The Michigan Daily-Friday, May 4, 1979-Page 7
Utah man: Radiation killed family
Second of a three-part series
ST. GEORGE, Utah (Reuter)-
Elmer Pickett, who owns Elmer's Har-
dware Store on the main street here,
said his wife died of leukemia. And so
did his niece.
"Then there was my grandmother.
She died of cancer. Two of her brothers
in this area also died of cancer," he
"SOME OF MY aunts died, a sister,
sisters-in-law, the whole gambit."
He thought for a moment and then he
said: "Yes, ten of my immediate
family have died of some form of can-
cer since the authorities began testing
atomic devices in Nevada'in the 1950s
and early '60s.-
Man elaims federal
govt misled citizens
axe to them, but those people in power
who knowingly made this happen . . ."
His words trail away as though he
cannot bring his mind around to think of
what form the punishment should take.
GOVERNMENT officials have said
there is no scientific evidence to link
cancer deaths to the atomic test ex-
plosions detonated at the Nevada
I f il if you could (check rorv faimil Y /ia liri'(l
in this tvrritorv you would fnd,, v incl,,,dd
victimlis of ti> ,,t'st (tsting of atomic r vr tc 's in
Ne'ada in thu, 1950's). (>rtainlv v"rory firilY I
know has had casualti's. It mnst I/ thu- radia-
tion. ' , -Elnr Pickett, ha rrwari' stor wotnir
in St. G'orgi>, Utaoh
"And I come from a long-living
family. We have no background of can-
cer in our family."
PICKETT, A quiet, conservative man
of standing in this Mormon community
who thinks over his swords carefully
before he utters them, grasped the
ledge of his shop counter and said: "I
really feel those who subjected us to the
dangers of those tests, knowing the
hazards, are guilty of murder ina sense
and there should be some punishment.
"I don't think we should take a meat-
Commission tested more than 80 atomic
devices in Nevada before atmospheric
tests were replaced by underground
tests in 1962.
"SOME HOURS after there was an
explosion, a huge dark red cloud would
come over this area and dump its
radioactive fall-out," Pickett said.
"We were a little apprehensive to
start with, but atomic energy officials
assured us there was no danger. They
said we did not have to worry because
there was no more exposure than what
testing site, 150 miles to the west.
But nearly 650 legal suits seeking
government compensation totalling
more than a billion dollars have been
filed in this area on the grounds that the
tests caused cancer, leukemia, and
other related diseases, according to
lawyers preparing the cases.
The now-defunct Atomic Energy
you would get from an ordinary X-ray.
"But we have found out since there
was a lot more danger than they were
IN 1951, the Atomic Energy Com-
mission set the standard for civilian
exposure to radiation at five roentgens,
a scientific unit used to measure the
amount of penetrating external
radiation a year. Under present gover-
nment standards, people should receive
less than 0.5 roentgens a year.
"I have an uncle who lives out of this
area who has just celebrated his 100th
birthday," Pickett said. "Many of my
relatives living out of this area are in
"My grandfather and father were
pioneer morticians as well as builders
in this area. They were the only mor-
ticians here until the late 1940s and,
going back over their records of 25 to 30
years, we can't find any case of
"Then all at once this area was inun-
dated with leukemia. My wife got
leukemia and it took her in nine mon-
ths. She was just 38 years old.
"AND, DURING that time in 1960
when she was fighting her illness in a
Salt Lake City hospital, I visited doc-
tors and radiologists and they all said
they were being inundated with
leukemia cases out of southern Utah.
"They felt the vases had to be caused
by radiation and I said we had to get af-
ter the government. But they said it
would break you to even try.
"They said they had already
discussed the matter with officials and
the government would not admit to
anything," Pickett continued.
"WE HAVE BEEN asking for an-
swers for years and have been
stonewalled. The government has
denied anything it has done could cause
any of this.
"I feel if you could check every
family who lived in this territory you
would find they included victims of the
tests, Certainly every family I know
has had casualties.
"It must be the radiation because
that was the only thing that was dif-
ferent in our way of life.
"THIS IS A middle-class town of
small farmers, stockmen and ranchers
and small businessmen. A lot were not
insured and the hospital and other costs
have been crippling. I had a little bit of
insurance but the costs have been
Mr. Pickett, fearing his words might
make him appear a rebel, quickly ad-
ded nothing had really changed in this
slow-moving town of 16,000 people in
this southwestern corner of Utah.
"We are still patriots who believe in
this country. We believe we are way
ahead of the second-best country," he
PICKET'f FEARS anti-nuclear
groups are intending to use the case of
St. George to support their cause.
"This is not the image we want," he
said. "I feel we have got to have
nuclear energy and I feel it can be
developed to the point where it can be
used safely," he said.
"The question that faces all of us here
is unanswerable - how do you replace
"But there is the tremendous dollar
expense to be considered. Some form of
compensation is needed.
"But what is fair and just I would not
like to hazard a guess. Certainly
something has to be done," Pickett
is preserved on
The Michigan Daily
420 Maynard Street
Township taxpayers must
pay extra for farmland
City taxpayers will not have to pay
extra property taxes to the state, as a
result of a Washtenaw County Board of
Commissioners decision Monday night.
Taxpayers in outlying townships will
instead pick up the extra taxes, which
will increase township taxes by two to
four per cent over and above increases
already envisioned by the county, ac-
cording to chief County Tax Assessor
THE POSSIBILITY of extra taxes for
Ann Arbor came up when the State Tax
Commission (STC) decided recently
that Washtenaw County had under-
assessed the value of agricultural land
in the county.
The STC accepted county assessmen-
ts for industrial, residential and com-
mercial property, but did its own
assessment of agricultural land.
The STC assessment raised the state
equalized value of agricultural proper-
ty by about $27 million - resulting in
about $117,000 in extra taxes for the
The city would have had to come up
with 39 per cent of the extra taxes if the
Board of Commissioners had decided to
distribute the extra taxes among all
county taxpayers, since the city con-
tributes that percentage of taxes to the
total collected in the county.
Instead, the board voted to place the
burden of extra taxes on the taxpayers
in the townships, where the agricultural
out of town?
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