The Washington Navy Yard in Washington D.C. is one of the oldest military installations in the U.S. as the first shore establishment for the U.S. Navy. Many of the construction and industrial work here contributed to asbestos exposure in and illnesses like mesothelioma in service members and civilian workers.
A History of Washington Navy Yard
The purchase of the land for the Washington Navy Yard dates back to 1799. Today it occupies sixty-three acres in the southwest part of Washington D.C. The original purpose of the yard was for shipbuilding, which began in the early 1800s.
In addition to ships, Washington Navy Yard served as a munitions and naval ordnance plant. Manufacturing remained the focus of the yard through World War II. After the war, it became an administrative center but still produced munitions and had been renamed the U.S. Naval Gun Factory.
Industrial manufacturing at the plant ceased almost entirely by the early 1960s when it once again received a new name: the Washington Navy Yard. The yard was solely an administrative center, and the plants had to be converted to office space from this point on. Today it houses the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, and the Naval Historical Center.
Asbestos at the Washington Navy Yard
Although shipyards are among the worst contributors to asbestos exposure, shipbuilding at the Washington Navy Yard ended before widespread use. The site continued as a manufacturing facility through the early 1960s, though, which means asbestos was an issue in other ways.
The site primarily served as a plant for the production of weapons. This required the use of equipment that produced a lot of heat and could potentially spark fires. Workers would have been protected with safety gear constructed with asbestos.
The furnaces, boilers, and other machinery, not to mention insulation and materials used in the ceilings, walls, flooring, and some of the weapons themselves, would also have contained asbestos. Asbestos can resist heat and fire, so it was used in many industrial applications for decades, particularly from World War II through the 1960s.
Any workers at the site who handled asbestos materials directly were at the most significant risk of exposure. Anyone who conducted maintenance and repairs of the equipment, on the insulation, or even in the area of these work activities could have been exposed to asbestos. This includes both military and civilian workers.
Superfund Listing and Cleanup
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry investigated and designated the Washington Navy Yard a Superfund site in 1998. This designation meant that it was contaminated with toxic substances that required a massive cleanup. Asbestos was just one of many dangerous toxins on the site.
Government agencies found water and soil contamination at seventeen different sites in the area. The federal government began cleaning the site. Some of the cleanup activities included:
- Removal of contaminants from the sewer system and stormwater pipes
- Removal action at the former Coal Storage Yard
- Cleaning of the sump from Building 118
- Abatement in Admiral’s Row housing
- Further evaluations of other sites and buildings
Taking Legal Action
If you worked at the Washington Navy Yard and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may have a legal case and be able to recover damages. Talk with a Washington D.C. mesothelioma lawyer to find out what you can do next to seek justice. A lawyer will help you decide your next steps and what your rights are in this situation.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.