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Kendall Refining

Oil was discovered near Bradford in 1871. In 1881, the Kendall Refining Company began refining Pennsylvania crude in Bradford, its five employees turning out just ten barrels a day. Today, the Energy Information Agency lists the American Refining Group's operation as the 131st-largest oil refinery in the United States, producing 10,000 barrels a day.

The Kendall plant is credited with many innovations, such as the introduction of the quart can for motor oil, being the first to market SAE 10W-30 motor oil and manufacturing the first racing oil for motorcycles. By the 1960s, it produced 4,500 barrels of oil per day.

By 1997, however, the refinery was scheduled to close. Bradford's Office of Economic Development worked with the Pennsylvania Governor's Action Team to put together a financing package to attract a buyer. American Refining Group acquired the former Kendall/Witco plant, thus staving off a $50-million-a-year loss to the community. It employs 240 people in the area. As it did in the 1880s, the ARG refinery makes high-quality motor oils and lubricants and sells its own Brad Penn line of racing oils. The Kendall label now belongs to Conoco-Phillips.

Landmark Asbestos Litigation

In 1990, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled in Witco-Kendall Co. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Bd. (Adams), 562 A.2d 397 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1989), that a "claimant's description of his working conditions is sufficient to establish occupational exposure that may be rebutted by the employer. Specifically, the court there held that a claimant is not required to provide scientific evidence of a hazardous level of exposure to a toxic substance in his workplace and that his failure to identify the dust to which he was exposed as asbestos was not fatal to a claim for benefits." In Witco-Kendall, this testimony, in conjunction with other evidence, was sufficient for a finding of total disability from asbestos- related disease. This case is often cited in other asbestos-related trials.

Kendall Refining Company and Asbestos

During the majority of the last century, various forms of asbestos were used as an insulator when flames or excessive heat was a concern. As a result, it was typical for plants like Kendall Refining Company to be built with asbestos-containing materials. In addition to being a fire retardant as well as heat-proof, certain forms of amphibole asbestos are also particularly impervious to chemical reactions. Because of this, asbestos was used in safety clothes and bench tops. Asbestos, however, came with a significant downside that was either not known or at times deliberately ignored: serious and sometimes fatal medical conditions were caused by asbestos exposure.

Much of this asbestos was of the amosite variety. Amosite is one of the amphibole forms of asbestos, which is commonly thought to be more likely to result in health problems than serpentine asbestos. Used for decades in the form of asbestos-containing transite in labs and refineries across the US, amosite was eventually banned as a construction material in the 1970s.

Asbestos transite could be laminated, molded into working surfaces and sprayed onto pipes and ductwork in the same way cement could. As long as asbestos transite remained solid, this form of asbestos posed almost no hazard. As this transite ages and become prone to crumbling, however, lethal, microscopic particles are able to flake off into the atmosphere. Asbestos when it is in this condition is considered friable, a term used for material that is easy to pulverize. In addition, laboratory kilns frequently contained friable asbestos in insulation linings.

Why Is Friable Asbestos Dangerous?

When friable, asbestos particles are readily released into the air. When a person breathes these fibers, they can damage the lungs, resulting in cancer. Pleural mesothelioma, an unusual and frequently fatal disease of the mesothelium (the tissue that lies between the lungs and the pleural cavity), is strongly linked with exposure to asbestos. Swallowing asbestos fibers, as can occur when those microscopic particles are released into the air and fall on food or in drinks, can be the cause of pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.

Increased pressure from concerned citizens, medical scientists and the press forced the creation of laws regulating how to use asbestos. The use of asbestos was much more common, however, when facilities such as Kendall Refining Company were constructed. And in all too many cases people worked with asbestos-containing materials when they did not have the protection of protective equipment.

The Lurking Danger of Asbestos

One of the insidious aspects of exposure to asbestos is that resulting diseases may take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to appear - often long after the worker leaves the employer. Given such a long time between exposure to asbestos and the onset of symptoms, the worker might not associate his or her current health problem with work he or she did 10 or more years earlier. Therefore, it is extremely important for people who were employed by or lived near plants such as Kendall Refining Company to ask their health care professionals for a mesothelioma treatment guide.

Moreover, spouses of these people are also at risk, since unless effective decontamination policies, including the use of on-site uniforms and showers, were followed, it was all too common for workers to bring home asbestos particles on their skin, in their hair, or on their clothes. When caught early there is a chance the disease can be treated; early diagnosis is crucial as there is no mesothelioma cure.

Sources

Sources

American Refining Group - Company Website
http://www.amref.com

BradfordPA.org - Bradford's Office of Economic and Community Development
http://www.bradfordpa.org

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Western District - No. 39 WAP 2003 Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court entered May 8, 2003 at No. 1860CD2002, reversing the Order of the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board entered July 9, 2002 at No. A01-2139.
http://www.aopc.org/OpPosting/Supreme/out/J-5-2004mo.pdf

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/EHSRM/ASB/acmimages3.html

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/EHSRM/HAZEXCEPTIONS/a.html

US Energy Information Administration - U.S. Refineries* Operable Capacity
http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/rankings/refineries.htm

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January 11, 2017
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