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Asbestos Exposures Suffered at Russell Station – Rochester, New York

The Russell Station officially went online in 1948. A sister plant to the Beebee Station, both power plants were constructed and operated by Rochester Gas & Electric. The plant was spread across 124 acres of land, near Lake Ontario, and served the Rochester market for over 60 years. With four coal-fired boiler units and General Electric turbines and generators, Russell Station was once a major employer for Monroe County. Unionized labor of all backgrounds found steady work at the Russell Station for decades. After being retired from service, demolition activities at the Russell Station are scheduled to conclude in 2017.

Russell Station’s power-generating operations included boiler rooms, turbine and generator rooms, pump houses, electrical rooms and machinery rooms. Other buildings housed auxiliary equipment, raw materials and tools, including storage rooms, workshops, electrical rooms and fabricating areas. Unlike residential equipment, the machinery installed at Russell required their own buildings, often reaching several stories in height. Specially trained crews tended to equipment around-the-clock, skilled in making routine and emergency repairs. Much of this work required employees to climb into the equipment, to perform work in poorly ventilated workspaces.

Many employees of the Russell Station were regularly exposed to asbestos. Due to the dangerously high temperatures the equipment reached, much of it was insulated with asbestos material. The boiler building housing Russell Station’s four coal-fired units was constructed with asbestos concrete. Materials including block, pipe covering, asbestos insulation and spray insulation were installed to minimize employee danger. Traditionally, power plants insulated boilers with vast amounts of asbestos fiber to retain the heat generated by the boilers to produce steam. Other materials, including asbestos gaskets and packing, were installed inside the boiler to ensure proper performance.

Similarly, Russell Station’s other buildings, including the turbine building and machine rooms, were constructed with asbestos material. Asbestos insulation was installed on the high-heat equipment to retain heat and protect employees from serious injury. Products, including generators, condensers, pumps and oil tanks were regularly insulated with asbestos fiber. Much of this equipment also contained various asbestos components, including gaskets, packing, seals, block and rope. As noted by Rochester Gas & Electric, the failure of the company to properly remove this material over the decades lead to one Rochester Gas & Electric plant to close down, partly due to an inability to safely remove all of the asbestos material installed over the course of several decades.

Employees were at risk of asbestos exposure each time they repaired a piece of equipment. Between the 1940s and 1980s, much of the power-generating equipment installed at Russell Station contained numerous asbestos components. During scheduled shutdowns and emergency repairs, workers disassembled these products, and scraped worn gaskets and packing. Once cleaned, new asbestos components were installed before the product was reinsulated with asbestos fiber. Tests performed in laboratories using asbestos gaskets and packing have revealed that manipulating a single gasket or piece of packing exposed workers to thousands of asbestos fibers. Sometimes, overhaul work at these power plants required employees to change dozens of gaskets and pieces of packing on pumps and valves in a single day. Without warning or proper safety training, Russell Station employees repaired numerous pieces of power plant equipment containing asbestos components.

If you or a loved one worked at the Russell Station and have developed an illness caused by asbestos, including mesothelioma or lung cancer, please call today for a free consultation.


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