Buffalo Pumps Company History
Buffalo Pumps, a subsidiary of Ampco-Pittsburgh Corporation, has been in the business of engineering and manufacturing centrifugal pumps since 1887. Located in North Tonawanda, NY, Buffalo Pumps employs over 100 people who are involved in the manufacture, sales, and service of commercial pumps. In addition to designing and manufacturing custom pumps, Buffalo Pumps also has a research and development facility for testing reliability and durability of their pumps. Current Buffalo Pumps products include vertical lube oil pumps, navy and marine duty pumps, slurry pumps, and refrigerant pumps. Markets and applications for these products include refrigeration, chemical process, general service, mining, navy/marine, power generation, pulp and paper. The defense market has been a major source of business for Buffalo Pumps throughout its history.
Buffalo Pumps was originally named the Buffalo Steam Pump Company and manufactured single and double-piston pumps. Beginning in the early 1900’s, the company began to manufacture centrifugal pumps. Marine applications of the pumps began before WWI. Buffalo pumps were used in WWI Liberty ships and the WWII Lexington aircraft carrier was outfitted with the largest marine pump ever built. In the 1930’s the company was purchased by the Buffalo Forge Company and became the Buffalo Pumps Division. In 1979, Buffalo Forge and all its divisions, including Buffalo Pumps, were acquired by Ampco-Pittsburgh Corporation. Ampco-Pittsburgh Corp. is a publically traded company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Its two main operating businesses are forged and cast rolls and air and liquid processing. Buffalo Pumps is a division of the Air and Liquid Systems Corporation of Ampco-Pittsburgh.
Products Manufactured by Buffalo Pumps that Contained Asbestos
Centrifugal pumps are designed to move fluids through a system. Often pumps are needed to move high temperature fluids or acidic/corrosive chemicals. Because asbestos is a heat and chemical resistant natural mineral fiber, it was often used in the gaskets, valves, and packing materials for pumps. From 1955 to 1985, some of the gaskets and packing materials supplied with Buffalo pumps contained asbestos. In addition, Buffalo Pumps provided replacement gaskets and packing that may have contained asbestos.
Beginning in the 1970’s, use of asbestos began to decline as it became clear that excessive and prolonged exposure to asbestos could lead to severe health problems. When materials containing asbestos are disturbed, the microscopic particles are released into the air. When inhaled, these particles can become embedded in lung and other tissues. Asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma, asbestosis, and mesothelioma lung cancer. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration), NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health), and WHO (World Health Organization) all support the link between asbestos exposure and the development of mesothelioma.
Buffalo Pumps products that may have contained asbestos in the packing materials (stuffing box) or gaskets, include (but are not limited to) the following types of pumps:
- Single Suction Full Ball Bearing Pumps – Classes CH, CL, CM, CS, CO, CSS
- Double Suction Full Ball Bearing Pumps – Classes SA, S, SLH, SU, DSS, SW
- Paper Stock Pumps – DS, DSH
- Sewage Pumps – E, RS, RSL
- Multistage Pumps – RR-2, RR-4
Because Buffalo Pumps modified the stuffing box and gaskets to suit the final application of the pump, the above products may be available both with and without asbestos-containing products. Specifically, asbestos packing was used in pumps designed to be used at temperatures up to 180° F and with rubbing speeds up to 1000 RPM.
Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
Workers in a variety of different trades may work directly with or around pumps. Tradesmen who worked in close proximity to Buffalo Pump products from 1955-1985 are especially at risk for exposure to asbestos and development of asbestos-related disease. Types of workers at risk for asbestos exposure include plumbers, steamfitters, construction workers, workers at power-generating plants and oil refineries, miners, and workers in the pulp and paper business. Other trades working with pumps include: boiler repairmen, maintenance workers, insulators, shipyard workers and those working in the HVAC trade. Many navy veterans may have also been injured by asbestos from Buffalo Pump products. Those who repaired the pumps on these ships worked in tightly confined quarters and were highly susceptible to being exposed to airborne asbestos while doing the repairs.
Because asbestos fibers can be released into the air during routine maintenance and repair of pumps, other individuals in the workplace or naval vessel who did not work directly with pumps may also have been exposed. Airborne asbestos can also cling to clothing and be brought into the home, exposing family members.
Asbestos has been in use in the United States since 1900. Its use peaked from about 1940-1970s. The EPA estimates that 27 million people were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1980.
According to the Ampco Pittsburgh 2009 Annual Report to Shareholders, there were 8,168 open asbestos claims at the end of 2009 and 3,336 unresolved claims for that same year. The company and / or its insurers paid $28,744,000 in gross settlement and defense costs in 2009 alone.Sources