Asbestos Exposure at Centralia Power Plant
The Centralia Power Plant used numerous asbestos-containing materials, including insulation and acoustic plaster. Many people were exposed to the toxic mineral and have developed asbestos-related diseases, entitling them to financial compensation. Workers may not know they are affected until years after their exposure. If you or a loved one worked at Centralia and has mesothelioma, contact Bergman Oslund Udo Little. Our legal team can determine whether you can file a lawsuit and fight for your rights.
Washington state is home to numerous electricity-generating power plants, including the Centralia Power Plant in Lewis County. The only commercial coal-fired power plant in Washington, Centralia Power Plant generated enough energy at its peak to power Los Angeles. The plant is expected to close permanently in 2025 under a 2011 bill and agreement signed by Governor Christine Gregoire.
The Centralia Power Plant was built with asbestos products to shield the machinery from heat and prevent fires. Pipes, boilers, and turbines are especially likely to contain asbestos. As a result, many workers at the Centralia Power Plant ingested or inhaled asbestos, causing them to develop asbestos-related illnesses, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.
The Different Types of Steam Plants in Washington State
There are three main types of steam plants in Washington state.
Fossil Fuel Power Stations
Fossil fuel power stations burn fossil fuels, such as natural gas or coal, to produce electricity. They turn the heat energy of combustion into mechanical energy. The machinery then uses an electrical generator to create electricity. The Centralia Power Plant is a fossil fuel power station that burns coal.
Nuclear Power Stations
Nuclear power stations use nuclear reactors as heat sources. These stations use heat to generate steam. The steam drives a turbine linked to a generator that creates electricity.
Governments typically use nuclear plants for base load since they have lower operations, fuel, and maintenance costs. They also have smaller carbon footprints than fossil fuel power stations.
Renewable Power Stations
Renewable power stations use renewable sources, such as water, sunlight, and wind. Examples include:
- Wind farms: These groups of wind turbines are used to produce electricity.
- Solar farms: These large collections of photovoltaic solar panels absorb solar energy and convert it into electricity.
- Hydroelectric plants: These plants use the power of moving water to generate electricity. Some use dams, while others do not.
Asbestos Found at Centralia Power Plant
The Centralia Power Plant used asbestos thermal insulation before 1985 to manage heat and the risk of fire created by coal-fired boilers and steam-driven machinery. Over time, the asbestos products deteriorated, requiring repair or overhaul and putting many workers at risk of asbestos exposure. Families of workers were also put at risk from asbestos brought home on workers’ clothing. From 1985 to 2000, Washington State Certified Asbestos Inspectors identified and removed asbestos from the plant on numerous occasions.
However, there is no clear evidence that all the asbestos was removed even after 2000. This means people who worked at Centralia Power Plant before 2000 had a high chance of asbestos exposure, but those who worked at the plant after 2000 may also have ingested or inhaled asbestos.
Centralia Power Plant workers may have also been exposed to asbestos through the following products:
- Acoustic plaster offered noise reduction inside the power plant. Asbestos was added for additional fireproofing properties.
- Asbestos blankets were used to control heat, prevent burns, and prevent fires in power plants.
- Asbestos pipe coverings were used to control heat and prevent burns and fires.
- Boilers contained asbestos insulation, packing, and gaskets.
- Asbestos-containing cement was used for many products, including fireproof covers for electrical equipment and heat-resistant asbestos cement pipes.
Electricians, pipefitters, insulators, maintenance workers, welders, and other laborers had the highest risk of exposure. They directly handled asbestos by fitting, sanding, drilling, and cutting products that released asbestos fibers.
These workers may have exposed their loved ones to asbestos by returning home with fibers attached to their skin, hair, and clothes.
Additionally, engineers, managers, and others who did not work directly with asbestos were at risk of exposure.
Risks of Mesothelioma for Steam Plant Workers
Asbestos exposure is the sole known cause of mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that grows in the mesothelium, the thin layer of tissue surrounding most of your abdominal organs.
Mesothelioma can take 15 to 50 years to develop after asbestos exposure, with the typical mesothelioma latency period being 15 to 20 years. People develop the condition from ingesting or inhaling asbestos fibers. The fibers cause mesothelium tissue to inflame, leading to scar tissue plaques. Over time, cancerous tumors can grow within this scar tissue.
Mesothelioma symptoms vary depending on the individual and type. The three main types of mesothelioma and their symptoms are:
- Pleural mesothelioma affects the pleura, the lining of the lungs. It can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, painful coughing, and strange lumps of tissue under the skin on your chest.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the peritoneum, the lining of the abdomen. It can cause abdominal pain, nausea, abdominal swelling, and unexplained weight loss.
- Pericardial mesothelioma affects the pericardium, the lining of the heart. Symptoms include chest pain and breathing problems.
Although mesothelioma treatments exist, mesothelioma is usually fatal. Talk to a doctor immediately if you believe you have symptoms associated with mesothelioma.
In addition to mesothelioma, asbestos exposure can also cause other forms of lung cancer and asbestosis, a condition involving lung tissue scarring and stiffening that leads to breathing difficulties.
Legal Options for Steam Plant Workers Exposed to Asbestos
Medical costs for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases can be costly, especially if you need multiple treatment types. If you or a loved one has mesothelioma due to working at a power plant, talk to a Bergman Oslund Udo Little asbestos lawyer as soon as possible. Our lawyers can determine prospective legal options for financial recovery. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be eligible to file:
- A personal injury lawsuit: If you developed mesothelioma or another disease while working at the Centralia Power Plant, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the companies responsible for exposing you to asbestos. This includes the plant’s builders and owners and the manufacturers of asbestos products used at the plant. A successful personal injury lawsuit compensates you for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. You can also file a personal injury lawsuit if a family member worked at Centralia exposed you to asbestos fibers on their clothing.
- A wrongful death lawsuit: If a family member died from an asbestos-related disease from working at the Centralia Power Plant, the family can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the companies responsible. A successful wrongful death lawsuit compensates for funeral and burial costs, the deceased’s lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. You can also file a wrongful death lawsuit if the deceased was a family member of a Centralia Power Plant worker and exposed to asbestos from the worker’s clothing.
- A mesothelioma trust fund claim: If you developed mesothelioma after exposure to an asbestos product created by a now-bankrupt company, you may be eligible to file an asbestos trust fund claim. Bankrupt asbestos manufacturers created asbestos trust funds to compensate asbestos exposure victims. Trust fund claims typically process faster than mesothelioma lawsuits. Claimants typically receive compensation within several months.
Bergman Oslund Udo Little mesothelioma lawyers have represented asbestos-exposure and mesothelioma victims throughout the Pacific Northwest for over 25 years. We have litigated hundreds of mesothelioma cases, including appeals and jury trials. Our lawyers are skilled, experienced, and dedicated.
Contact a Bergman Oslund Udo Little asbestos attorney to learn more about your legal options. We have offices in Seattle and Portland, Oregon.