The land for the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard was purchased back in 1799 and was located in League Island, Pennsylvania. The shipyard covered a large area of 904 acres with 360 of them being used in an industrial capacity. It was the first Naval Shipyard in the United States. In World War II, there were more than 40,000 people employed there, with numbers topping 41,000 between 1937-1941.
The shipyard was used mainly for building new naval vessels and for ship conversion until the late 1960s when private industry took over most new construction. The last new ship was built there in 1970. Most work done after this time involved repair and overhaul of naval ships with emphasis mainly on combat systems and electronic updates. The shipyard officially closed in the 1990’s and prior to closing had around 7,000 employees.
Those working at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard were exposed to asbestos during the construction, repair, tear outs and overhaul of naval ships as it was frequently used in many ship parts including turbines, boilers, pipe coverings, cement, pumps, gaskets and insulation. Asbestos was used by the Navy until the late 1970s and was a serious health hazard to those working with the material due to the inhalation of airborne dust and particles. This may cause permanent damage to the lungs and other internal body tissues and is the proven cause of Mesotelioma, a rare and deadly form of asbestos cancer. Asbestos exposure can also lead to asbestosis and other lung cancers and diseases.
The Philadelphia Naval Complex also contained other industrial facilities including a foundry, paint ship, power plant and electroplating plant. Many different types of hazardous material were previously stored as well as used on the site. The Environmental Protection Agency determined the area needed to be cleaned up and free of such hazardous material before the possibility of making it available for transfer and commercial use in the future.
Site cleanup began in 1991 including an asbestos abatement project and removal of around 6000 tons of area debris and materials. Cleanup has now been completed in most areas of the complex. The largest cleanup and redevelopment project on the site was a 100-acre allotment for the commercial shipyard Kvaemer, which was completed in the year 2000. The city of Philadelphia hopes to continue attracting more commercial industry to the former naval site.
Those that worked at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard are at high risk of disease due to asbestos exposure. Asbestos was commonly used in naval ships of many different types including Cruisers, Destroyers, Submarines, Aircraft Carriers, Minesweeper and Patrol Boats. The dust from working with asbestos materials is highly dangerous when inhaled. If you have previously worked at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, you could develop asbestos related disease including the deadly cancer malignant mesothelioma. If you think you have been exposed to asbestos, be sure to seek appropriate and prompt medical advice.