Photo Credits Author:Boston Public Library Licensed under creative commons
Finch, Pruyn, and Co. is a paper products manufacturer headquartered in Glens Falls, New York. Located north of Albany, NY, the Finch Pruyn paper mill has been an important part of the economy of Warren County since its very beginnings. The mill has employed many people from New York’s Capital District and the North Country and helped the city of Glens Falls thrive throughout the twentieth century. Despite this, the company and the mill have been criticized by the Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations for the use of hazardous substances in their operations, including the carcinogen asbestos.
Workers who were employed at the Glens Falls Finch, Pruyn, and Co. paper mill prior to the 1980s were likely exposed to asbestos while performing its routine duties. Asbestos was used in nearly all areas of the plant, including equipment and components in the main manufacturing area and the on-site powerhouse, as well as in the construction materials of the buildings themselves.
The companies that sold asbestos equipment and materials to the Glens Falls paper mill never warned the public of the dangers of these products. As a result, workers were not made aware of proper safety procedures required for working around asbestos and did not know to take precautions. Even a single exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma. Many of these workers were exposed for years at a time and did not learn of the danger they were in until it was too late.
Belluck & Fox, LLP, has represented clients who worked at Finch Pruyn in Glens Falls, including boiler repairmen and laborers. It has records regarding the Glens Falls plant in the library, including maps, photographs, and documents that show the purchase of asbestos products from a number of companies. These companies never warned people that asbestos products were dangerous, even though asbestos was known to cause illnesses as far back as the 1920s. As a result, many workers – including former employees of Finch Pruyn – are being diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Finch, Pruyn, and Co. began in 1865 when Samuel Pruyn, along with Brothers Daniel and Jeremiah Finch, purchased the Glens Falls Co. Sawmill for $110,000. The company was originally organized as a general logging and lumber business but was restructured to focus on papermaking in 1904. Following a $750,000 refit, the Glens Falls plant began producing its first reams of newsprint in 1905. In the 1940s, Finch Pruyn expanded into producing higher-quality papers and grew over the next several decades both in personnel and product output. The company was sold in 2007 to Finch Paper Holdings, LLC; an investment group formed by Atlas Holdings, LLC, and Blue Wolf Capital Management, LLC. The new company initially retained around 850 Finch, Pruyn, & Co. employees, but layoffs in the following years have reduced that number significantly. New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation also announced its intention to purchase nearly 70,000 acres of forest property from the company, expected to begin officially in 2013, representing the largest expansion of state preserve land in well over a century.
Asbestos was Used at the Finch, Pruyn & Co. Mill
The Finch, Pruyn, & Co. mill at Glens Falls was situated along the Hudson River, near the southern border of the town. Not only did this provide the company with a transportation route for lumber early on but eventually contributed to the high levels of energy required to operate the mill. Prior to the 1980s, the hydroelectric power plant the company co-owned with Niagara Mohawk contained many asbestos parts and materials, directly exposing workers tasked with the repair and maintenance of the plant. Electrical components were insulated with asbestos, as were turbines and often even the wiring that would carry this power throughout the complex. Pipes used to deliver high-temperature water throughout the Finch Pruyn mill were insulated with asbestos on the outside. This insulation needed to be scraped off when the pipes required maintenance or repair and reapplied as cement when these jobs were completed. When raw asbestos powder was mixed with water to form this cement, the action resulted in clouds of asbestos dust released into the air. This cement was often applied to the pipes with bare hands because workers were never informed of the dangers of asbestos.
The boiler house was another area of concern for Finch Pruyn employees. The boilers themselves, large vessels that provided heat, hot water, and steam for the mill, were insulated with asbestos and contained asbestos brick within. The tools and instruments on these boilers, such as soot blowers and gauges, were affixed using asbestos gaskets. Pumps, valves, and pipes were joined to the boilers and one another using asbestos gaskets as well. Gaskets are rings of asbestos fabric used to create seals where metal parts were joined together. They often needed to be cut to size from whole sheets of asbestos, which would release fibers into the air. When this equipment required regular maintenance or repair, the asbestos would need to be removed by scraping and wire brushing, which would release millions of asbestos fibers as a dust.
Another area of concern was the Pulp Mill. This section of the mill was where raw lumber was ground into pulp, then bleached and processed. The large industrial saws and grinding machines used in this area utilized asbestos brakes. Brakes are exposed to a great deal of heat and friction by their very nature and wear down over time. When these machine brakes were made from asbestos, millions of tiny asbestos particles were released each time they were used. This asbestos dust was a threat to everyone in the plant and was often inhaled or ingested by workers as they breathed.
In the Paper Mill portion of the Finch Pruyn complex, the processed pulp was converted into finished reams of paper in large paper machines. These machines used rollers covered with a type of asbestos cloth called dryer felts, used to help remove water from the pulp. In addition to these felts, there were asbestos machine brakes used on the mechanical equipment in the paper mill.
Even the administrative building used asbestos, since asbestos was very often used as a construction material prior to the 1980s. All of the buildings on the site contained asbestos construction materials, including tile, drywall, and insulation. Fireproofing is a concern wherever large amounts of lumber products are stored and processed, so many areas of the paper mill used asbestos fireproofing spray. Not only did this expose mill employees to asbestos, but employees of contractors as well. Construction projects were especially dangerous, because they often involved breaking and reworking asbestos materials, which would not only create asbestos dust but agitate it. This would make the dust more likely to be inhaled. Airborne asbestos dust has a tendency to settle on hair, skin, clothing, and shoes. Known as “take-home exposure,” this dust would cling to workers until they returned home, and eventually release the dust into the air of their own homes. Many family members of asbestos workers were exposed this way, greatly increasing the number of people at risk from workplace asbestos exposure.
Do You Have Mesothelioma? We Can Help.
Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma. Although it was a known harmful substance, asbestos was used in products sold without warnings or safety instructions. Former Finch Pruyn employees who have developed mesothelioma or other asbestos diseases have the right to seek compensation. Settlements obtained can pay for treatment of the disease and help families. Act quickly after being diagnosed with an asbestos disease because the law limits the time to bring a claim.
Mesothelioma victims need to hire attorneys who are familiar with asbestos cases, lawyers who have successfully taken on the asbestos manufacturers and know the ways in which people were exposed. The attorneys at Belluck & Fox have won over $500 million from corporations that sold asbestos products to consumers and industry, and have represented victims who were exposed to asbestos while working for Finch Pruyn. We know the company’s sites and already have documents and research regarding their use of asbestos.
The asbestos lawyers at Belluck & Fox make every effort to address our clients’ specific needs. We know the strain that battling mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases can place on your life, so our experienced mesothelioma lawyers can make accommodations to meet with you in your home, and will handle all the work on your case, rather than referring you to another law firm. It is also important to keep in mind that there is no financial risk in retaining our services; we only receive payment if we recover money for you and your family. Our offices can be reached at 1-877-637-6843 or through our online contact form.