Connecticut Light and Power Company History
Connecticut Light and Power Company is Connecticut’s largest utility. The company brings power to 1.2 million customers in 149 cities and towns – covering some 4,400 square miles with more than 22,000 miles of power lines.
The company was the creation of J. Henry Roraback, a lawyer and powerful Republican who dominated Connecticut state politics in the early 20th century. In 1905, Roraback – described in accounts as a “big, forceful, mustachioed man” – used his political muscle to lobby the state legislature, convincing them to pass a special act that gave him sole power rights to the Rocky River, a tributary of the Housatonic. Four years later, the legislature gave Roraback permission to build dams and mills and sell his water-generated power wholesale throughout the state. The resulting company – then known as the Rocky River Power Company – would eventually supply power to the entire state of Connecticut. The company changed its name to Connecticut Light and Power Company in 1917 and bought three nearby power companies – the start of a long history of acquisitions.
CL&P continued to grow and thrive over the next several decades; today, it is made up of more than 60 formerly operating companies. Since 1966, CL&P has been a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, a utility holding company consisting of four New England energy companies. Today, Northeast Utilities is a publicly traded, Fortune 500 company that provides power to 2.1 million customers. It is headquartered in Berlin, Connecticut.
Asbestos Exposure Risk at Connecticut Light & Power
Extreme heat is a constant challenge at power plants. The nature of the work that boilers, generator and turbines perform put them – and workers – at constant risk of fire and heat damage. To prevent this, power plant equipment prior to the 1970s was frequently made with a naturally occurring mineral found to have powerful fireproofing qualities.
That naturally occurring mineral was asbestos, a substance that until recent decades was widely used in thousands of products as a fire-retardant and strengthening agent. It was highly effective, and because it is found in large mineral deposits in nature, it was also cheap and easy to obtain. In power plants, asbestos was used for multiple purposes: to seal gaskets, insulate pipes, and as a covering on power lines and cables. Power plants also used asbestos in their roofs and floors to make the buildings themselves resistant to fire. Even paint and plumbing equipment contained asbestos.
Today, we know there are serious health risks associated with asbestos, and exposure to the substance can be deadly. When insulation or other products containing asbestos deteriorate, or when they are torn or cut, asbestos fibers are released into the air and, if inhaled, can become lodged in a person’s lung tissue. This can lead to serious respiratory diseases like mesothelioma cancer and asbestosis.
Power plants stopped putting asbestos in their equipment in the 1970s, but by then, thousands of unsuspecting workers had already been put at risk. Furthermore, while power plants no longer use asbestos in their equipment, the substance may still exist in some older buildings and machines. Therefore, it’s important that workers exercise caution and use protective gear in situations when they may come into contact with asbestos fibers.
Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
Anyone who worked at a Connecticut Light and Power Company power plant – especially prior to the 1970s, though some exposure may have occurred more recently – may have been exposed to hazardous asbestos fibers. Power plant workers sometimes needed to cut and sand gaskets that contained asbestos, or cut down pieces of asbestos-containing insulation. These actions released asbestos fibers into the air, and – without proper respiratory equipment – those fibers were easily inhaled. Not only was power plant equipment made with asbestos, but the buildings themselves often contained the mineral as well. As the floors and ceilings were worked on, asbestos dust was often spread throughout the powerhouse, putting all workers in the vicinity at risk.
Family members of power plant workers could have been affected by asbestos as well, even if they never entered the power plant. Because asbestos fibers cling to clothing, anyone who washed or handled a worker’s dusty work clothes could have inhaled the dangerous fibers.
It can take decades for symptoms of mesothelioma cancer to begin to appear – sometimes as long as 50 years. This means that, sadly, survival rates for the disease are very low. If you or someone you love may have been exposed to harmful asbestos in the workplace, take the time to learn more about the risk factors and treatment of the disease.
As of February 2011, Connecticut Light and Power Company and Northeast Utilities have been named in numerous lawsuits by individuals who have worked in their facilities. Plaintiffs in these cases say their health was compromised by breathing hazardous asbestos fibers while working in power plants.
Author: Tara Strand
Senior Content WriterRead about Tara
Reviewer: Jennifer R. Lucarelli
Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their FamiliesRead about Jennifer
Connecticut Light and Power Co. – History