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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Higgins recognizes the life of Dr. Jim Melius

All WNY News     Wednesday, January 17, 2018    


Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) recognized the life and work of Dr. James Melius, a champion for worker rights, including those responding to Ground Zero following 9/11 and Western New York employees exposed to radiation during the Cold War.  Melius passed away on January 1, 2018.

During the Cold War era, workers at several Western New York worksites including: Bethlehem Steel, Carborundum, Hooker Chemical, Linde Ceramics and other facilities helped build the nuclear arsenal.  Without adequate monitoring or protections, many of the employees at these plants were exposed to high levels of radiation, which in some has led to cancer or other health problems.

For years local Bethlehem Steel workers sought to have their cases for compensation be considered under a Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) rather than the process of "dose reconstruction," which is especially difficult since many of the records necessary are no longer available.

During Dr. Melius' term as Chair, the National Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health agreed, at the request of Congressman Higgins and others in the delegation, to hold a meeting in Western New York to hear directly from local retirees and their families.

Following that meeting Dr. Melius led a motion to approve the Bethlehem Steel SEC petition for those employed between 1949-1952, making it easier for eligible retirees to apply for and receive deserved benefits. Under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP) employees whose claims are granted are entitled to $150,000 in compensation.
As a result, to date Bethlehem Steel retirees and their families have received a total of $242.6 Million and Carborundum, Hooker Chemical and Linde Ceramics workers have been awarded a combined total of over $76 million.

Congressman Higgins paid tribute to Dr. Melius on the House Floor:
"Mr. Speaker, today I rise to honor the life of Dr. Jim Melius, who passed away on January 1st. 
"Possessed of a technical expertise and a fierce sense of justice, Dr. Melius was a tireless advocate for people who, due to no fault of their own, were exposed to toxic and deadly substances in the workplace. 
"He was a powerful force in our efforts in helping thousands of Western New Yorkers get long overdue relief for suffering caused by their unknowing exposure to uranium at long-shuttered plants like Linde Ceramics, Hooker Chemical, Carborundum and Bethlehem Steel, where, to date, over $300 million in compensation and medical bills has been paid out to former employees. 
"With a calm and steady demeanor, he gave instant credibility to any fight, he was a tremendous resource and he was a good man. 
"While our fight to provide full and fair relief for all of these citizens continues, we will never forget this fighter for the cold war warriors. 
Dr. Melius is also recognized for his efforts on behalf of Ground Zero workers and is credited for his work advancing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. 


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