The city of Jacksonville has no naturally occurring asbestos sites. Nevertheless, Jacksonville is a high-risk area for asbestos exposure because of the city’s economic ties to the maritime and manufacturing industries. Since the 1940s, thousands of workers and residents in the Jacksonville area have been exposed to asbestos in the city’s various factories, power plants, shipyards, military facilities, and many local residences. Many of those exposed contracted mesothelioma, a lethal cancer caused by long-term exposure to asbestos fibers.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. Fill out our form to get a free Financial Compensation Packet. You’ll learn about the top mesothelioma lawyers in your Jacksonville, how to get paid in 90 days, how to file a claim for the asbestos trust funds, and more.
Jacksonville’s Port, Shipyards, and Naval Facilities
Jacksonville’s location on the St. John’s River and the Atlantic Ocean makes the city one of the busiest ports in the U.S. The city is ideally placed in an area where three major railroads and three major interstate highways form a transportation hub. The Port of Jacksonville is the largest deepwater harbor in the South and the second largest on the Eastern Seaboard. In 2012, the Jacksonville Port Authority’s (JAXPORT) three terminals handled over 8.2 million tons of cargo.
In addition to the port’s cargo and passenger facilities, there are many local shipbuilding and repair yards. Some, like the BAE Systems Shipyards Southeast facility, are currently in operation. Others, such as the Jacksonville Shipyards, have been closed and abandoned. In addition, the U.S. Navy operates several large facilities in the Jacksonville area, including Naval Station Mayport and Naval Air Station Jacksonville. Civilian and military seamen, as well as shipfitters, pipelayers, electricians, and other workers at these sites are at risk of high-level asbestos exposure.
The Jacksonville Shipyards
The site known as the Jacksonville Shipyards was one of the area’s largest shipbuilding and repair facilities before it closed in 1992. Once the nexus of “the Billion Dollar Mile,” Jacksonville Shipyards operated for over a century under various names and owners. Like many shipyards, it either built or refit thousands of vessels from the 1850s till 1991.
During much of this period, Jacksonville Shipyards and its successor companies on the site used or handled large quantities of asbestos materials, including insulation for pipes, hulls, engineering spaces, steam lines, and electrical wiring. The years immediately preceding and following World War II mark the peak period for asbestos use at this worksite. Operating under the company name Merrill-Stevens Drydock & Repair Co, the facility repaired or refit hundreds of ships during the war. The company changed owners and names several times after Merrill-Stevens relocated its headquarters to Miami in the 1950s, but continued repair work and modernization work on ships until going out of business in 1992.
Many employees of Merrill-Stevens/Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc (JSI) were exposed to asbestos when they performed these repairs and refits, especially those on ships built between the 1930s and the 1970s. Decades later, several of these workers were diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and/or other asbestos-related diseases.
Naval Station Mayport
Jacksonville’s strategic location on Florida’s northeast coast makes it ideal for placing military facilities in the area. The U.S. Navy operates two bases in Jacksonville, Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville and Naval Station (NS) Mayport. Along with Georgia’s Submarine Base Kings Bay, these two facilities comprise the third biggest military community in the U.S.
Commissioned in 1942, NS Mayport is made up of a deepwater harbor, repair facilities, and the Admiral David L. McDonald airfield. It covers an area of 3,409 acres. The harbor can accommodate 34 ships at a time and can handle large conventional aircraft carriers. At least 22 ships are based at NS Mayport, as well as three helicopter squadrons and a helicopter training unit. NS Mayport also is home to several tenant command, including the recently reactivated U.S. Fourth Fleet, Afloat Training Group Mayport, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, Destroyer Squadron 14, Destroyer Squadron Four Zero, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team, and the Naval Aviation Forecast Component Mayport.
NS Mayport was the home port of various conventional aircraft carriers until the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) was decommissioned in 2007. The Navy currently has no nuclear aircraft carriers based at NS Mayport, but Congress has approved $75 million for dredging and facility upgrades. These upgrades will make it possible for the base to homeport Nimitz- and Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers.
Maritime Activities in Jacksonville and the Asbestos Connection
Although civilian and military vessels have different functions, they are built and maintained in similar facilities. All ships are built with basic structural and engineering components, such as keels, hulls, power plants, propeller shafts and screws, and rudders. Thus, when shipbuilders adopt standardized manufacturing techniques, such as the use of asbestos-containing materials, merchant ships, passenger liners, and oil tankers can be just as contaminated by asbestos as destroyers, cruisers, and battleships built in the same time period.
Thus, ships built before the late 1970s and are still in service pose the greatest risk of workers developing asbestos cancer. Prior to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) early findings on the health risks of asbestos, shipbuilders used the fibrous minerals as insulation or fire retarding materials on almost every compartment of a ship. Older vessels using Jacksonville shipyards for refits or repairs require specialized asbestos removal procedures to reduce exposure to loose insulation and other debris that may be contaminated.
Other Sources of Asbestos in Jacksonville
Asbestos and its residue are present not only in maritime-related facilities. The widespread use of asbestos minerals in construction, transportation, power generation, and even clothing resulted in their pervasive existence in the U.S. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, asbestos can even be found in various parts of a typical single family home, including:
- Corrugated asbestos roofing
- Electrical meter boards
- Backyard sheds
- Dog kennels
- Subfloor packers
- Wood heaters
- Hot water piping
- Insulation in heaters and stoves
Large scale use of asbestos occurred in various facilities in the Jacksonville area, especially in the manufacturing and transportation industries. The fire and heat resistant properties of asbestos encouraged many companies to incorporate asbestos-containing materials in various parts of factories and power generation plants.
In the Jacksonville area, worksites such as the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, the Florida Power & Light (FPL) plant, the Ameristeel (formerly Florida Steel) mill, the Union Camp Chemical Plant, and power plants owned by the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) were heavy users of asbestos. Even though asbestos use in the U.S. has diminished over the past 40 years, thousands of workers at these sites were exposed to the toxic material, and now suffer from the harsh symptoms of mesothelioma.
Getting Legal Assistance in Jacksonville
If you are loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, remember that you may be entitled to substantial compensation. Get our free Financial Compensation Packet for information on the top mesothelioma and asbestos lawyers in your area. For questions and assistance, feel free to contact us at 800-793-4540.