by Laura PaskusFormer workers at a nuclear bomb factory may soon get a cold shoulder from the U.S. Department of Energy. In 1993, Congress created the Former Worker Medical Screening Program to notify and test nuke workers who might be at risk for health problems (HCN, 11/24/03: Cold war workers seek compensation). But the screening program for Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where 100,000 workers were identified as "at-risk," will expire in March — despite the fact that researchers have only located about 20,000 of the at-risk workers.
The U.S. Forest Service didn’t break any laws when it paid a public relations firm $90,000 to help out with its Sierra Nevada "Forests with a Future Campaign" (HCN, 3/29/04: Follow-up). According to a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the agency did not violate a federal law that prohibits agencies from distributing "covert" propaganda: "Because the Forest Service and USDA emblems and names are prominently displayed on the cover, the government source is clear to the audience and to readers," reads the report.
Rocket-burning has begun at Oregon’s Umatilla Chemical Depot. After years of controversy, test burns and battles with the state over emission standards, in early September, the Army burned its first sarin-filled M55 rocket (HCN, 10/28/02: The Latest Bounce). Although the rocket was destroyed, the virgin run wasn’t without problems: The eve of the burn, a worker accidentally hit an "emergency stop switch" and suspended one of the "feed gates" that allow the rocket pieces to be fed through a chute and into a furnace. Workers temporarily modified their procedure, completed the burn and reset the switch.
Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes is a monument no more — it’s now a national park. Since the 1990s, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Forest Service, Colorado lawmakers and grassroots groups have pooled their efforts to prevent water-development companies from staking a claim to the area’s water and selling it to fast-growing cities (HCN, 2/18/02: Dunes shifts toward park status). According to Patrick Myers at the park, the area’s seasonal springs "recycle the sand" as it blows across the San Luis Valley and are necessary to the long-term health of the dunes. © High Country News