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Dog and Pony Show

August 28, 2010 

At the town hall meeting of August 23, 2010, I called the meeting a “Dog and Pony Show”. What I meant by that is a simple show, with simple acts, meant to entertain children. Our government is treating us like easily entertained children. For our years of dedicated service, our government returns negligent, and capricious stewardship.

The so-called town hall meeting of August 23, 2010, was not an open forum. Representative Emanuel Cleaver put it together, with resources available from GSA, DOL, NIOSH, EPA, MODNR, DOE, and NNSA. The problem is, we heard the same old sad refrain. “We are here to help you,” and “the Bannister Federal Complex is completely safe,” and the unspoken “there has never been an environmental health issue at the Bannister Federal Complex.” When in fact, by bringing three Sheriff’s Deputies, the message was the exact opposite. It was a show of force, indicating that the government holds all the cards, and that we must be satisfied with any crumbs they might throw our way. I recently saw a quote I think it is appropriate to share.

            When citizens fear the government: you have tyranny!

            When the government fears the citizens: you have liberty!

The government’s game is to knowingly raise and lower the individual’s expectations until the individual gives up: resigned to the fact that he or she will never get the reward. It is an example of a passive/aggressive display of power one can exercise on at will over another. If, for example, you offer a bone to a dog, he gets excited and hopeful. By then openly and obviously snatching it back every time, after several iterations, most dogs give up and will not attempt to get the bone when it’s offered. Very few dogs will think of attacking the one playing this evil game on them to just take the bone. In fact, the dog thinks that the problem is that he or she did something wrong!

The doctors from NIOSH, despite being unaware that the OSHA limitations for inhaled or ingested radioactive materials was only 10 mCu/year, insisted that they didn’t think that the Promethium incident could have caused any health problems. Repeatedly stating that everyone, on average receives a dosage of nearly 350 mCu/year. However, that average dosage is a whole body exposure, limiting simply by area the amount that hits vital organs, and limited further in that the skin, muscles, and bone serve to absorb a good deal of it. The OSHA limitation for Occupational Exposure to Radiation is 50 mCu/year for workers in the nuclear industry. By making arguments based upon a theoretical, average annual total exposure of 350 mCu/year was intentionally misleading, and deceptive as to just how dangerous additional dosage is. The reason the dosage for inhaled or ingested radiation is so low is simple: having a radioactive contamination deep in your body, perhaps inside critical organs like the lungs, brain, liver, pancreas, lymphatic system, kidneys or stomach puts the radiation right where it can do the most damage.

Further, NIOSH insisted that they had reviewed the data on all of the other environmental contaminants at the site, and had seen nothing to suggest health concerns except, perhaps, Beryllium. Their proposed course of action is to test the few people that had been previously diagnosed as having Sarcoidosis, and only if any of them were found to have Beryllium sensitivity or Beryllium disease, expand the testing…maybe. This course of action is just what might be expected, if they were trying to absolutely minimize the pool of potentially affected personnel.

Let’s look at the facts. In the last seventy years, the Bannister Federal Complex has been used as a leading edge manufacturing facility, first as a WW2 aircraft engine plant, and thereafter as a Cold War site for the manufacture of components for nuclear weapons. In its 1987 site evaluation, EPA identified 673 toxic and/or carcinogenic environmental contaminants on the site; including but not limited to: arsenic, lead, mercury, beryllium, trichloroethylene, benzene, and toluene. There is precious little data available, and the suspicious would suggest that someone very carefully made sure that that such data was not available. However, there is even less data available on the contaminant levels in the workspaces on the GSA side of the building.

Yet, the NIOSH doctors dared look me in the eye and say that they knew it was and always had been completely safe! When I argued that they had no data, NIOSH vehemently replied, “We’ve looked at TONS of data!” However, I maintain any assurances are at best incomplete, and at worst negligent. Now, why would I maintain that position in the face of the government experts, and why should you believe me?

