Less than 50 miles from Buffalo, nestled on the banks of Lake Erie, is the Dunkirk Generating Station, which opened its doors in 1950. Originally owned and operated by the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation, the Dunkirk Generating Station was a coal-fired, four-unit generating plant, once capable of producing 600 megawatts at peak times. Servicing Western New York counties, the Dunkirk Generating station was considered one of the largest generating stations in the country. For many local communities, the plant provided decades of stable employment.

As construction ended, two large coal-fired boilers were installed at Dunkirk. A few years later, two more coal-fired boilers were installed, thus increasing generation capabilities. Other equipment, including pumps, condensers, turbines, tanks, burners and generators were installed to support these boilers. Dunkirk employees and independent contractors operated and repaired this equipment around the clock. To retain heat and prevent injury, the boilers were wrapped with heavy asbestos insulation. Several internal parts of the boiler, which tradespeople regularly climbed into for upgrades, also contained asbestos components.

At the Dunkirk Generating station, crews of workers unloaded and crushed shipments of coal. This fine coal was then stored near the boilers, and fed into them constantly. Fueled by the coal, the boilers reached extremely high temperatures, which in turn, sent out steam through its insulated pipes. Large pumps sucking water from Lake Erie supplied a constant source of water. The steam made its way to the turbines, causing them to spin, and send electricity to a large generator. At the end of the cycle, the steam produced by Dunkirk’s coal-fired boilers was sent to a cold water-filled condenser, converting the steam back into water.

The equipment used at Dunkirk to generate electricity required constant observation and repair. Because the plant featured four units, crews were able to take some boilers offline for repairs and regularly scheduled maintenance. To open the boilers, employees and independent contractors would remove sections of asbestos insulation. Then, using ladders, due to the height and size of these boilers, workers would climb into the boilers to perform necessary maintenance. Products including asbestos-containing gaskets, packing and rope were often changed, to ensure proper boiler performance.

Other equipment involved in Dunkirk’s generating activities also received regularly scheduled maintenance. When a plant went “offline,” nearly all generating activities came to a halt, so large-scale overhaul operations were coordinated years in advance. During these turnarounds, crews of independent contractors and employees took apart the turbines, generators, circulating pumps and generators. Asbestos insulation was removed, the equipment was cleaned, and fresh gaskets and packing were added.

Overhaul activities at Dunkirk exposed employees and independent contractors to vast amounts of asbestos dust. Additionally, the removal and application of asbestos gaskets and packing created airborne dust, which workers regularly breathed in. Although the companies that manufactured these products were aware of the dangers associated with their products, they failed to warn the employees and independent contractors of the Dunkirk Generating Station. Without warning, the hardworking tradesmen who kept Western New York powered were poisoned, without proper warnings or safety precautions.

For decades, the attorneys at Levy Konigsberg have vigorously represented the families of tradespeople who worked at power generating plants. Our firm has represented boilertenders, pipefitters, sheet metal workers, millwrights, operators, carpenters laborers and many other trades. The individuals who worked at these plants could have been protected from the dangers caused by airborne dust, but they were never warned.

If you or a loved one worked at the Dunkirk Generating Station and have developed an asbestos-related cancer, including mesothelioma or lung cancer, please call today for a free consultation.


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