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Paducah workers honored at local reception

October 27, 2016

October 27, 2016

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News & Events

BY MALLORY PANUSKA [email protected]

Decades spent working at nuclear enrichment facilities like the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant have taken a toll on the health of thousands of employees, and groups like the Cold War Patriots don’t want their legacies to go unnoticed.

The association, representing roughly 40,000 nuclear complex workers across the country, has named Oct. 30 the Cold War Patriots National Day of Remembrance.

On Tuesday, members honored about 100 former and current Paducah plant workers at a reception at the Julian M. Carroll Convention Center. “Many of these workers were exposed not only to radiation but a whole toxic mix of chemicals and solvents that ultimately created health consequences for them,” said Tim Lerew, chairman of Cold War Patriots.

In 2000, the federal government passed the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, which compensates individuals who became ill from exposure to toxins while working in nuclear weapons production.

Glen Newtown, a former Paducah plant worker who handled security and oversight of contract operations from 2003 to 2012, was one of the workers who took advantage of the program. He said he became sick with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the latter part of his employment and was able to see a doctor through the EEOICPA program and obtain treatment that helped him fully recover.

He said he enjoyed reminiscing with the other plant workers Tuesday, who were all part of the same work family. “At this stage in your life, it doesn’t matter who was the boss or who was the worker there, we were all in this together,” Newtown said. “We had a role to play in national security. We were all part of that national defense industry.”

Stories like Newtown’s are exactly why Lerew said the Cold War Patriots established the day of remembrance. “We’ve been trying to make sure they don’t forget about the human legacy,” he said. “The national day of remembrance is to do just that, make sure the nation doesn’t forget the sacrifice through the health (issues) or deaths of the individuals from these plants.”

The remembrance day celebrates the current and former workers at all nuclear plants across the country. Stewart Tolar, a retired Paducah plant worker who spent 32 years working mainly in human resources, has traveled to many of those plants in his current role with the EEOICPA program and helped countless workers obtain benefits.

Tolar said he has helped bring $800 million to the workers in the Paducah plant, $140 million of which was paid out in medical benefits. Locally, he helps refer sick workers to obtain medical treatment at the practice of his daughter and daughter-in-law, who are both doctors. The practice, Meals & Tolar Impairment Specialists, provides impairment ratings for EEOICPA beneficiaries.

“It’s compensation for people who have worked at the plant and have illnesses or who have died and have survivors,” he said.