BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - The federal government has paid almost $5.5 million to people who have illnesses tied to their work decades ago at the Salmon Nuclear Explosion Site southwest of Hattiesburg.
The Sun Herald reports (https://bit.ly/1Y7ti0e ) that 56 claims came from the Salmon site, commonly known as the Tatum Salt Dome.
Workers exposed to radiation and other toxic substances at the site from 1964 through 1972 have filed the medical claims, said Amanda McClure, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Labor.
Former federal workers, contractors and subcontractors “who were diagnosed with cancer and whose cancer was caused by exposure to radiation while working at the Salmon Nuclear Explosion Site during the covered time period are eligible for lump-sum compensation and medical benefits,” she said in an email.
Employees with beryllium disease or silicosis may also be eligible, McClure said, as well as survivors of qualified workers.
The federal government exploded two nuclear bombs underground at the Mississippi test site. Scientists who drilled down into the site brought contaminated soil to the surface, prompting years of cleanup efforts.
Beyond the $5.5 million in medical claims, the federal government paid money to the 400 residents who were evacuated before the blasts and for property damage claims after the explosions.
The buildings were razed. A monument at the site warns people not to drill or dig.
In the 1990s, scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy drilled 55 wells near the site to test the water. The department spent $1.9 million for a water system so residents in the area wouldn’t have to use well water.
In 2010, the federal government declared the site safe and transferred 1,500 acres to the state. The state health department as late as 2013 was monitoring the site and nearby water for tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The energy department still monitors the groundwater and surface water there.
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