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Asbestos Exposures at Reynolds Metals Company – Massena, New York

The town of Massena, NY has long been associated with aluminum smelting. The Reynolds Metals Company opened its Massena aluminum reduction plant in 1958, on the bank of the St. Lawrence River, near the near the Massena-Cornwall International Bridge. ALCOA absorbed the assets of Reynolds Metals in 2000, but the Massena plant remained operational until March 2014. At one time, the plant employed more than 300 residents of St. Lawrence County.

The 7-acre plant produced aluminum from aluminum oxide. With a line of 500 Soderberg pots, the Massena plant’s smelting capacity exceeded 84,000 metric tons. This production capacity necessitated an 11.5 acre, onsite landfill, dedicated to industrial waste. However, Reynolds Metals was one of St. Lawrence County’s biggest polluters. Smelting pot linings were frequently contaminated with cyanide. Operations at Massena also consistently emitted dangerous perfluorocarbon greenhouse gases, cryolite particulates, and hydrogen fluoride. Additionally, the Massena plant used PCBs during the aluminum production process. Unfortunately, these PCBs wound up in the St. Lawrence, Raquette, and Grasse Rivers, as well as the soil and ambient air surrounding the plant.

Inside the Reynolds Metal plant, workers were exposed to massive quantities of asbestos fiber. The aluminum smelting process requires a tremendous amount of energy. If smelting pots cool down, they will be rendered useless when the aluminum solidifies. Accordingly, aluminum reduction pants, such as Massena routinely utilized asbestos-containing products, because of asbestos’s ability to withstand ultra-high temperatures.

Asbestos-containing insulating refractory materials, including: firebrick, blocks, cement, paste, insulation, were all necessary for efficient, large-scale aluminum production. Aluminum production workers were constantly exposed to asbestos from their work with, and around these materials. Asbestos-containing cements were frequently mixed, and applied throughout smelting lines. Workers would pour massive quantities of powdery cement into vats of water. This motion created large clouds of asbestos-containing dust and dirt. The mixture was liberally applied with trowels. Yet, workers were exposed during demolition, as well as application.

The intense heat from the smelting process would take a toll on the plant’s masonry structures and surfaces. Therefore, their lifespans were limited. Periodically, masons and laborers would be required to perform demolition of asbestos-containing refractory brick and block. In these instances, the asbestos exposures were tremendous. Toxic fibers became airborne during demolitions, and when the resultant debris were swept up and carted away. In addition to masons and laborers, sheet metal workers, and welders may have also been exposed to asbestos at Reynolds Metal in Massena, NY.

The furnaces at the Reynolds Metal jobsite contained large amounts of asbestos and those working on the furnaces or near such work were heavily exposed to asbestos. Workers have reported asbestos-containing materials being jack-hammered out of furnaces at Reynolds Metal and billowing out and contaminating the air in the plant.

Exposure to asbestos-containing dust put Reynolds Metal workers at elevated risks for developing malignancies, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. Levy Konigsberg has a long and successful history of representing victims of asbestos-related cancers, and their families. For more than 30 years, the firm has been a leader in plaintiff’s asbestos litigation. Levy Konigsberg has a reputation for litigating tough cases, against novel defendants. The firm has recently won large jury awards for residents of Upstate and Central New York. If you, or one of your loved ones, have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or lung cancer, or another asbestos-related disease, after working at the Reynolds Metals Company’s Massena, NY plant, call Levy Konigsberg today.


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