Thomson-Hayward opened for business in 1917 and today is known as Harcros Chemicals, Inc. The company has been privately held since a management buyout in 2001 and is a distributor and producer of industrial chemicals. There are 28 branches of the company, located in 20 states, primarily in the Midwest and Southeast.
Today, the company claims that it is committed to safety and quality. Its plant in Kansas City is registered as ISO 9001, as are its distribution branches in Shreveport, Louisiana; Mobile, Alabama; St. Louis, Missouri, and others.
The Louisiana chemical plant, according to the Louisiana DEQ, is now owned by Elementis. The facility was first occupied by Thomson-Hayward in 1931, when operations began there. Pesticides were produced at the site from the 1940s up until the 1970s. Up until the late 1980s, chemicals such as dry cleaning fluids and commercial pest control products were manufactured. Industrial and commercial activities ended in 1988, and the property is now unoccupied.
Chemicals from the plant were found in soil studies in 1988. There were also traces of tetrachloroethene, trichloroethene, 1,1,1-trichloroethane and 1,2-dichloroethene found in the New Orleans storm sewer system. This prompted the Louisiana DEQ to issue a compliance order for the site, which resulted in several actions in 1989 and 1990, including the removal and plugging of storm drains and sewer lines at the property, demolition of ground tanks, and excavation and off-site disposal of soil.
The EPA conducted various inspections of the site after 1989 and conducted off-site sampling in 1995. It determined that off-site contaminants were within acceptable limits; therefore agency referred the site back to the state.
Asbestos and the Thomson-Hayward Chemical Plant
For the majority of the last century, whenever combustion or extreme heat was a risk, the mineral called asbestos was used as a building material. Chemical plants like the Thomson-Hayward Chemical Plant, as a result, were often built with materials that contained asbestos. One of the other properties of various forms of the fibrous mineral is that they resist chemical reactions. Ceiling tiles, insulation, work surfaces, even protective garments, therefore, commonly were made with the fibrous mineral. There is no doubt that asbestos was very good at protecting against high heat and flames. This benefit, however, came with a horrible cost in terms of human health.
Amosite was often the kind of asbestos utilized in such locations. Amosite is one of the amphibole varieties of the asbestos family of minerals, which is commonly thought to be more likely to lead to disease than the serpentine form. This amosite, in the form of asbestos transite, was utilized in chemical plants and labs throughout the US for many years before it was outlawed for construction purposes in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite could be sprayed onto ductwork and pipes and laminated just as cement could. Generally, new items built with transite were safe because the asbestos particles were trapped in the transite. However, when transite with asbestos containing material (ACM) got older, it became prone to becoming powdery, which enabled the deadly, tiny fibers to flake off into the atmosphere. When it is in this state, it is considered friable, a term that is used for materials that are easily crushed. Industrial kilns also frequently contained friable asbestos in insulation linings.
Why Is Friable Asbestos a Problem?
Friable asbestos is hazardous since in this condition the particles can be easily dispersed into the atmosphere. Diseases such as cancer can result from breathing asbestos. In addition, exposure to asbestos has been shown to be the primary causal factor of mesothelioma, an unusual but frequently fatal disease affecting the mesothelium, the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, as can occur if those tiny particles become airborne and land on food or in drinks, can result in peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma.
Since research resulted in a better knowledge of asbestos' serious effects on human health, people today benefit from the protection offered by stringent guidelines regulating how to use asbestos. Asbestos use was much more common, however, when facilities like the Thomson-Hayward Chemical Plant were first operating. Before present-day rules were put into place, employees often labored without respirators or other safety gear in environments where asbestos particles clouded the atmosphere.
The Lurking Hazard of Asbestos
In contrast to many job-related injuries, which are readily observed and known about soon after the causing incident, malignant mesothelioma can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to appear. It can also be challenging to identify asbestos-related ailments since the symptoms can be mistaken for those of other, less serious disorders. Those that were employed by or spent much time near places such as the Thomson-Hayward Chemical Plant should, therefore, notify their doctors about the chance of exposure to asbestos. Experimental treatments for asbestos cancer are being discovered, and early detection provides patients and their doctors the highest chance of beating the previously always-fatal disease.
Harcros Chemicals, Inc. - About Us
Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality - Remedial Activities and Site Closure Report
Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality - Final Decision Document for the Final Remedy of Thomson Hayward Site
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal