Mandan, North Dakota, sited on the Missouri River, is "where the West begins." It's also the home of a 58,000-barrel-per-day oil refinery.
The refinery was built in 1954, just three years after oil was discovered on the North Dakota plains. In its first year, it pumped out 30,000 barrels of oil per day. The Environmental Information Agency lists it as the 94th-largest refinery in the United States. It was owned by Amoco.
Amoco Sells to Tesoro
In 2001, BP Amoco signed a $677 million deal with an independent refining company, Tesoro Petroleum of San Antonio, Texas. The deal allowed Tesoro to acquire several convenience stores, the Mandan refinery and another in Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as eight product distribution terminals, bulk storage centers and pipelines.
Tesoro Mandan produces gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, heavy fuel oils and liquefied petroleum gas. Most of its products travel via pipeline to eastern North Dakota and Minnesota.
The company has been recognized by the Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Habitat Council and the National Wildlife Federation for the 640-acre wildlife habitat it maintains next to its site. The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA) recognized Tesoro Mandan for reducing its recordable incident rate by 25 percent in 2006. In 2007, the refinery achieved Merit status from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Plan.
Asbestos Litigation at Tesoro Mandan
In 1994, a former refinery employee, Edward Bossert, sued the MacArthur Corporation, a Minnesota supplier of asbestos insulation to the Mandan plant, and Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corp., claiming he'd been exposed to asbestos fibers and could possibly contract cancer. The suit was heard in the US Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit. Robert Clooten, a former insulation sales representative, testified that about half of the asbestos cement used at the Mandan plant came from MacArthur, but he didn't know which of the hundreds of miles of pipe in the refinery were covered with MacArthur's products. Bossert himself had a very spotty work record at the plant, working three months in 1967, three months in 1969 and two, three-week periods in 1969. His own expert, Dr. Kilburn, testified that Bossert's probability of developing cancer was about 55 in 10,000. The court concluded that Bossert had failed to prove that he would develop cancer.
Tesoro Mandan Refinery and Asbestos
In the majority of the 20th century, the mineral called asbestos was used as an insulator in cases where fire or extreme heat was a concern. Materials that contained asbestos, accordingly, were commonly used when erecting plants like Tesoro Mandan Refinery. Along with being heat-proof and a fire retardant, some forms of amphibole asbestos are also particularly impervious to reactive chemicals. Because of this, asbestos was used in benches, safety garments and lab equipment. One of the ironic things about asbestos is that although it does a great job of guarding against the harm associated with fire or high temperatures - it is one of the most effective insulators known and has been used for this purpose for centuries - it also poses significant risks to people's health.
Most of the asbestos was amosite. Often called "brown asbestos", the amphibole form of asbestos known as amosite is particularly good at resisting corrosive chemicals like those used in oil refineries because of the iron molecules in its chemical makeup. This amosite, in the form of asbestos transite, was utilized in refineries, laboratories and chemical plants across the country for decades before being banned in building materials in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite was characterized properties like cement; it could be laminated and molded into working surfaces. This form of asbestos did not pose a health hazard as long as it was solid. Tiny particles of asbestos are released into the atmosphere, however, as asbestos-containing transite ages and becomes prone to becoming powdery. Asbestos in this state is called friable, a term that is used for material that is easily crushed. In addition, laboratory kilns frequently contained friable asbestos in insulation linings.
Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad
Asbestos fibers, when they are friable, can be easily released in the environment. Medical conditions like asbestosis are known to result from being exposed to airborne asbestos. Mesothelioma, a rare and frequently fatal cancer affecting the mesothelium (the tissue that lies between the lungs and the pleural cavity), has been shown to be linked with exposure to asbestos. When the particles of asbestos in the air land on food or drinks and are subsequently ingested, pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma can occur, though they are rarer than pleural mesothelioma.
In the last few decades scientists and researchers have uncovered a lot concerning the risks that accompany asbestos exposure; therefore there are stringent regulations controlling its use. However, when facilities such as Tesoro Mandan Refinery were first operating, asbestos was much more prevalent. And in all too many cases people used materials containing asbestos when they did not have the benefit of protective equipment.
The Lurking Hazard of Asbestos
One of the insidious aspects of exposure to asbestos is the associated illnesses may take many, many years to appear - frequently decades after a worker leaves the employer. When a former employee starts developing signs such as a persistent cough, shortness of breath and pain in the chest, his or her physician might not immediately identify asbestos exposure as the culprit, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment. So, it is vital for folks who worked at or spent much time around sites such as Tesoro Mandan Refinery to ask their doctors for a mesothelioma treatment guide. Such information can help physicians make accurate diagnoses; especially with mesothelioma, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances of survival or at the least of enjoying an improved quality of life. A mesothelioma cure may one day be developed but only palliative treatments currently exist.Sources
City of Mandan - City Website
Convenience Store News - Tesoro Lands BP Properties
Energy Information Agency
The Federal Reporter - 19 F.3d 1437
Tesoro Petroleum Corp. - Company Website
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal