Written by: Shepard Law Firm Staff

It was recently announced that the L Street power plant in South Boston was being put up for sale by its current owner, Exelon Corp. This news likely has developers around Boston ready to pounce on the property, due to its proximity to the booming commercial real estate market of the Seaport District and the ever-increasing property values in South Boston. It is likely that the property will eventually be re-developed as a mixed-use property, featuring office space, residential condominiums and apartments, as well as commercial space. However, the fact that this property served as an active power plant for over a century may lead to a number of obstacles for potential re-development projects.

The former Boston Edison power plant first went into operation in 1892 as a coal-fired power plant. The plant was later transitioned to an oil-fired and later a natural gas plant, until it was retired in 2007. The property occupies 18 acres off of L Street at the border of South Boston and the burgeoning Seaport District. While the Environmental Protection Agency has been monitoring the property in recent years due to issues including contaminated soil and other environmental hazards, any proposed redevelopment projects are likely to be closely scrutinized by state and federal agencies.

Workers at power plants such as the Boston Edison L Street plant were exposed to a great variety of asbestos-containing products, including:

  • Boiler insulation and firebrick
  • Turbine insulation
  • Gaskets and packing used in industrial pumps and valves
  • Steam pipe insulation

As a result of these exposures, a large number of former workers at the L Street plant developed mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other asbestos-related conditions. While power plant workers up until the 1980’s were exposed to these products though directly installing or maintaining equipment in the plant, a new wave of exposures is likely to occur when old power plants and industrial spaces are re-developed or demolished. As urban renewal and gentrification takes place in cities across the country, developers and city officials will need to identify and deal with the issue of in-place asbestos being disturbed as former industrial buildings and power plants are renovated into commercial and residential property. Due to the significant amount of asbestos-containing products used in power plants and other industrial buildings through the 1980’s, the expense of remediation could be significant.

The danger of asbestos fibers being released during any demolition of existing structures on the L Street property may limit the options potential developers have in planning the re-development of the property. If existing buildings are to be renovated to become loft-style housing or office space, asbestos remediation contractors will have to make sure existing asbestos insulation on the property is properly encapsulated and secured. Simply demolishing the existing structures on the property may risk releasing airborne asbestos fibers into a heavily populated area. Regardless of what happens with the former L Street Power Plant, it is clear that the next wave of asbestos-related diseases will be caused by asbestos that is currently in place, and is disturbed and release during the course of renovation and demolition of old buildings.

If you or a loved one is an undergoing treatment for lung cancer or mesothelioma and would like to learn more about your rights please call us for free, confidential consultation (617) 451-9191.

For further information regarding the L Street Power Plant click here.