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Asbestos Exposures Suffered at the C.R. Huntley Generating Station – Tonawanda, New York

The C.R. Huntley generating station was constructed by Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation in the 1940s. Situated minutes away from Buffalo, C.R. Huntley was a major employer for Erie County. For over six decades, C.R. Huntley was operated and maintained by members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Local 97. With six coal-fired boilers collectively providing enough steam to produce 760 megawatts of power, the C.R. Huntley plant and its tradespeople kept Western New York powered. Today, NRG Energy owns the plant.

Many individuals who worked at power plants like C.R. Huntley were regularly exposed to vast amounts of asbestos. Between the 1940s and 1990s, much of the equipment that was installed at these worksites contained numerous asbestos components. Products like gaskets, packing and seals were manufactured with fibrous asbestos material. Other components, like asbestos rope, cement, pipe covering, insulation, and raw fiber, were incorporated into various pieces of power-producing machinery. Without warning or proper safety gear, Huntley employees were instructed to regularly maintain and repair asbestos-containing equipment.

To generate power, the Huntley plant relied on a complex set of equipment, including six boilers, turbines, generators, condensers and various pumps. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water were pumped from the Niagara River to Huntley’s boilers. There, the boilers would heat the water until it was converted to steam. Miles of pipe would move the pressurized steam to several high-power turbines, which would spin until convertible energy was created. Then, this energy was transferred to the plant’s generators, where the energy was sent directly to the power grid.

This critical equipment, which allowed C.R. Huntley to generate power, contained numerous pieces of asbestos. Due to the dangerously high temperatures the plant’s six boilers operated at, large amounts of asbestos insulation was installed on the exterior of the machinery. Similarly, the plant’s turbines and generators contained various pieces of external asbestos insulation due to the high temperatures the equipment operated at. Huntley’s pumps and valves also contained asbestos, both internally and externally. Employees who worked with and around this equipment were regularly exposed to asbestos.

This equipment was designed to operate with asbestos products, including gaskets, packing, seals and insulation. During routine repairs and scheduled “offline” maintenance, employees and independent contractors systematically checked every piece of equipment. Often, this required workers to cut through and remove thick pieces of asbestos insulation. Once removed, workers would scrape worn asbestos gaskets and products from the equipment, and check the product for proper performance. Before finishing, new asbestos gaskets and packing were installed before exterior asbestos insulation was reapplied.

The companies who designed and manufactured the equipment and asbestos components were aware of the dangers associated with their products. As early as the 1930s, the scientific community had established a link between lung disease and occupational exposure to dust. Over several decades, various studies and articles were presented to representatives to these companies, warning that precautions must be taken to protect the users of their products. Choosing profits over the health and safety of their customers, these companies continued to manufacture products that poisoned the lungs of many of the country’s hardest workers.

For decades, the attorneys at Levy Konigsberg have represented hundreds of tradespeople who developed asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma and lung cancer, due to their work at power plants. Our team of attorneys and investigators are skilled in identifying the unique sources of asbestos exposure suffered at these worksites. If you worked at the C.R. Huntley Generating Station or another power plant and have developed an asbestos-related illness, please call today for a free consultation.

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