Commissioned in 1942, the Mayport Naval Station of Jacksonville, Florida, features a military airfield as well as a seaport — the only one of the three bases in the area to have both. Today, it boasts the third largest fleet concentration area in the United States. The harbor is capable of porting 34 ships and landing any Department of Defense aircraft, thanks to an 8,000 foot long runway. The yard also serves as a training ground for antisubmarine warfare.
Historically, the base was home to the aircraft carriers of the Atlantic Fleet, including the Shangri-La, the Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Forrestal, and the Saratoga. However, these carriers have all been decommissioned in favor of nuclear craft, one of which may be stationed at Mayport soon. Presently, all nuclear-powered carriers on the east coast are ported at Norfolk, but Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, is in favor of splitting them between multiple locations. However, because of the extensive renovations needed to accommodate such a craft, this may not take place until as late as 2019.
One of the most prevalent industries in regards to employee exposure to asbestos is that of shipbuilding. Commonly used in ships as an insulating and repair material, contact with the material was often conducted with no protective clothes, masks or gloves. At the Mayport Naval Station, workers were exposed to asbestos at high levels for many years. Thousands of employees worked at the station at any given time, and many who weren’t even directly working with asbestos, may have been constantly exposed to the dust produced by maintenance crews.
Prior to 1975, the Federal Government had no rules or regulations regarding how asbestos could be installed and handled. One of the most dangerous aspects of Mesothelioma is that it can take decades for symptoms to appear. Without having direct correlation with exposure and the illness, many doctors and patients unknowingly allow for the misdiagnosing of the cancer. The methods now being used to diagnose asbestos related diseases are better than ever, but are often used after all other tests have been conducted. Doctors who know of previous exposure can better diagnose the disease.