Kenai men claim oil company poisoned them and knew about it
A group of construction workers on the Kenai claims an oil company they worked with back in 2014 poisoned them and knew about it.
All three men claim they have the same medical problem (brain damage) and are seeking justice before they say it’s too late.
“That was the biggest mistake of my life was to take that job,” said Chris Lovely who lives in a constant state of disbelief and anger.
He says after he took temporary work in 2014, his dark hair came out in clumps. When it finally grew back, it was blonde and as fine as a baby’s.
Meanwhile, former co-worker, Steve Adams, says it’s rare for his hands to stop shaking. Both say the outlook is grim.
“My prognosis is five years right now as we’re sitting,” says Lovely.
Adams and Lovely are suing one of the world’s largest oilfield service companies, Baker Hughes.
Superior Court documents filed by their attorneys call the working conditions at Baker Hughes’ Kenai chemical transferring building a “ridiculous situation”. Toxic gasses exhausting out of a building and aimed right at Lovely and Adams. Both were employed by Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation, which was contracted by Baker Hughes to build a new building, which they say was only 40 feet away from the old one.
“It smelled like sulfur or rotten eggs. I attributed it to the port-a-potties,” Lovely said.
Adams and Lovely say they smelled it for months, but on May 8, 2014, it was especially bad.
“It felt like 500 bees were stinging me in the face, it was so caustic. I took my glove and held it on [to my face and] screamed 'Chris'! and with the other hand, I dropped the lift down and Chris stood up and his eyes were about this big,” Adams described, making his thumb and pointer finger into a big circle.
Adams points to what he says is an internal Baker Hughes document, which shows the company was working with chemical “RE31151CRW” and transferred it to the construction site through a vent that was just a few feet where Lovely and Adams were working. The document says the vent “was not in good shape or design.”
An Office of Safety and Health Administration investigation issued Baker Petrolite, a subsidiary company of Baker Hughes, a serious violation, accusing them of releasing emissions that could injure others. They were fined $1,050.
Other Baker Hughes documents show the chemical, a corrosion inhibitor, is considered hazardous by OSHA. Documents warn not to breathe its vapors, which could cause central nervous system depression, a condition the men’s doctor says they have in severity.
MediCenter Dr. R. Lynn Carlson says both Lovely and Adams have brain damage because of toxic exposure at the workplace. In a letter, Dr. Carlson says both men are 100 percent disabled.
Adams and Lovely claim Baker Hughes ignored the dangerous faulty vent for months until they were injured.
“We complained to our superintendent and he complained to their superintendent where something was supposed to be done about it but there was still that smell,” says Lovely, who couldn’t take it anymore.
He quit. However, he says, the damage was already done. Even a simple task like walking down the stairs is painful.
“It makes me really dizzy and the walls shake back and forth when I walk down a narrow path. I haven’t gone to the grocery store in nearly three years because of that.” Lovely says.
Because of the exposure, he can’t work, can’t drive and can’t go fishing.
“It’s like David and Goliath, you know, we’re the small guys we’re the expendable ones and there’s another guy there waiting for our job when we’re not there anymore.”
Three and a half years later, Adams and Lovely say they’ve each racked up medical bills over one $1 million. They both spend as much time with family as they can because they claim they don’t have much of it left.
“Everyone I’ve talked to, besides the opposing doctors, you know how that goes, said that’s it, that’s game over for you that’s a wrap,” said Lovely.
Baker Hughes is trying to get the lawsuit thrown out under a law called the VECO Act, which says if you get workers compensation, you can't sue the owner of the property. The judge should rule on that in the next month. If the suit does not get thrown out, the case will go to trial in January.
After KTVA’s interview with Lovely and Adams, Baker Hughes filed a motion to prevent pre-trial publicity. That means everyone involved in the lawsuit, including Lovely and Adams, can no longer talk to the media. Baker Hughes sent KTVA this statement about the suit:
“Baker Hughes will continue to defend the case; however, in light of the Court’s order issued today, we cannot comment at this time.”
View the court documents below.
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