Oklahoma is an agricultural state, but it also relies on oil and gas. The state is the fifth-largest producer of oil in the U.S. and No. 3 in natural gas production. But the oil and gas business presents issues for Oklahoma.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added Oklahoma locations to the Superfund list over asbestos. These include the Hudson Refinery and the Oklahoma Refining Company.
In October 2021, renovation of a municipal building in Norman, Oklahoma, halted when workers found hazardous asbestos. It was in a hidden ceiling. The estimated cost to remediate the contaminated ceiling was $1 million. It delayed the renovation completion by approximately eight months.
For many years, big businesses had a key ally in Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. He worked with corporate lawyers on 14 separate lawsuits against EPA regulations. For this reason, anti-asbestos advocates got worried when President Donald Trump selected Pruitt to be the head of the EPA.
Oklahoma’s Occupations and Areas at Risk
Manufacturing provides an estimated 151,000 jobs in Oklahoma. The state is the top maker of tires in North America. The state is also involved in the production of oil and gas equipment. The manufacturing industry has a history of exposing workers to asbestos. This is especially true for oil companies in the area.
Tulsa, Oklahoma, is home to the largest airline maintenance base in the world. Asbestos-containing brakes, insulation, gaskets and valves exposed workers. Today’s airline maintenance workers do not face the same hazardous levels of asbestos exposure. Some planes still contain parts that contain large quantities of asbestos.
Another potential risk factor for asbestos exposure occurred between 1948 and 1993. W.R. Grace and Company shipped asbestos-containing vermiculite to three Oklahoma cities. These included Oklahoma City, Duke and Southard. Anyone employed to process these shipments likely experienced asbestos exposure.
Exposure to asbestos may cause mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis. Occupational asbestos exposure is the No. 1 cause of mesothelioma.
Known Job Sites for Asbestos Exposure:
- Ultramar Diamond
- Sinclair Oil
- Gary-Williams Energy
In June 2004, the Oklahoma Daily News reported asbestos residue at the University of Oklahoma. Both Kaufman Hall and Gittinger Hall contained asbestos. Workers removed the asbestos.
Oil Refinery Exposure
Terry McCann, a gold medal-winning wrestler at the 1960 Olympics, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2005. McCann was exposed to asbestos as a construction worker in the late 1950s. Over two weeks at an Oklahoma oil refinery, he breathed asbestos insulation while observing a boiler installation. After his mesothelioma diagnosis, McCann filed a claim against Foster Wheeler, the company that manufactured the boiler.
EPA Superfund Sites Containing Asbestos in Oklahoma
A Superfund site is an uncontrolled or abandoned area where hazardous waste is located. The Hudson Refinery site in Cushing, Oklahoma, is an abandoned crude oil refinery that was active from 1922 to 1982. The refinery made its way onto the EPA’s Superfund list because of concerns about friable asbestos and a number of other hazards. Major removal occurred in 2002 and 2003, but asbestos was removed from the site as recently as 2011.
In Cyril, Oklahoma, the site of the Oklahoma Refining Company was placed on the Superfund list for a number of hazards, including asbestos exposure. In September 2003, the EPA initiated a time-critical removal for asbestos-containing materials in above-ground piping and vessels. Process towers and buildings were also removed because of exposure hazards.
Oklahoma now enforces strict guidelines for handling and removing asbestos-contaminated products. Lawmakers adopted asbestos regulations from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) in 1990. The NESHAP regulations require renovation and demolition notices to be submitted to Oklahoma’s Air Quality Division when asbestos dust is a concern.
Asbestos exposure risks in Oklahoma were reduced during the past two decades, thanks to stronger asbestos regulations. While asbestos remains in older facilities throughout the state in the form of insulation, flooring and ceiling tiles and electric wiring, proper removal of asbestos-containing materials has become the standard among contractors. Cases of asbestos-related diseases are expected to decline.