In 1948 Staten Island had the lowest population of all the New York boroughs. The Arthur Kill Powerhouse was established in that year on Victory Avenue to provide energy to the immediate area. Staten Island Edison ran the 25 megawatt powerhouse until 1952 when it merged with Consolidated Edison. The area relied heavily on the large amount of electricity that this powerhouse generated.
With the burgeoning population over the next 20 years, demand for electricity also expanded. This resulted in the expansion of the Arthur Kill Powerhouse and two Units were added, one in 1959 and one in 1969. By the end of the 1990's, the Arthur Kill Powerhouse generated 841 megawatts of power versus the 25 megawatts it first produced in 1948.
As a result of a restructuring plan passed by the NY Public Service Commission in 1997, ConEd decided to sell the Arthur Kill Powerhouse to NRG in order to remain in compliance with this plan. At the time, NRG also purchased Queens based Astoria Gas Turbines, also owned by ConEd. NRG paid over $500 million dollars for the two.
Powerhouse Workers were Exposed to Asbestos on the Job
Until the middle of the 1970's, when health risks associated with asbestos exposure became more widely publicized, asbestos insulation was the primary form of insulation used in Powerhouse environments. This is because enormous levels of heat were generated on a continual basis and asbestos insulation was inexpensive and easy to work with. Asbestos was used to insulate steam pipes, pumps, condensers, turbines and boilers produced by Babcock-Wilcox and Foster-Wheeler to name a few. Boiler rooms were also often fire-proofed with asbestos tiles and asbestos paper.
Working with asbestos products themselves or just being in an area where asbestos insulation products were used frequently put powerhouse workers at risk. This is because tiny fragments of the asbestos product would easily become airborne during the cutting, sanding and grinding that took place during maintenance procedures, making powerhouse workers susceptible to breathing in the dangerous fibers. Because maintenance was routinely performed throughout the powerhouse, all workers were placed at significant risk. Also because powerhouse employees would unknowingly carry home asbestos dust and fibers on their clothing, their family members were also at risk for receiving second hand asbestos exposure.
Powerhouse Workers are Prone to Developing Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer and Asbestosis
As mentioned above, asbestos exposure became linked with the development of asbestos-related diseases during the middle of the 1970's. Powerhouse workers who sustained prolonged exposure to asbestos were frequently diagnosed with one of the three main asbestos-related diseases: mesothelioma, lung cancer and Asbestosis. Provided below is a brief summary of each disease type.
- Mesothelioma: This illness is strictly caused by exposure to asbestos substances. It doesn't attack organs themselves; rather it attacks the lining in or around them. Pleural mesothelioma is the most frequently diagnosed form of Mesothelioma and affects the lining of the lung. Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the stomach lining and pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart.
- Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer: Lung cancer finds it's origin from a variety of sources - asbestos exposure is one of them. Inhaling asbestos fibers has been connected with the formation of cancerous tumors that restrict the airways in the lungs. This is particularly seen in smokers who were also exposed to asbestos.
- Asbestosis: This disease, like Mesothelioma, is caused solely by asbestos exposure. It is a condition that involves the development of scar tissue in the lungs making it difficult and painful to breathe.
All of these asbestos-related diseases can take quite a bit of time to develop from the time of initial exposure. It is not uncommon for lung cancer to take ten or more years to manifest. Similarly, mesothelioma cancer and asbestosis can as many as thirty to forty years before showing signs and symptoms.