Fore River Shipyard

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The Fore River Shipyard is located just ten miles south of Boston, Massachusetts. One portion of the site is in Quincy, Massachusetts and one portion is in the town of Braintree. The shipyard occupies 111 acres. It was founded in the early 1900’s by Thomas Watson, who had previously worked as an assistant to Alexander Graham Bell.

The Fore River Shipyard built ships such as destroyers, cruisers, submarines and battleships in the years prior to World War I. In 1913, the shipyard was purchased by Bethlehem Steel in a deal related to the completion of a ship called the Rivadavia. Subsequent to this sale, the shipyard became known as the Bethlehem Fore River, and the later as Bethlehem Quincy (referring to the town of Quincy, Massachusetts).

During the height of its productivity in World War II, the Fore River Shipyard had 50,000 employees and produced ships that were used in World War II battles. As was the case for many other shipbuilding facilities, the demand for shipbuilding services declined in the years after World War II.

In 1964, the shipyard was once again sold, this time to General Dynamic, a corporation which also owned Electric Boat, a famous submarine producer based in Groton, Connecticut. During this time, the company focused on building both naval and merchant ships.

In the 1970’s, the shipyard worked on the construction of liquefied natural gas tankers, each of which weighed 42,000 tons. A specialized “Goliath” crane was purchased to assist in this process. However, this production line was not sufficient to sustain the company’s operations.

The shipyard finally ceased operations in the 1980’s. In the late 1990’s, a company called Massachusetts Heavy Industries attempted to begin shipbuilding at the site again, but this effort failed. When the Fore River Shipyard was put up for auction by the Maritime Administration, it was purchased by an auto dealer and entrepreneur named Dan Quirk.

Mr. Quirk is currently funding the Fore River Shipyard Redevelopment Project. The redevelopment of industrial sites, or brownfields, is becoming increasingly common. As an initial phase of this long term redevelopment project, an environmental assessment was conducted to determine environmental risks at the site. Based on the findings of this assessment, clean up activities were conducted, including: removing PCB transformers and PCB contaminated soil, and clean up after an oil spill that occurred in 2002. A design and engineering consulting firm named RTKL has been contracted to spearhead redevelopment efforts at the site. The vision for this redevelopment project includes a waterfront “village” and mixed used development. Mr. Quirk is currently trying to sell the “Goliath” crane.

Like many other shipbuilding facilities, many workers were exposed to asbestos at the Fore River Shipyard. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used widely in industrial process throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Exposure to asbestos occurs when its particles or fibers are released into the air and either inhaled or ingested by workers. At this point, particles can become embedded or lodged in parts of the body such as the lungs or the abdomen. These aggravates can ultimately cause chronic and terminal respiratory conditions diseases, and even a number of deadly forms of asbestos cancer; including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Malignant mesothelioma affects the mesothelium, a membrane which lines many of the body’s internal organs. The disease can be treated with radiation, surgery, chemotherapy or experimental therapies which are still being evaluated. Although treatable, the disease is not regarded as curable.

Symptoms of these conditions include shortness of breath, coughing up blood, fatigue and weight loss. Individuals who were exposed to asbestos should monitor their health with a physician.