Asbestos Exposure in Powerhouses
Powerhouses or power plants produce electricity. Energy generation is most commonly achieved through burning fossil fuels such as coal or oil, though alternatives such as hydroelectric dams, nuclear plants, and fields of solar panels or windmills also exist. Nearly 400,000 Americans are currently employed in power generation jobs, and hundreds of thousands more are retired employees of the industry.
Prior to the 1990s, power stations extensively utilized asbestos equipment and materials, including pumps, valves, boilers, tanks, and turbines. This equipment is still in place in some plants. The mineral fiber asbestos, used as gasket material, packing, insulation, and cement, is the only known cause of the highly aggressive cancer mesothelioma. Asbestos would crumble to dust during routine maintenance and replacement of asbestos-containing parts and equipment. When this dust is inhaled or ingested it forms fibrous tissue in the lungs that can develop into mesothelioma anywhere from 10 to 50 or more years after initial exposure to asbestos.
How Asbestos Exposure Occurred
Power plant workers maintain many types of equipment at power generation and distribution plants. These workers include pipefitters, electricians, maintenance mechanics, boiler operators and tenders, plumbers, welders, and laborers. Workers were exposed to asbestos when installing, inspecting, maintaining, repairing, removing and replacing boilers, pumps, valves, heaters, electrical boxes and other equipment.
Boilers heat water into steam which is used to create electricity. Asbestos was used to insulate the interior of the boiler and the exterior of the boiler. The interior materials were usually firebrick and refractory cement. The external insulation was usually asbestos covering in the form of cement or thermal insulation. Boilers also used asbestos in gaskets on the boiler door, various access windows and plates, and where the boiler was connected to piping or equipment. Boilers contained many components that used asbestos packing and gaskets such as soot blowers, valves, and pumps.
Boiler workers would have to install, repair, and replace asbestos insulation on the inside and outside of boilers. This was an extremely dusty process. In addition, gaskets on boiler doors, windows, plate, and other connections would have to be changed on a regular basis. Packing in pumps and valves also had to be regularly replaced. This process was also dusty.
Turbines take the steam from boilers and use it to turn generators to create electricity. Turbines used asbestos to insulate the inside and outside of the turbine. This asbestos was often in the form of blankets or thermal insulation. Turbines were connected to numerous pumps and valves which required asbestos-containing packing and gaskets. The packing and gaskets also contained asbestos.
When turbines were inspected and maintained, these materials had to be disturbed, exposing power plant workers to asbestos.
Pumps and valves move water and oil to the boiler, steam to the turbines, and a variety of chemicals to other equipment. There were hundreds of pumps in powerhouses including boiler feed, steam, water, oil, chemical, and cooling pumps. These pumps were insulated with asbestos on the outside of the pump. They also contained casing gaskets and flange gaskets. Pumps also used packing in glands to seal the pump.
When pumps were opened up to be cleaned, inspected, repaired or replaced, the asbestos covering on the pump was disturbed. Pump gaskets would need to be removed and replaced when pumps were repaired. Packing material would wear and need to be repaired and replaced on a regular basis.
There were thousands and thousands of valves located in power plants. Valves control the flow of material through pipes and to various pieces of equipment. Valves are insulated on the outside with asbestos. Valves also contain bonnet and flange gaskets containing asbestos and asbestos packing to seal the stem of the valve.
When valves were repaired or replaced, the external insulation would need to be removed. Valve packing would need to replaced on a regular basis to make sure the valve stem did not leak. Gaskets on the bonnet would need to replaced when a valve was opened up for repair, and flange gaskets would need to be replaced when a valve was removed. Valve packing and gaskets would be scraped or removed, and this would create asbestos dust in the air.
Coolers, Blowers, and Fans
Coolers, blowers, and fans provide air for various processes, move material into boilers, and regulate the temperature in powerhouses. There were fans on boilers to push air through for combustion and to remove ash. Fans were insulated with asbestos and also contained asbestos gaskets and packing.
When workers opened up a fan for repair or inspection, asbestos insulation was disturbed and asbestos gaskets and packing would be scraped.
Power plants have other equipment like compressors, pipes, conveyors, heaters, and evaporators that were insulated with asbestos and contained asbestos gaskets and packing.
As with other equipment, asbestos was disturbed by power plant workers during installation, repair and removal.
Legal Help for Power Plant Asbestos Exposure
Workers who were employed at power stations prior to the 1990s are at a high risk of developing mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases. The companies that made and sold asbestos products knew asbestos was dangerous as far back as the 1920s, yet continued selling their products for decades without warning workers or educating them about safe handling procedures.
People who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma are victims of the asbestos industry and have the right to seek compensation from the companies that caused their illness. To maximize the chance of legal success, however, it is important for asbestos victims to speak to attorneys who are thoroughly experienced in handling these types of cases.
Belluck & Fox was founded to find justice for mesothelioma victims and their families. Our attorneys have a history of success in taking on the asbestos industry and have won over $500 million on behalf of our clients. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma call 877-MESOTHELIOMA or contact us online to set up a free consultation.
To learn more, click here to receive a free mesothelioma information package.
Powerhouses in New York
LILCO / Long Island Lighting Co.
- Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant
- Far Rockaway Powerhouse
- Northport Powerhouse
- Barrett/Island Park Powerhouse
- Glenwood Landing Powerhouse
- Port Jefferson Powerhouse
- East Hampton Powerhouse
- Babylon Powerhouse
- Oswego, NY
- Nine Mile I & II
- Fitzpatrick Nuclear
- Oswego Steam Station
- Glenmont Power Plant
- Sheridan Avenue Steam Station
- Buffalo > Huntley Station
- Dunkirk > Dunkirk Station
- Ithaca > Cornell Steam Station
- Olcott > Summerset Station
Rochester Gas & Electric
- Rochester Gas & Electric Rochester > Bee Bee Station
- Ontario > Ginna Nuclear Station
- Russel Station
Consolidated Edison (ConEd)
- 59th Street Powerhouse-Astoria
- 74th Street Powerhouse-NY, NY
- Astoria Powerhouse-Astoria
- Ravenswood Powerhouse-Queens
- Arthur Kill Powerhouse-Staten Island
- Kent Avenue Powerhouse-Brooklyn, NY
- Hudson Avenue Powerhouse-Brooklyn, NY
- 14th Street Powerhouse- NY, NY
- 39th Street Powerhouse-NY, NY
- Indian Point Powerhouse Unit II- Buchanan, NY
- Hellgate Powerhouse-NY, NY
- East River
- Kips Bay
- Hunts Point
- Sherman Creek
- Van Nest
Central Hudson Gas & Electric
- Roseton Powerhouse-Roseton, NY
- Danskammer Powerhouse-Newburgh, NY
Orange & Rockland Utilities
- Lovett Powerhouse-Tompkins Cove, NY
- Bowline Powerhouse-Havestraw, NY
New York State Electric & Gas Company
- Dresden Power Plant-Dresden, NY
New Jersey Utilities
- Jersey Central Power & Light/GPU
- South Amboy/Werner
- Oyster Creek
- Gilbert Station
- Public Service Electric & Gas/PSE&G
- Trenton/Mercer/Duck Island
- Jersey Central Power & Light/GPU
New York State Power Authority
- Robert Moses-Lewiston, NY
- Indian Point PH Unit III-Buchanan, NY
- St. Lawrence/Franklin Roosevelt
- Jarvis Plant
- Frederick Clark Energy
- Crescent Plant
- Vischor Ferry Plant
- Blenheim-Gilboa Plant
- Kensico Project
- Poletti Project