Sinclair Inlet, which is across the Puget Sound near Seattle, has been the home of several shipyards since Washington entered the US in 1889. The site eventually became the Bremerton Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
The base first was activated by the US Navy in 1891 at Point Turner and called the Puget Sound Naval Yard. The site was initially 190 acres, where naval vessel repair work was completed. It eventually grew to be more than two square miles in size. The Bremerton complex now covers at least 1,300 acres.
Bremerton is a big shipyard and many employees over the years have been exposed to asbestos there. Some employees were more likely than others to get moderate to high levels of exposure, including boiler workers and insulators. This type of exposure puts many workers at high risk of asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma.
According to a 2017 study released in the Archives of Environmental and Occupational Health, the risk of mesothelioma was evaluated among shipyard employees. Those who were exposed to a moderate amount of asbestos had a four times greater risk to die of mesothelioma. (Asbestos.com)
Bremerton Naval Shipyard History
The shipyard has been through many types of challenges and changes over the years, from two world wars, to Korea, to downsizing. The yard is still managed by the US Navy. It is still the largest shipyard on the West coast. Bremerton Naval Yard was once considered to be a Superfund site, which meant it was severely polluted with various toxins in 1988. But the designation was not actually made official until 1993. The EPA said their eight-year delay in making the designation was that much data had to be collected and the size of the facility made the decision take longer than expected.
Today, the Bremerton Naval Yard is the 17th most toxic site in the entire US. It also has been known to be a dangerous place to work or live near for decades. The yard’s work since the 1960s has included dealing with nuclear materials from the nation’s sub fleet. Many families and workers have filed complaints with the state, and Washington State agencies have fined the facility heavily.
Asbestos Lawsuits at Bremerton Naval Shipyard
Bremerton Naval Shipyard has been involved in dozens of asbestos-related investigations and lawsuits. At least 12,000 workers work at the shipyard. Because of the many issues with asbestos liability involving the Navy (with limited sovereign immunity), it is common for asbestos lawsuits to be filed against the contractors and subcontractors who have worked with the Navy at the shipyard. In most cases, these companies made the asbestos materials that were used at the shipyard.
Even though it is well known that the site is heavily contaminated with asbestos, it has been standard practice for many contractors to refuse to admit asbestos liability. In one lawsuit that was filed by the surviving son of Gary Allen against Uniroyal for using asbestos in ship insulation, Uniroyal denied there was any sign of asbestos contamination in the work Allen did, although he died from mesothelioma.
On appeal, however, the appeals court overturned the judgment, noting that strong circumstantial evidence could show there were dangerous levels of asbestos at the site.
The appeal court also noted there were previous Washington state court rulings that showed it was possible that a person could be exposed to asbestos by showing that asbestos dust drifted over the entire shipyard.
A similar result that reversed a trial court’s summary judgment for asbestos defendants, was in the case of Vernon Bratten. He worked his whole career at the shipyard as a pipefitter and he was tearing apart asbestos-coated pipes every day. He sued the maker of the piping, who designed the piping to be coated with asbestos. Braaten’s case showed the company had a duty to warn workers about the known risks of asbestos exposure in any quantity.
Some of the pollution incidents it has been fined for have been described as intentional or negligent. In addition to other waste products that are known to exist at the shipyard in large amounts, asbestos was used in all naval vessels built prior to the 1960s. Exposure to asbestos at the shipyard has led to many shipyard workers developing mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
It is clear the Bremerton Naval Shipyard unnecessarily exposed thousands of workers and their families to asbestos and many other hazardous materials. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and worked at Bremerton Naval Shipyard, it would be advised to talk to a mesothelioma attorney. It could take up to 40 or even 50 years for your asbestos exposure to lead to mesothelioma. You may be eligible for compensation from one of the contractors or subcontractors that provided asbestos-containing materials to the Navy.