron radiation, a type of radiation that would qualify workers for automatic aid.
The government ruled this year that Rocky Flats workers who might have been exposed to neutron radiation between 1952 and 1966 should get automatic compensation.
Shelby Hallmark, program director for the Labor Department, blamed Health and Human Services Department officials for leaving Building 881 off the original list of nine buildings whose workers could get streamlined aid. Officials there could not be reached for comment.
The Labor Department issued the list of eligible Rocky Flats buildings Oct. 15. On Oct. 25, advocates for the ill workers complained to Labor officials about Building 881 being left off the list. On Oct. 31, a Labor Department official sent word to the Denver office that Building 881 would be added to the list.
Hallmark said it was a misunderstanding that kept Labor officials from disclosing the decision this week when the Rocky Mountain News asked about the status of Building 881.