Leslie Controls Company History
The company made steam control equipment for military and merchant ships during both World Wars, and later started manufacturing equipment for industrial and utility clients. After moving its headquarters to a new plant in Florida, Leslie Controls again expanded its product line, offering products for total fluid management of steam and other fluids.
In 1990, Leslie Controls was purchased by Watt Industries, a company that manufacturers and sells a large line of valves for plumbing and heading, municipal water, power, chemical, oil, gas and other markets. The company purchased K&M Valve Company in 1995. Today Leslie Controls has 250 employees and two service centers in California and Virginia. Its products continue to be sold to power, oil and gas, HVAC, food processing and military marine markets worldwide.
Products Manufactured by Leslie Controls that Contained Asbestos
Until 1988, the steam valves, pumps and pipe parts made by Leslie Controls contained asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral used in numerous products for much of the 20th century that we now know is harmful to human health. Asbestos was frequently used as an insulator in high temperature situations because of the mineral’s natural strength and heat-resistant qualities. Leslie Controls did not manufacture the asbestos-containing gaskets (mechanical seals that prevent leaking between two metal pieces), packing or pipe insulation itself, however. Instead, the company purchased the products from other companies and included them in their finished products, which were then used aboard numerous military and merchant ships from the 1940s to the 1980s.
Because of asbestos’ unique composition, these products were not necessarily harmful when they were intact; they became truly dangerous when workers changed or repaired the machinery, or when the parts aged and began to break down. Asbestos is composed of long, stringy fibers that become a health hazard once they become airborne. During regular valve maintenance, asbestos-containing parts frequently had to be removed from equipment by scraping, drilling, or wire brushing – all processes that released asbestos dust into the air. When that dust was inhaled, asbestos particles could become lodged in a person’s lungs, planting the seed for serious respiratory diseases like mesothelioma cancer or asbestosis.
When it came to ships, asbestos was not an isolated threat. Asbestos insulation was found throughout boiler rooms and engine rooms on U.S. Navy ships; depending on the ship’s size, one vessel could contain 22 tons to 400 tons of asbestos insulation.
Leslie Controls began using asbestos in some products as early as the early 1900s and continued until the 1980s. Asbestos containing parts and components used in the manufacture of Leslie steam valves, pumps and pipe parts include, but are not limited to:
Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
Many individuals who worked for the military or in civilian occupations, especially those that involved ship maintenance and repair, could have been exposed to asbestos in Leslie Controls products. Navymen and women who worked aboard ships outfitted with Leslie valves, pumps or pipes may be at risk, especially if they took part in maintenance jobs in the ships’ boiler or engine rooms. However, because of the close quarters experienced on military vessels, anyone who worked aboard a Navy ship from the 1940s to the 1980s may have had their health affected by asbestos in Leslie products. Leslie Controls also frequently hired its own field service engineers to assist with customers’ installation and repair jobs.
It can take decades – sometimes as long as 50 years – before mesothelioma cancer begins to present symptoms in the human body. If you or a loved one may have been exposed to asbestos at home or in the workplace, don’t wait. Learn about the risk factors and treatment options today.
In July 2010, Leslie Controls filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Company leaders said the reason was a high number of asbestos-related lawsuits against the company – 1,307 as of the date of the filing, according to one report. The company’s Chapter 11 plan calls for the creation of a fund to pay for future asbestos-related claims. The trust will contain $75 million from Leslie Controls and its parent company, Circor, plus insurance money.
That plan was given a stamp of approved by a U.S. District Court in February 2011. Company leaders anticipated that Leslie Controls could emerge from bankruptcy within several months of that date.