Koppers Follansbee Plant – The tiny city of Follansbee, West Virginia, population about 3,000, is a humble place. With a median household income of only $30,000 per year, according to the 2010 census, it’s a place where people have historically worked hard for the little bit of money that they make.
Part of the Weirton-Steubenville metropolitan area, it’s a town that has seen its share of hard times though it boasts a resilient population that’s proud of its accomplishments.
Many generations of Follansbee residents have worked in typical “Rust Belt” West Virginia industries, including at the Koppers Follansbee Plant, a tar refining and naphthalene production facility near the town. The facility produces tar acids, pavement sealer bases, various grades of coal tar, petro tar, refined tars from crude coke oven tar (CCOT), distillate oils, solvent naphtha, and Refined Chemical Oil (RCO).
Currently, the staff at the plant is quite small though in years past the operation was much larger.
The facility sits on about 34 acres along the Ohio River and has a history that dates back to 1914. The ownership of the facility has changed a number of times but it has always been operated as a coal-tar processing plant.
Unfortunately, along with other plants in the area, it has also long been a cause of concern for population centers nearby.
The EPA has, in the past, cited the Koppers Follansbee plant because the northern portion of the facility was highly contaminated with coal tar constituents in soil and groundwater, which had migrated into bedrock.
The status of the nearby Ohio River has been of special concern over the years, with potential contamination coming from naphthalene, phenol, volatile organics (benzine, xylene, toluene, ethybenzene, trichloroethene and trichlorobenzene), polycyclic aromatics, cyanide, and metals.
While all of this has long been of huge concern to those who live in and near Follansbee, those who worked at the plant throughout the last half-century have reason to be alarmed as well. Throughout a good portion of the 20th century, asbestos use was abundant inside this tar processing plant.
After all, asbestos-containing products were a logical choice for the many of the operations that take place at Koppers, most involving machinery and equipment that operates at high temperatures. Asbestos, long considered a miracle mineral, could help the company avoid fires and protect employees from burn-related injuries.
But there was a caveat. While asbestos was obviously a great insulator, it had a more ominous side. Asbestos fibers can separate and become airborne, circulating through the air where they can be inhaled by those working nearby.
Originally, there was little concern about the fact that workers were regularly exposed to these fibers, but as early as the 1930s it became apparent that asbestos inhalation was causing major respiratory problems, including cancer.
Still, the use of the mineral in the manufacture of thousands of products continued until the late 1970s. As a result, exposed workers such as those at Koppers paid the price with their health and, in many cases, with their life.
Do you know someone who worked at Koppers during the mid- to late-20th century who is now sick with asbestos-related cancer? Perhaps you were an employee who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma? If so, it’s important to realize that you may be a candidate for compensation for this negligent exposure to toxic asbestos.
It’s time to consider hiring a LOCAL attorney who knows the particulars of asbestos exposure in West Virginia’s Rust Belt industries. A short consultation can help determine your eligibility for compensation and bring peace of mind to you and your family.