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Residents near nuke site due payments

Mary Ann Thomas
| Monday, July 2, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

It took eight years of finding paperwork and waiting on government reviews, but Helen Sobotka, 68, of Springdale, got a $150,000 tax-free payment from the federal government.

The government paid the money, which went to her late mother, because Sobotka's father, Paul “Shorty” Pastierik, died of lung cancer that was likely caused by his work around nuclear weapon components at the former C.H. Schnorr Co. in Springdale.

The federal Department of Labor recently sent fliers alerting Springdale residents to the compensation program.

“They do these mailings regularly in many areas,” said Jesse Lawder, a Labor Department spokesman.

Former workers at several other local plants could be eligible.

C.H. Schnorr provided metal fabrication services for the Manhattan Project -- which produced the United States' atomic bombs during World War II -- and machined uranium for the nuclear reactors at the government's Hanford nuclear research site.

Workers for Schnorr and its successor companies might be eligible for a $150,000 lump-sum reimbursement from the federal government if they meet eligibility criteria and have one of 22 cancers or beryllium disease.

The federal government established the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act program more than a decade ago. The program has paid out more than $8 billion to claimants nationwide so far, according to its website.

Sobotka said families of deceased workers can apply for payments. “There is no time limitation,” she said.

So far, the program has paid five Schnorr co. workers or their families $750,000. Springdale Councilman John Molnar said few Schnorr workers are still around.

Charles Schnorr started his small tool-and-die shop in the late 1930s. He was part of the “Little Businessmen's Congress” convened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 and his company grew from there, according to “The History of Springdale, Pennsylvania,” published in 2006. The company helped tool the B-19 and B-26 aircraft at the outbreak of World War II.

During the peak of the war, Schnorr employed about 400 people.

The Schnorr site was cleaned up in 1994 by the U.S. Department of Energy after the agency found elevated radiation levels “over a small area” inside the building where uranium was machined, according to the DOE's Legacy Management Department.

Independent surveys detected no residual contamination and the DOE has released the site for unrestricted use.

Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at mthomas@tribweb.com.

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