Navajos Face Uphill Battle For RECA Compensation - Doubts Cast On Canadian Seaport
WINDOW ROCK - Fifteen years ago this past Sunday, the last underground nuclear weapons test took place at Nevada Test Site. The Sept. 23, 1992, blast was one of 928 known nuclear tests conducted by the United States beginning in 1951.
In the years between 1951 and 1963, more than 100 above-ground tests were conducted. The resultant mushroom clouds became a tourist attraction at Las Vegas hotels 63 miles away, and the clouds of radioactive fallout that permeated the atmosphere drifted across the country, creating “hot spots” of radioactivity stretching all the way to New England.
But Vegas wasn’t the only place from which the shots were visible. Navajos as far away as Cameron, Ariz., have reported seeing a fiery glow in the sky that could not be attributed to the noonday sun or one of Arizona's brilliant sunsets.
Many Navajos are believed to have been exposed to radioactive fallout, which is presumed to have produced an increased incidence of certain serious diseases, including various types of cancer. But proving that exposure has been nearly impossible, according to Navajo Nation Council Delegate Phil Harrison.
Harrison, the son of a deceased uranium miner, has dedicated much of his life to helping radiation exposure victims and their survivors collect compensation under the federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
“We have people that were born and raised here and never went anywhere, and they can't come up with anything so they can't get compensated,” Harrison said.
“Residency is a big issue. It’s very frustrating. There’s nothing that they can find that says they lived there. I mean, these people were not brought in from Japan!
“Their hogan is there, their sheep corral is there, their relatives are there. They were not relocated. They were born and raised there, and yet we have to come up with an original document to tie them in to a certain designated county,” he said.
In 2000 amendments, Congress added certain counties downwind of NevadaTest Site to its list of geographic areas covered under RECA, making Navajo downwinders in Apache, Coconino and Navajo counties in Arizona and San JuanCounty, Utah, potentially eligible for compensation. Still, it’s an uphill battle.
“They don't have birth certificates, a lot of them don't have marriage certificates; a lot of them don't have immunization records. Navajos never heard of these things until probably the ‘70s,” Harrison said.
“And then there's no such thing as keeping accurate, precise vitalrecords on these people because they were born at home so we’ve got really nothing to fall back on. They've just made it so hard.”
The Department of Justice established the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program in 1992 to begin processing claims. From April 1992 through June 2007, RECP authorized payments totaling $1.2 billion for 18,110 claims. Almost half of the $1.2 billion was paid to downwinders.
The 18,110 claims represented about two-thirds of the 26,550 claims filed since RECP began in April 1992. The remaining one-third, or 7,539 claims, was denied because RECA's eligibility criteria were not satisfied, and 901 were pending adjudicationas of June 30, according to a Sept. 7 report from the U.S. GovernmentAccountability Office.
In about 40 percent (2,916) of the claims denied, claimants continued to pursue a compensation award while 1,856 refiled their claims at least once; and 1,048 pursued an administrative appeal.
Harrison said one woman in Western Agency has had her claim rejected twice. Because of the “three strikes, you're out” policy, she is now waiting for a new round of RECA amendments currently being worked on before filing the third time.
In a 1997 report, the National Cancer Institute determined that 90 atmospheric tests at Nevada Test Site deposited high levels of radioactive iodine-131 across a large portion of the United States, especially during1952, 1953, 1955, and 1957. The doses were large enough to produce up to 75,000 cases of thyroid cancer, the report said.
On the Navajo Nation, according to Harrison, “We’re coming across a lot of thyroid disorders.” Also notable are the incidences of thyroid cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and stomach cancer. ”There’s very few lymphoma, very few multiple myeloma, very few leukemia,” he said.
The incidence of cancers related to the reproductive system, which are not covered under RECA, are of concern as well. “Besides the 20 that’s listed, some of these are very questionable. It seems to me that they also should be included for the men, prostate cancer; and for women, uterine cancer,” he said.
“I just don’t know what to say to these people when they say, 'Our body is all exposed. Why are they pinpointing down to a certain primary cancer'?”
On June 3, 2005, Larry Martinez of the Office of Navajo Uranium Workers reported to the Navajo Nation Council that 176 Navajos and approximately 20 Hopis had been approved to receive RECA compensation for downwinders as ofApril 20, 2005.
Martinez said the New Mexico Tumor Registry had recorded more than 2,000 Navajos and more than 250 Hopis born before July 1, 1962, with documented RECA-compensable cancers who might be eligible for benefits under the downwinder provisions.
Consultant Doubtful About Iqaluit Seaport
Submitted by Ann VanWert
By CHRIS WINDEYER - Nunatsiaq News
A consultant who helped the Government of Nunavut create its transportation strategy is skeptical the City of Iqaluit can secure private-sector funding to build a port.
Christopher Wright, who runs the Mariport Group consulting firm in Digby, N.S., chuckled at the notion Iqaluit might find investors willing to cough up some of their own money for a port locked in ice eight months of the year.
"I think with the current turmoil in the financial markets, I think it's most unlikely anybody's going to pony up money for that," he said, referring to the sub-prime mortgage meltdown that has spooked investors. "The big problem is that it's a very expensive dock and it would be enormously costly to pay for the finance and operate it based on the amount of cargo going into Iqaluit.
"The city, stung by an August decision by the federal government to upgrade an existing port at Nanisivik for the military, is looking for private investors to help fund a container port, which could cost as much as $100 million. The city has also struck a committee, including the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation, the territorial department of economic development and transportation, and Qulliq Energy Corporation to try to figure out ways to get a port built.
Anne Crawford, president of QEC, said one solution might be to piggyback the construction of a port onto the utility's proposed hydroelectric dam that would provide power for Iqaluit. She said Qulliq wouldn't invest directly in the project but might be able to share costs. QEC also backs the project because "we have large sealifts," Crawford said.
But she said Qulliq views a port as a potential business opportunity.
"Ports take a lot of energy," Crawford said. "When a boat pulls up to the dock they want to shut down their engines and connect to a land-based system ... It would be a significant customer for us.
"QEC is mulling Jayne's Inlet as a possible site for the hydro dam. Located on the south shore of the lower reaches of Frobisher Bay, Crawford said the inlet is located below a chain of islands that run through the middle of the bay and keep the lower part of the bay free of ice for most of the winter.
"If you built on the other side of those islands you would have eight or nine ice-free months," she said.
Crawford said it's also a logical site because the company needs a landing site to build a dam. But it would also require a long, and costly, road connection running around the head of Frobisher Bay.
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