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Published: Tuesday, 7/24/2001

Forums planned on beryllium compensation

ELMORE - Workers sickened by beryllium from the Brush Wellman plant near this city will be able to talk to federal officials Friday about a compensation program.

The town hall meetings, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the multipurpose room at Woodmore High School, is designed to help workers and eligible survivors of people who died from beryllium disease learn how to apply for benefits from the federal government.

The program is run by the U.S. Department of Labor and will provide $150,000 in lump-sum compensation as well as some medical expenses for nuclear weapons workers exposed in the Cold-War era to radiation, beryllium, or silica. This includes people who worked for the U.S. Department of Energy, including its contractors and subcontractors.

The law that provided the compensation was passed in October and takes effect July 31.

Labor and energy officials have been traveling the country this summer, explaining the program in a number of town hall meetings. Elmore, which is home to Brush Wellman's largest beryllium plant, was not originally on the town hall list but was added at the request of Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo).

“There is obviously a great deal of concern about this in Ottawa County,'' said Frank Szollosi, a spokesman for Miss Kaptur.

Workers will be able to ask questions specifically related to the compensation program. They will learn what forms they need, including work history and medical records, to apply for the aid.

“This is primarily to explain the program,” Department of Labor spokesman Juan Solano said.

There are 10 centers nationwide where workers can go to get help and file claims under the Energy Employees Occupational Injury Compensation Program. One of the centers is in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Beryllium is a strong, lightweight metal used to make nuclear bombs. About 1,200 current or former workers have contracted beryllium disease since the 1940s, including workers at the Elmore plant. The disease is an incurable, sometimes fatal lung disease.

Woodmore High School is at 633 Fremont St., Elmore.

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