First off, there is an ongoing Inspector General review of the Bannister Federal Complex with regard to the National Priority List as a Superfund site. With that review incomplete, with further data being collected, how does NIOSH dare take such a stand? Just what data are they looking at? They might be looking at the data from the annual reports to MODNR; they might be looking at the minimal environmental tests done inside the buildings. However, none of the historic testing looked for all 673 of the known contaminants. Even if it had, the timeline would hardly have allowed for a comprehensive evaluation of the health hazards of all 673 contaminants. There is one way out. If NIOSH wants us to believe them, rather than simply expecting us to trust them, maybe they might try actually proving what they say! We will not be reassured by a casual dismissal of our concerns. They cannot make us go away with a wave of their hand! Instead, why doesn’t NIOSH make all of the data they have looked at public, show all of their work, and subject it to a peer review by the AMA? I am sanguine about the chances of that happening. Part of NIOSH is tasked with doing the Dose Reconstructions for people trying to make an EEOICPA claim, and then taking that data to determine if the claim meets the required 50% probability threshold. As part of this process they developed a computer program, which peoples lives depend on, and yet, they have disallowed any third party review of its logic.

Secondly, there are the synergistic effects of being exposed to multiple, low level contaminants, where even only considering pairs of contaminants, there are over 35,000 possible combinations! Perhaps, for instance, the airborne levels of benzene, toluene and trichloroethylene are cumulative, with regards to causing pulmonary or neurological problems. However, no studies have been done, and any contention without considering even the possibility of synergistic effects is arrogance at best and negligence at worst.

Finally, there is the data. At every turn, when initial results suggested expanded testing and evaluation of health and environmental concerns, someone aborted all such efforts. Whoever did so, managed to muddy the waters, keeping the real extent of the problems from coming to light. However, in doing so, they violated federal law, making this a criminal matter for the federal courts. Any federal employee found to have aided in any cover up, is guilty of criminal conspiracy. If we cannot get justice through the Executive or Legislative branches, perhaps it is time to try the Judicial Branch! How confident would EPA, NIOSH and DOE that their story would stand up if the FBI and DOJ were put on the case?

At the meeting, I spoke briefly to Representative Emanuel Cleaver. When I pointed out the blatant double standard the Federal Government has promulgated by gleefully forcing BP Oil to pay 4 million dollars to the families of those killed in an industrial accident, and yet only offering $150,000 as a maximum award to people that were forced to endure a horrible, slow, painful death as their bodies were eaten away by cancer; Representative Cleaver’s reply was, “It might take 5 or 10 years to get a new bill through.” Is this the problem with Washington? A bad program, poorly designed, poorly administered, and miserly to the point of gallows humor, is better than trying to do something to set it right? So, are we, and all other potential pools of victims of environmental contamination caused by the Federal Government or their contractors doomed to face bureaucratic obstinacy, legislative miserliness, and executive apathy? If a private employer were found to have caused any injury to one of their employees, the victim is allowed to seek reparations for lost wages, health costs, pain and suffering, and punitive damages, yet this law doesn’t recognize any injury short of cancer, nor does it consider the lost wages or other factors that should push compensation to victims into the millions. EEOICPA is unconstitutional, as it, by decree, allows the government to take property in the form of expected wages, and causes loss of years of life without any consideration for compensation.

It is up to YOU! Remember:

            The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.

Bureaucrats recognize no master but themselves. NIOSH has spent nearly as much money doing their dose reconstructions and turning down applications as has been paid out to claimants! In effect, every claim they pay comes out of their budget to their way of thinking, and yet they claim to be impartial! Worse yet, the design of the whole law enforces delay; as the information is transferred between five different federal agencies! EEOICPA is a bad law; poorly designed, poorly funded, poorly administered without review, and it is time to make a change.

One thing that Representative Emanuel Cleaver failed to do, was his homework: despite calling a meeting was that was to cover EEOICPA, when asked about changing a bad law, he apparently didn’t know that there is already a bill before both the House of Representatives and the Senate to overhaul the EEOICPA, called the Charlie Wolf Nuclear Compensation Act (S. 757; H.R. 1828) http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s111-757, http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-1828. This act is designed to make EEOCIPA more “user-friendly” and help these claimants get the compensation they deserve. Further, a group of lawmakers sent a letter to NIOSH asking them to change their procedures under the existing law  (http://blogs.knoxnews.com/munger/letter.pdf). This bill, sponsored by Senator Udall (D-CO) and Representative Polis (D-CO), addresses many of the problems EEOICPA: such as shifting the burden of proof and allowing people such as contractors and members of other federal agencies to seek compensation under the Act. Still, even this new bill does not go nearly far enough. The bill still does not cover all cancers, nor are non-cancerous tumors that require a woman still in childbearing years to have a hysterectomy. Further, compensation is still far too low. How is it fair that for people who are dying a slow terrible death by an incurable disease rate a payout equal to less than two years salary?