Weyerhaeuser Mill, Enumclaw
The Weyerhaeuser Corporation, established in 1900, was once one of the largest employers in Washington State and the Pacific Northwest. The Enumclaw mill was founded in 1889 as the White River Tree Farm. White River specialized in finished lumber, in particular Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, and Red Cedar. The mill supplied wood and lumber products to troops in the Spanish American War, as well as both world wars. Weyerhaeuser bought the mill from White River Logging Company in 1949. By the time of the mill’s closure in 2003, it employed 149 people. Weyerhaeuser demolished the mill in 2009, reclaiming much of the old-growth lumber, which could not be milled from today’s forests.
Although asbestos was not as common in the lumber mill industry as it was in paper mills, workers may have come into contact with asbestos fibers from the mill buildings themselves. For example, in 1998, a Klickitat County mill owner was fined $20,300 for improper handling of asbestos prior to demolition of the mill. In this case, asbestos was present in the mill’s powerhouse in amounts that could not be determined after the building’s demolition.
Prior to the late 1970s, asbestos was a common construction material. Valued for its insulating ability and fire-retardant properties, asbestos was frequently found in ceiling and floor tiles, pipe insulation, industrial adhesives, and a wide variety of other applications. Asbestos containing materials are most dangerous when they are friable, meaning that they crumble easily when disturbed, creating small inhalable fibers. Mill workers who encountered crumbling or exposed materials containing asbestos may have been exposed to these dangerous fibers.
Weyerhaeuser is no stranger to asbestos litigation. By 2002, the company had been named as a defendant in more than 2400 asbestos suits, 1400 of them from sailors claiming exposure on company ships in the 1940s. Sailors were frequently exposed to asbestos from insulation which was present in engine rooms, as well as in their tight sleeping quarters.
Some of the dangers associated with asbestos exposure were understood as early as the 1930s. By the 1960s, a definitive link had been established between asbestos fibers and lung cancer. Unfortunately, employers like Weyerhaeuser continued to use asbestos without proper safety equipment until the late 1970s, placing untold numbers of workers at risk of serious harm. If you or a loved one worked at Weyerhaeuser’s Enumclaw mill and suffered harm as a result of asbestos exposure, you may be eligible for compensation. Call Bergman Draper Ladenburg Hart today, for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.