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Asbestos Exposures at the AES Hickling Generation Plant – Corning, New York

The Hickling generation plant is located in Corning, New York, along the Chemung Basin River. Constructed in 1948 by the New York State Electric & Gas Corporation, Hickling was originally designed to supply power to the communities of Elmira and Waverly. Featuring two coal-fired boilers and large turbines, Hickling was a medium power-producing plant, regularly generating up to 70 megawatts of energy during off-peak periods. The power plant was in operation for over 50 years before Hickling’s new owners, AES, placed it on a cold standby. Today, much of the upgraded equipment installed and operated at Hickling in the 1970s and 1980s remains.

Like many other power plants located along New York State’s waters, Hickling took advantage of an ample supply of water. Large pumps and pump stations were installed at the edge of Lake Chemung, where up to 75 million gallons of water a day were pumped to Hickling’s coal-fired boilers. These pump stations contained buildings housing various pumps, including circulating pumps, fluid pumps and condenser pumps. Other instrumentation, including various valves, gauges and governors were installed in the pump stations to control the speed and movement of the fluids being moved throughout the plant. Crews of workers trained in operating and maintaining these pumps stood around-the-clock watch over these pump stations.

Work performed at Hickling’s pump stations exposed many employees and contractors to vast amounts of asbestos dust. Some of Hickling’s pumps were designed to be insulated with asbestos, due to the heat associated with their use. Most of the pumps also contained various asbestos components, including gaskets, packing and seals. Due to the constant use of the pumps, and the fibrous-nature of the asbestos components, the packing and gaskets would regularly break down. Routine maintenance of Hickling’s pumps involved removing asbestos insulation, and scraping out worn gaskets and packing. After this was accomplished, workers would fabricate and shape new asbestos components. Because much of this work was performed in poorly ventilated workspaces, workers were regularly exposed to vast amounts of asbestos dust.

Once the pump stations moved sufficient amounts of water to the plant, the coal-fired boilers would heat the water to the point that it was converted to steam. Due to the dangerously high temperatures these boilers reached, they were often insulated with vast amounts of asbestos. Hickling’s employees who operated and maintained the boilers were tasked with regularly replacing worn-out components, many of which were made of asbestos. Unlike residential boilers, Hickling’s coal fired boilers were two stories high, with ladders and steps for workers to climb into the machines for maintenance.

Between the 1940s and 1990s, many of the components used in boilers contained asbestos. Various internal parts of the boiler contained asbestos gaskets that were constantly replaced. Other asbestos products, including asbestos rope, cement, pipe covering and insulating material, were installed inside and outside the boilers. When workers maintained and repaired the boilers, they would climb inside to make the necessary repairs. The work Hickling employees did inside these boilers exposed them to vast amounts of asbestos dust.

After the water had been converted to steam, a series of asbestos-insulated pipes moved the steam to the plant’s turbines. There, the pressurized steam forced the turbines to spin, which created convertible energy. Hickling’s turbines were housed in separate “turbine buildings” where employees dedicated to this equipment stood around-the-clock watch on the machinery. Various pieces of the turbines contained asbestos, including gaskets, insulation and rope. Like the pump crews and boiler crews, individuals who worked with and around Hickling’s turbines were regularly exposed to asbestos.

Aside from general repair duties, Hickling employees and independent contractors regularly overhauled all of the plant’s equipment during scheduled maintenance. When Hickling was taken offline, workers methodically checked every piece of equipment. Various products, including pumps, valves, air compressors, condensers, turbines, boilers and tanks were opened up and inspected. During this time, hundreds of gaskets and pieces of packing were scraped out of the machinery and replaced. Because most of this work was done in poorly ventilated areas, workers were exposed to vast amounts of asbestos dust.

If you or a loved one worked at the AES Hickling plant and have developed an asbestos-related disease, including mesothelioma or lung cancer, call today for a free consultation. For decades, the attorneys at Levy Konigsberg have represented hardworking tradespeople who suffered asbestos exposures in power plant settings. Our attorneys and investigators will assist your family in identifying the unique asbestos exposures you suffered during your career.

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