Fairbanks is the third largest city in Alaska and the largest in the state’s interior region. It lies 120 miles south of the Arctic Circle, and it is a key link along the Alaska oil pipeline. From its modest beginnings as a mining trading post to its present status of being one of Alaska’s main industrial hubs, Fairbanks has a wide array of connections to the dangerous scourge of asbestos in the U.S. The presence of mines, energy production sites, transportation infrastructure, and several military bases in the Fairbanks area means that many residents have been exposed to hazardous asbestos fibers.
If you or someone you love are a victim of mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be entitled to substantial compensation for pain, suffering, medical expenses, and more. We invite you to fill out our form today for a free Financial Compensation Packet, filled with information about top Fairbanks mesothelioma lawyers, how to get paid in 90 days, how to file an asbestos trust fund claim, and much more.
Asbestos Exposure Issues in Fairbanks
The first settlement in the area was founded in 1901 as a trading post for miners and prospectors looking for gold. Within a few years, large groups of miners set up mining operations around the settlement, and in 1903 it was incorporated and named after Charles Fairbanks, a U.S. Senator from Indiana who served as Vice President under President Theodore Roosevelt’s second Administration.
Most of Fairbanks’ early buildings were built solely with materials that were readily available, especially timber. These construction materials were highly flammable, and in 1906 a fire burned much of the city’s original downtown area. The city rebounded, partly as a result of the Alaska Railroad building project, and Fairbanks remained a mining center until the 1940s.
Like most of Alaska, the period before America’s entry into World War II changed the economic focus of the Fairbanks area. The federal government’s first major expenditures in the interior of Alaska were the establishment of several military installations and the building of the strategically important Alaska Highway. In 1939, the government built Ladd Army Airfield outside of Fairbanks. This development helped to create jobs, and the influx of workers resulted in a population and economic boom.
Ladd was transferred to the newly created U.S. Air Force in 1947 and was used to test aircraft in cold weather. Since the 1960s, the base has operated as the Army’s Fort Wainwright, and it is currently the home of a brigade of the 25th Infantry Division and one of Fairbanks’ largest employers.
However, the base is one of the most contaminated work sites in Alaska; in 1990, Fort Wainwright was added to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund list.
Fairbanks’ largest population and economic boom resulted from the creation of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) between 1974 and 1977. The pipeline crosses 800 miles of Alaska from Prudhoe Bay in the north to the port of Valdez.
Though the project was controversial, the majority of Fairbanks residents supported it because the jobs it created helped the city recover from a disastrous 1967 flood. The building of the pipeline and a nearby pumping station transformed Fairbanks into a boomtown. TAPS is owned by the privately owned Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, and the state tax revenue it generates allows Alaska to be the most tax-free state in the U.S.
Although asbestos was not used to replace sawdust as insulation in most of Fairbanks’ buildings until 1950, it was used in the sawmills that provided lumber to the area until the trees were depleted by 1920. Asbestos was also used by the trains that operated on the Alaska Railroad and in the construction materials used to build Ladd Army Air Force Base.
Golden Valley Power Plant
The most contaminated job site in the vicinity of Fairbanks was the Golden Valley Electric Power Plant in nearby Healy. For several decades, this energy production facility provided electricity to the growing Fairbanks community at the time of its largest economic boom.
It was closed in 2000 because it was heavily polluted by large amounts of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) and other toxic substances, including coal dust, throughout much of the facility.
As in most power plants built before the 1980s and before the EPA’s regulation on asbestos use at job sites, Healy contained large amounts of ACMs in almost every component of the coal-fired facility. Asbestos was frequently used in:
- Floor tiles
- Roofing materials
- Electrical tape
- Steam pipes
- Wiring insulation
- Fire-resistant hazard suits
- Work gloves and gear
- Fire blankets
Asbestos was also used as an additive in metals used to manufacture workbenches and tables installed throughout the plant. It was also added to much of the heavy machinery, especially in areas that generated high temperatures and high-voltage electric currents.
Though Healy Unit 1 is not currently in operation, the Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) is considering bringing the station back online because another power plant in downtown Fairbanks is aging. GVEA plans to start operations at the newer Healy Unit 2 by 2015 to replace the aging Zinder plant and the Healy unit that was shut down in 2000.
Job Sites and Businesses Associated with Asbestos Use in Fairbanks
- University of Alaska
- Ladd Air Force Base
- Eielson Air Force Base
Additional Job Sites and Buildings
- City of Fairbanks Power Plant
- Fairbanks Exploration Company
- Fort Wainwright Utilities (manholes)
- Sea Land of Fairbanks
- United States Smelting, Refining, and Mining Company
Medical Help in Fairbanks
If you’ve been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, it’s important to get proper the medical care from qualified physicians. Unfortunately, since these types of illnesses are still relatively new in the medical community, not all physicians will be able to give you the quality care needed for an asbestos-related disease. It’s recommended to choose a physician and/or cancer center that specializes in mesothelioma and other asbestos illnesses.
The Fairbank Memorial Hospital’s J. Michael Carroll Cancer Center provides comprehensive, innovative treatment for cancer victims, including those who suffer from an asbestos-related disease.
Fairbanks Memorial Hospital & Denali Center
1650 Cowles St.
Fairbanks, AK 99701
Getting Legal Help in Fairbanks and Additional Information
As mentioned earlier, mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and much more. Don’t forget to fill out our form to get our free Financial Compensation Packet, filled with information on the leading asbestos and mesothelioma attorneys in your area.