Adak Island has been federal property since 1867. During World War II, the island’s Aleutian residents were evacuated to internment camps, and Adak was used to launch offensives against Japanese island targets. Following the war, the US Navy maintained its presence, officially taking ownership of 76,800 acres on the northern half of the island in 1959. In 1992, the Naval Air Facility at Adak was proposed as a “Superfund” site, due to extensive environmental contamination. The Naval Air Facility officially closed in 1997, but the US Navy maintains a radar station off the coast. Clean up and restoration efforts continue on the island, now a part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
During WWII and in the years that followed, asbestos was prevalent both in the ship-building industry and in general construction. Naval vessels made extensive use of asbestos, particularly as pipe insulation. This type of pipe insulation was often made of amosite, a variety of asbestos mined in the Transvaal Province of South Africa. Amosite is a highly friable form of asbestos, meaning it crumbles easily, releasing airborne particles which can then be inhaled by workers. Due to its friable nature, amosite (commonly known as “brown” or “gray” asbestos) is considered one of the most dangerous forms of asbestos exposure. Sailors kept in tight quarters with limited ventilation were often exposed to these fibers, as were the ship builders who installed the insulation without safety equipment.
In addition to asbestos exposure from ships based at Adak, workers on Adak Island may have been exposed to asbestos fibers in any of the 149 buildings which the Navy identified as possessing friable, accessible asbestos-containing materials. In 1998-99, the Navy “repaired, removed, and evaluated all friable, accessible, and damaged ACM in buildings that posed a threat to human health and safety.” As of 2000, materials containing asbestos (most of them non-friable) remained in 35 buildings at the former Naval Air Facility.
Some of the risks of asbestos exposure were understood as early as the 1930s; however the US Navy continued to make use of asbestos-containing materials until the late 1970s. The understood dangers of asbestos were not always properly managed, leaving ship builders, sailors and other Naval Air Facility workers at unnecessary risk of harm. If you or a loved one worked on, or were stationed at Adak Island and have developed mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.