Tacoma, WA

Simpson Kraft Paper Mill fka St. Regis fka Champion Paper Mill

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From 1930 to 1984, the St. Regis Paper Company operated a pulp and paper mill in Tacoma, Washington at the St. Paul Waterway.  In 1984, Champion International Corporation acquired the mill as part of a corporate merger.  Just a year later, Champion put the mill up for sale and it was acquired by the Simpson Investment Company.

Prior to the time Simpson purchased the mill, the facility had been targeted for clean-up by the federal EPA because of its water and air pollution.  Until 1970, the plant had discharged its wastewater without any treatment directly into the nearshore environment.  From 1938, the mill had operated a bleaching plant with insufficient processes to contain pollution.

The mill was also contaminated with asbestos, however.  Much of the equipment used in the paper mill contained asbestos.  In addition, many high temperature surfaces throughout the mill were insulated with asbestos containing products.  In a French study performed for the International Agency for Research on Cancer, it was discovered that pulp and paper industry workers who were exposed to asbestos had a significantly increased risk of developing mesothelioma.  Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart that is caused by asbestos exposure.  Usually not discovered until its final stages, mesothelioma is always fatal.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that is very strong and resistant to degradation from heat or chemicals.  Before the 1980s, manufacturers often added asbestos to products used in the construction industry because the mineral provided heat resistance, strength and stability.  For the same reasons, asbestos was also used in the machinery found in paper and fabric mills.  The asbestos gave an added degree of thermal insulation for the high-friction, high-temperature moving parts used in mill machinery.  Unfortunately, the use of asbestos without proper respiratory protection also put machine operators who were exposed to the substance at risk for developing asbestosis and mesothelioma. 

Other workers in the mill were also at risk for asbestos disease because of the mineral’s presence in the insulation products used throughout the facility.  The mill’s operations involved volatile chemicals and high-temperature processes, which both carried a substantial risk of fire.  Asbestos insulation products were used heavily in areas of the mill where such processes were conducted. 

To learn more about exposure to asbestos at Simpson Kraft Paper Mill and other paper mills in the Northwest, click here to contact a lawyer with Bergman, Draper & Frockt.