DOL, NIOSH, Boeing and the plight of the Santa Susana and De Soto workers, Part 1

For those of you who are not familiar with the intricacies of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP) I recommend that you visit the Energy Employees Claimant Assistance Project for more information.


Part 1 of this blog will share my concern about Boeing employees involvement during the meeting of the Advisory Board on Radiation and Workers’ Health Work Group meeting for the Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) petitions currently before the board for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) and the De Soto Facility.  Part 2 will discuss the Department of Labor’s (DOL) position for these two petitions.


This was a virtual public meeting.  If you’ve never participated in one, the participants are named and/or their live-feed is shown.  This, and other webinars I’ve attended, also have a way to submit live comments or questions to all participants.


The petitioner, D’Lanie Blaze, alerted me early on in the meeting that there were representatives from the Boeing Company on the call.  Why would they be on this call?


Boeing is responsible for cleaning up Area IV of SSFL.  Simply put, Boeing bought out some divisions of Rockwell International’s.  Rockwell was a DOE contractor for SSFL, De Soto, Rocky Flats, and Hanford at one time.  Boeing assumed all liability that those Rockwell Divisions incurred. 


Except for EEOICP claims.  The legislation indemnifies Boeing and all other DOE contractors from liability for workers’ compensation claims due to exposure to hazardous materials.  So why are they on this call? Their bottom line will not be affected if these claimants are compensated.


Why do they care about this obscure program and whether claimants will be automatically compensated?  The money isn’t coming out of their bank account.  In fact, DOE pays Boeing to retrieve worker employment records.


After the meeting, Ms. Blaze vented to me.   She thought it was rude and disruptive for Mr. Earl Sorrels, Radiation Safety Officer/Health & Safety Specialist at The Boeing Company's Santa Susana Field Laboratory, to submit comments to all of the participants while presentations were being delivered.  Apparently, Mr. Sorrels was unaware of the protocol surrounding federal board meetings.  Or was he?


During the Board’s technical advisor’s, Sanford Cohen and Associates (SC&A) presentation, Mr. Sorrels submitted a link to the participants shortly after SC&A mentioned that one process at De Soto never reached fulfillment but was instead given to the University of Missouri.


Sadly, I have to admit that I was distracted by this link and its 442 page document, too.  I stopped listening to the discussion to see if the university was a covered facility (No!).  Then I did a quick check to see if there was a DOE document about this process and the university (Yes!).  I imagine some board members were also momentarily distracted.


The second interruption was made during Ms. Blaze’s presentation. Her powerful statement defending the petition included calling out Boeing for not providing complete employment and radiation records for the claimants who worked at SSFL and De Soto.  Below is a copy and paste version of what Mr. Sorrels submitted: 


From Earl Sorrels to Everyone:  11:49 AM


I see a distinct lack of CAM alarms in the incidents. If a glove had a pin hole from a wire brush at Rocky Flats or PFP at Hanford, CAMs go off pretty much immediately and I had 30+ people lined-up for nasal swabs with bioassay for positive swabs. Contaminated worker exposure reports followed. Just an observation from the Pu facilities.



Mr. Sorrels had no seat at this table.  He was nothing more than just another member of the public no better or no worse than any other person who listened to this meeting.  What he did is comparable to someone in an audience at an in-person meeting standing up in the middle of someone’s speech and interrupt with irrelevant comments.  Truly, the comments and link Mr. Sorrels provided had no bearing on the discussions.


Mr. Sorrels owes an apology to the Board’s Work Group members, John Barton of SC&A and the petitioner, Ms. Blaze.

Watch for Part 2 in the near future.