Causes of Lead Poisoning Crisis at Gopher Smelting Plant

Ben Crump and Napoli Shkolnik lawyers assist families affected by the Gopher smelting plant

For years, Tampa’s lead-smelting plant workers have cried foul at the plant’s unsafe working environment that puts all its workers at risk. Lead poisoning is the primary concern for hundreds of workers exposed to this toxin at dangerous levels.

Minnesota-based company Gopher Resource gained the smelting plant in 2006 and immediately made plans to transform the once open-air plant into a state-of-the-art enclosed smelting factory. This plan was the promise; however, just months into the operation, the ventilation system failed and has since been in a state of disrepair.

Dangerous Conditions at the Gopher Smelting Plant

Tampa’s Gopher Resources smelting plant smelts around 50,000 batteries a day. This production rate means that the furnaces are always running, and workers are always subject to high temperatures and poor ventilation. At one point, they have reported that workers have passed out while on the job after ingesting lead fumes and dust that their company-issued respirators can no longer filter. 

During one inspection, investigators found that lead levels in the environment surpassed the federal limit 400 times over. Tampa has recorded around 2,400 cases of lead poisoning since 2010. 

Effects of Lead Exposure

Some long-term effects of exposure to lead include: 

  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiac problems
  • Kidney disease
  • Infertility
  • Neurological damage
  • Chronic anemia

The effects of lead poisoning may go unnoticed at first as they build up over time, and severe cases can even result in death.

Failure to Address Safety Issues

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the agency tasked to perform regular checks on the plant to ensure that its operating standards are up to par. However, investigators found out that OSHA has not visited the plant since 2016. Workers claim that even when OSHA saw them in past years, OSHA planned the visits, and the company arranged to improve plant conditions in time for the inspection.

However, these improvements were frequently short-lived. Inspectors who visited the plant often missed or turned a blind eye to the hazardous working conditions in the Gopher smelting plant. The plant faces a slew of lawsuits, including environmental litigation suits and personal injury lawsuits from workers claiming damages caused by the unsafe working conditions.

Dangers of Unsafe Lead Smelting

The Gopher smelting plant is one out of only ten plants in the country. Lead smelting is dangerous because it puts the workers at risk; it also compromises the health of others, including the workers’ family members. Investigating the issue has revealed that some family members indirectly suffered lead poisoning due to ingesting the lead dust particles that workers unknowingly took home with them.

Lead enters the environment through the ground, water, and air, exposing all those in the vicinity to the harmful toxin. This risk is why companies must be vigilant in ensuring that their plant strictly adheres to regulatory standards.

The company has a legal obligation to ensure worker safety while at the plant. However, because of lapses in OSHA regulatory checks, they have not held this obligation in high regard. The plant also has a legal responsibility to the people living near the facility.

Napoli Shkolnik works with Ben Crump to Ensure Safety and Justice

Napoli Shkolnik’s personal injury attorneys are hard at work fighting the injustices and injury caused by these unsafe conditions. 

On June 2, we filed a complaint against the plant, along with nationally recognized civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump and co-counsel. This complaint comes on behalf of a former Gopher worker and his family and was filed at the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse in Tampa, FL.

family of worker affected by lead poisoning from Tampa's Gopher smelting plantThis is just the beginning of the process to solve the dangerous problems presented by the Gopher plant and get victims restitution for the harm inflicted.

Plant practices have put all at high risk for lead exposure, even those indirectly affiliated, and this precedent may call for environmental litigation. Those who have been affected by the unsafe practices of Gopher Resource can file a lawsuit against the company.

If you or your family has been affected by lead poisoning from the Gopher Resource smelting plant, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced attorney.