The annual cancer survivor celebration and walk will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 7 at the site of the Monticello Uranium Mill on the southeast edge of town.
The celebration will include the dedication of an interpretive kiosk at the mill site, the lighting of luminaries and a survivor torch walk.
A Cancer Walk will be held on Saturday, May 8 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Monticello High School track.
The mill was constructed near the beginning of World War II and operated until the early 1960s. While the millsite and surrounding properties have been thoroughly cleaned in a $250 million Superfund clean-up project, the Monticello Victims of Mill Tailings Exposure Committee (VMTE) have documented hundreds of cases of cancers and other health impacts that may have been caused by the mill tailings.
The Utah Department of Health completed a study several years ago that determined there were elevated cancer rates in Monticello that could be attributed to the operations of the uranium mill.
That finding was useful in securing funding from the federal government that can be used for a variety of purposes, including no-cost cancer screening services for people who lived in the area.
“This celebration is to reach out and let people know what services are available,” said Barbara Pipkin, who has been involved in VMTE projects for many years. “If we don’t use them, we will lose them.”
While explaining the wide range of assistance that is available, Pipkin continued, “Basically, because of the funding through the Senator’s offices, we can offer people help, screening, travel costs, and some treatment costs. It is an invaluable thing that the Senators have helped provide us this money.”
The comprehensive health care reform bill, recently signed into law, may have a specific impact on Monticello. The law allows residents of any place with a designated public health emergency, to get medical screening and other services covered by Medicare. Under a 30-year-old law, Libby, MT has been the only health emergency site declared. Its contamination came from asbestos released by the former W.R. Grace vermiculite mine.
Montana Senator Max Baucus said, “I think it’s only fair that people who are so adversely affected by asbestos should receive some assistance where the administration declares that area to be a public health emergency.”
The VMTE Committee feels that Monticello should receive similar designation, and be eligible for similar assistance.