The Duwamish Shipyard was a shipbuilding and repair facility located in Seattle, Washington. During its peak years, it employed hundreds of employees. Although this shipyard had many successful years in shipbuilding and repair, it also exposed thousands of workers to dangerous asbestos-containing products.
Duwamish Shipyard began as a repair and maintenance facility after it opened in 1941. But it was not until the 1970s that the facility grew into a shipyard, but that work did not last long. At its peak, it employed 200 workers that did jobs such as pressure washing, pipe fitting, grit blasting, steel fabrication, and ship machinery work.
While the shipyard did have a graving dock and two dry docks, building ships proved to be too difficult with so much competition. The facility later went back to mostly ship repair and restoration work. (mesothelioma.net)
Asbestos Exposure at Duwamish Shipyard
Workers at this shipyard were regularly exposed to asbestos, as well as petroleum hydrocarbon and arsenic metals. Most shipyards exposed workers to asbestos and toxic metals for decades before the EPA started to enforce tough restrictions.
Asbestos was mixed into hundreds of products used at Duwamish Shipyard, including insulation piping, electrical cords, machinery and paint. It was used because asbestos is highly resistant to heat, fire and chemical reactions. While asbestos has positive qualities, it is dangerous because inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause mesothelioma and asbestosis.
At the shipyard the following ship parts had asbestos in them for years:
- Electrical and plumbing insulation
- Steam pipes
- Floor and ceiling tiles
- Welding blankets
- Building insulation
Companies that shipped asbestos-containing materials to Duwamish Shipyard have faced hundreds of personal injury lawsuits. Most employees did not sue the shipyard. They filed asbestos lawsuits against the companies that provided and shipped the products that contained asbestos.
One of the biggest ways that workers at this shipyard were exposed to asbestos was overhauling barges, as well as the restoration of vessels. Most ships were built with asbestos-containing materials. When employees of the shipyard restored parts, they needed to cut through parts of the ship that released invisible asbestos fibers into the air. Workers breathed in and inhaled these fibers and some became ill with mesothelioma.
Duwamish Shipyard Cleanup
In 2010, the Washington State Department of Ecology made an agreement with the shipyard to clean up the site of asbestos and other dangerous materials. Duwamish Shipyard agreed and took responsibility for a comprehensive cleanup according to the Model Toxics Control Act.
The Duwamish Shipyard agreed to perform a remedial investigation that would collect data needed to determine the level of contamination in soil, groundwater, sediments, and stormwater.
Next, it agreed to conduct a feasibility study that used the results of the remedial investigation to propose cleanup alternatives for the shipyard.
Studies Confirm Shipyard Workers Have Higher Health Risks
The Ulster Medical Society in 2008 released a study called Asbestos and Ship Building: Fatal Consequences. It showed that workers in shipyards have a higher death rate from asbestosis that is 16 times higher than other occupations. (NIH.gov). Many of these deaths from asbestosis were on the coasts of the US, where most shipbuilding and repair is done.
The number of shipbuilding workers declined after World War II, falling from approximately 1.7 million to 200,000 in the late 1970s. Asbestos use also began to decline in the 1970s.
Clinical studies also show that military veterans have been hurt by being exposed to deadly asbestos. It is believed that 30% of all lawsuits for asbestos cancer are filed by veterans. Many of them were employed at shipyards such as Duwamish Shipyard.
Shipyards Subject of Many Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Facilities such as Duwamish Shipyard have been the subject of many mesothelioma lawsuits over the years. Some former workers of shipyards also filed lawsuits against the companies that supplied the shipyards with asbestos products.
For example, a former shipfitter in Virginia was awarded $25 million in a mesothelioma lawsuit against Exxon after he developed mesothelioma after years of work at a Virginia shipyard. He worked at a shipbuilding site in Newport News and also on many Exxon oil tankers in the 1960s and 1970s. He claimed the shipyard and Exxon were aware of the risks of asbestos but did not tell him. Exxon’s neglect resulted in one of the biggest jury verdicts in state history.
Another shipyard lawsuit was filed by a career naval machinist who died from mesothelioma in the early 2000s. He was a worker at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington, not far from Duwamish Shipyard.
His family was awarded $5.2 million after it was found that Foster Wheeler Corp did not tell workers about the risks of asbestos exposure. The worker spent most of his career at the shipyard and was required to take out asbestos insulation from boilers manufactured by Foster Wheeler. (asbestos.com)
Workers who were employed at Duwamish Shipyard who develop mesothelioma may have been exposed to asbestos decades ago. If so, they may consider talking to a mesothelioma attorney in their area; they could be entitled to compensation in a mesothelioma lawsuit.