The 316 kilowatt Bowen Power Plant in Cartersville, Georgia is a coal-fired facility with four generating units, all of which came online between 1971 and 1974.
Bowen has been identified by the EPA and other environmental groups as one of the worst polluters in the U.S. A report published on ScoreCard.org states that during a twelve-month period, the plant produced a total of 11,000 tons of toxic waste that included arsenic, barium, beryllium, cobalt, mercury, magnesium and vanadium.
Asbestos is not specifically mentioned in reports about Bowen; however, data from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) indicates that asbestos has been heavily used in older power generation facilities of all types, including the more environmentally-friendly hydro and natural gas-fired plants.
Prior to 1980, the use of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) was common throughout the construction of power generation facilities, including the buildings themselves as well as the machinery. Asbestos is resistant not only to heat and flame, but caustic chemicals and electrical current as well. Over the years, the use of ACMs have saved lives and prevented billions of dollars in property loss.
Asbestos disease is relatively rare, but also painful and invariably fatal. The industrial health hazards were well known to ACM manufacturers by the 1930s, but the knowledge was kept a secret for over forty years before a court case in 1977 forced the issue out into the open.
Today, there are strong regulations that have been issued by the EPA and OSHA, requiring companies such as AECC to provide a safe work environment. Violations can result in large monetary fines and other penalties; individuals responsible may also face prison time.
Asbestos diseases typically have very long latency periods. Symptoms may not appear for as much as sixty years after a person is first exposed to asbestos. Former employees of the McClellan facility as well as their families should discuss the possibility of asbestos exposure with their primary care providers; patients who are diagnosed early on have a much better mesothelioma prognosis, though because of the danger of recurrence, lifelong monitoring is usually necessary.
This location was one of thousands of factories, mills, power plants and worksites that, in much of the 20th century, utilized the naturally occurring mineral known as asbestos because of its ability to resist fire. Although using asbestos was intended to reduce the risk of injury, it sadly ended up with the opposite effect. Asbestos exposure in the workplace has resulted in illness and death for untold numbers employees. The reason is that asbestos fibers, when inhaled, can infiltrate respiratory passages, leading to debilitating health conditions including "miner's lung" and cancer of the lungs. The most deadly of the asbestos-caused disorders is mesothelioma, a cancer that involves the lining of the pleural cavity; it is a disease that usually kills within two years of diagnosis.
Because medical science has shown the relationship between being exposed to asbestos and conditions such as mesothelioma disease, modern-day laborers are protected by health and safety statutes that control how asbestos is used. However, in the past, workers without proper safety gear frequently toiled in places thick with asbestos dust. Family members were also exposed to asbestos if companies failed to offer ways for employees to wash off asbestos fibers, because employees carried asbestos to their homes in their work garments.
As asbestos-related illnesses like asbestosis and mesothelioma disease may not develop until a very long time after a person first is exposed to asbestos, men and women who worked at asbestos-contaminated sites, as well as their partners and children, are advised to talk about their history of exposure to asbestos with their doctors no matter how long ago they worked there.Sources
Georgia Power Company Website. “Bowen Brochure.”
United States Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (2007). Asbestos Toxicity. Where is Asbestos Found?
United States Environmental Protection Agency (2008).
http://oaspub.epa.gov/enviro/multisys2.get_list?facility_uin=11000035635Kraft Power Plant