This week's RFT feature story, "Meltdown in Venice" features Larry Burgan of Granite City, Illinois, and his fight to prove that his former employer is responsible for radiation poisoning that he believes damaged his health and the health of those who live nearby the factory.
Here's a video interview we did with Burgan near Spectrulite Consortium's plant in Venice, Illinois.
Read an excerpt from the story with details about Burgan's claims after the jump...
A chaotic mountain of paper -- thousands of pages of documents, folders, hand-scrawled notes and envelopes -- rises from the dining-room table in Burgan's modest Granite City home. The walls above are plastered with religious images, embroidered biblical passages and framed portraits of Christ.
"You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a picture of Jesus in this place," Burgan says with a laugh.
Apologizing for the clutter, he clears off a chair and explains that he's spent the last six years on a crusade to prove that he and dozens of other Spectrulite employees were poisoned.
"I'm fighting all these multibillion-dollar companies," he says. "You can't get a better David and Goliath story than that. But instead of slinging stones, I'm slinging facts and records."
Burgan's uphill battle began in March 2004, shortly after he applied for the Department of Labor fund that compensates workers at nuclear-research sites. His claim was rejected, mainly because he didn't work for Dow Chemical during the period when weapons research occurred. He also didn't have one of the 22 types of cancer that the government associates with radiation exposure.
"I knew I wasn't going to be able to collect from that fund because of that," concedes Burgan. "And I hope I never have to."
Instead, Burgan considers himself a victim of "residual contamination."
"In 1960 these employees were touching the uranium, and they should be compensated, and that's fair. But from 1961, all the up way to when I worked there, the radiation was coming down and touching us."
Through the Freedom of Information Act, Burgan obtained reams of documents from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency detailing four separate radiation cleanups that took place on the grounds of the Venice factory over the past twenty years.
Included in the files was a report on the Army Corps of Engineers' cleanup that occurred in the summer of 2000, when Burgan was observing as a janitor. The records show that approximately 60,000 pounds of dust and debris containing low levels of the radioactive elements uranium and thorium were removed from the factory's rafters. Burgan worked directly beneath a spot where radiation readings measured more than thirteen times the occupational safety limit.