Asbestos in Oregon
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was heavily mined and consumed throughout U.S. history. Up until 2004, new construction of homes and buildings contained the mineral in a variety of applications.
In the mid-1970s, the mineral was listed as a carcinogen and started to be regulated by certain government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, its use is still not banned in the United States. Coming into contact with the toxin increases the risk of developing serious asbestos-related diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Although the use of the mineral has significantly decreased, many buildings and homes still contain it. The state of Oregon still contains an alarming amount of asbestos, exposing its residents.
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As a result of the natural abundance of asbestos deposits in Oregon, the state has a deep history of use. Between 150 and 200 facilities in Oregon exposed workers to asbestos.
Common contaminated locations in Oregon include:
- Asbestos mines
- Lumber mills
- Metalworks facilities
- Paper mills
Government listed contamination sites in 2004:
- Supreme Perlite Company
- Vermiculite-Northwest Inc.
Asbestos Production and Mines
Several locations throughout Oregon mined and produced asbestos for commercial purposes, including the Mount Vernon deposit in Grant County, the Raspberry Creek deposit in Jackson County, and the L.E.J. Asbestos mine in Josephine County.
In 1959, the Coast Asbestos Company, who managed the Mount Vernon deposit, began production. The mine produced as much as 5,000 pounds of fiber every eight-hour-shift.
Shipyards were common in Oregon because of the state’s coastline location. The shipyards used asbestos-containing products to produce ships, exposing thousands of workers to the carcinogen. Peak production around World War II relied heavily on the hazardous material products because of its durability and fire resistance.
Oregon shipyards that may have exposed workers to harmful toxins include:
- Albina Shipyard
- Astoria Voyage Repair Station
- Cascade General Shipyard
- Dyer Shipyard
- Northwest Marine Ironworks
- Portland Shipyard
- South Portland Shipyard
- Swan Island Shipyard
- Tongue Point Naval Shipyard
- Willamette Iron and Steel Yard
Workers may have come into contact with asbestos at metalworks facilities. Metalworking involves the use of processing metal and creating individual parts or large-scale structures. Before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) implemented work regulations, these facilities were a source of asbestos exposure.
Metalworks Facilities that may have exposed asbestos:
- Burns Air Force Station
- Chiloquin Lumber & Box Company
- Martin-Marietta Aluminum Co.
Superfund Sites in Oregon
In response to toxic waste dumps receiving national attention in the late 1970s, Congress established the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) in 1980.
Superfund is an informal name for CERCLA and allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up contaminated sites. The law forces the companies responsible for the contamination to clean up the sites or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanup.
In some cases, no viable party is responsible, resulting in Superfund giving the EPA the funds and authority to clean up the contaminated sites. Some of Superfund’s goals are to protect human health and the environment and hold responsible parties accountable for their contamination.
The EPA places a site on the National Priorities List (NPL) when it tests positive for contamination. There are various Superfund sites in Oregon that contain asbestos, according to the EPA.
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North Ridge Estates
Located in Klamath Falls, Oregon, the North Ridge Estates built their residential community on the site where Marine Recuperational Barracks facility operated in the 1940s. The company’s buildings were contaminated in its pipe insulation, vinyl floor tiles, and roofing. When the community demolished the buildings, workers covered the debris in soil instead of taking the waste elsewhere.
The EPA placed the North Ridge Estates on the National Priorities List in 2011. The EPA removed and cleaned up asbestos-contaminated soil until its completion in 2018.
River Street Warehouse Fire
In 2017, a fire broke out at the River Street Warehouse in North Portland, along the Willamette River. After the fire, the assessment of the warehouse and nearby properties determined that the roofing paper contained a significant amount of asbestos.
The fire caused the roofing paper to become friable, or easily crumbled when touched. The wind blew ash and debris from the fire, sending fibers airborne. The waste reached the southwest of the river, in a densely populated residential area. The EPA continues to assist in conducting air monitoring, surveying the area for debris, and addressing asbestos contamination at the warehouse and in the residential area.
The EPA and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality classified the Martin-Marietta Aluminum plant as hazardous in 1984. Martin-Marietta Aluminum Co. operated between 1958 and 1987 and carried out years of improper waste disposal, including asbestos-contaminated soil, sediment, and groundwater.
The EPA eventually declared the site a Superfund and placed it on the National Priorities List. The site was taken off the list in 1996, when cleanup efforts removed around 200,000 cubic yards of waste and debris.
Have You Been Exposed?
If you think you may have been exposed to asbestos in Oregon, you may be likely to develop an asbestos-related disease. It is important to speak with your doctor about your exposure sooner than later. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may qualify for compensation. Fill out our free case evaluation, and our team will connect you with an asbestos lawyer.
Let a mesothelioma lawyer handle your claim. They are best equipped to handle complex cases on your behalf.