The Bernice Lake Powerhouse is located in Nikiski on the Kenai Peninsula. Operating several combustion turbines fired by natural gas, the station provides electricity to the cluster of small towns in this area about 35 miles southwest of Anchorage. It is a division of Chugach Electric.
A 2003 research study by Puerto Rican doctors involved the analysis of 1100 power plant workers in that country. More than 130 of the worker's x-rays showed evidence of asbestos disease.
Like most power generation facilities, the combustion turbines of the Bernice Lake Powerhouse are insulated with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). The health hazards of asbestos were not generally known prior to the 1970s, and former workers of the Bernice Lake Powerhouse have contracted and died from mesothelioma.
In recent years, Chugash Electric has taken measures to protect its workers from asbestos, issuing warnings and providing training as well as protective gear. In addition, workers have made it a point to keep their work clothing separate from household laundry, washing these items at the workplace in order to avoid exposing their families. These actions have significantly cut down on the number of asbestos disease cases in recent years.
Nonetheless, Bernice Lake has a long history of asbestos, and diseases associated with this material have a long latency period. Symptoms may not appear for decades after a worker was first exposed to asbestos fibers. It is therefore wise to discuss possible exposure with their primary physicians and get frequent checkups if possible; recent advances have allowed pathologists to detect signs of cancer in their early stages when it is most treatable. Those who have been exposed to asbestos should seek medical attention at any of the mesothelioma clinics in their area.
This location was one of numerous factories, mills, power plants and worksites that, throughout most of the 1900s, utilized the mineral asbestos because of its ability to resist fire. It is ironic that protecting human life was usually one of the main reasons behind using asbestos in companies for the result was actually to place laborers at risk of serious illness or death due to asbestos exposure. The reason for this is that particles of asbestos, when inhaled, embed themselves into internal organs and cause life-threatening health conditions such as asbestosis and lung cancer. Furthermore, workplace contact with asbestos can cause the almost always fatal form of cancer called mesothelioma, which affects the cells that line the pleural cavity (pleural mesothelioma) or the stomach
Because statistics have demonstrated the relationship between asbestos exposure and illnesses like mesothelioma, present-day employees are protected by laws that prescribe how asbestos is used. In earlier days, though, laborers often were forced to toil in areas in which air filled with asbestos dust was not filtered; in most cases, the risks of asbestos exposure were not explained. In addition, employees brought asbestos home with them in their clothes and hair when change rooms weren't offered at the job site; as a result, this carcinogen also put at risk children of those who worked near asbestos. Workers who have been negligently exposed should seek legal counsel from a mesothelioma lawyer.
Those who were employed at this site during their career, as well as their spouses and children, should find out about these health conditions and tell their family doctors about their history of exposure to asbestos, because the signs of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses can be difficult to distinguish from those of other conditions.Sources
Chugach Electric Association (unspecified date). “Chugach Electric Facilities Page-Bernice Lake.”
Cabrera-Santiago, Manuel et al. “Prevalence of Asbestos-Related Disease Among Electrical Power Generation Workers in Puerto Rico.” Presentation at American Public Health Association Annual Meeting, 2007.