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Charles Poletti Power Project

The Charles Poletti Power Project is a “dual fuel” facility constructed in the early 1970s. It is located in the Queens borough of New York near the East River, and can run on either fuel oil or natural gas.

The facility first came online in 1977. The original product was financed by Consolidated Edison, but was taken over by the New York Power Authority three years prior to completion. The plant was given its present name (for a former state governor) in 1982. With a generative capacity of 885 megawatts, the primary customer of the Poletti plant is the state and local government; the electricity goes to run schools, public hospitals, government offices and New York's extensive subway and electric commuter train system.

The New York Power Authority recently opened a 500-megawatt facility next door to Poletti which uses “combined-cycle” technology. This is a more efficient and cleaner-burning method of generating electricity; as a result, the Poletti power plant is scheduled for shut-down and retirement in 2010.

In the early 1970s when construction on Poletti began, shocking revelations during an asbestos case proved that the corporations had engaged in a conspiracy to withhold information about the health dangers of asbestos from the public. As a result, the use of asbestos was gradually phased out, at least in industry and construction (although there are still 3000 products on the market today that still contain asbestos).

Because of its flame retardant characteristics and its usefulness as an electrical insulator, asbestos was used in virtually every industry built through the 1970s. While the use of asbestos saved millions of dollars in property damage as well as spared thousands from the agony of burn injuries, for many it resulted in a range of respiratory illnesses ranging from calcification of lung tissue to full-blown malignancies.

Asbestos illness has been established as a work-related hazard for those employed at power generation facilities. In a Puerto Rican study published in 2007, over 130 out of 1100 chest x-rays from such workers showed signs of asbestos disease. Employees were not the only ones who were at risk from asbestos; they unwittingly brought asbestos into their homes in their clothing and hair, resulting in secondary exposure among family members.

Asbestos diseases usually have a lengthy latency period; symptoms may not be apparent until decades after initial exposure. Therefore, former employees as well as their families are advised to get frequent medical checkups if possible. New tests have enabled pathologists to detect the early markers that indicate the presence of a malignancy, and treatment of mesothelioma in its earliest stages mean a much better prognosis.

Given its ability to block fire, the mineral asbestos was often used within numerous industrial sites across the country. It is ironic that reducing the risk of injury was typically one of the main reasons behind utilizing asbestos in companies because the result was actually to put people at risk of serious illness due to asbestos exposure. The health conditions linked to asbestos include pleural plaques and lung cancer; the largest chance of contracting these conditions happens when asbestos-containing products become friable, releasing microfibers into the environment where they are available to inhale or ingest. Also, job-related exposure to asbestos is a known cause of the almost always fatal cancer called pleural mesothelioma, which develops as a tumor of the cells that line the chest cavity (pleural mesothelioma) or the stomach (peritoneal mesothelioma).

Those whose jobs put them in contact with asbestos today are usually protected from inhalation because of the many laws regulating its utilization, presence at job sites and scrapping. People who labored around asbestos prior to the passage of such laws, however, usually spent their work days in locations where asbestos fibers were prevalent, and they typically were provided with very little information about how to minimize risks when dealing with the mineral. Furthermore, if the employer didn't offer showers and decontamination methods, workers inadvertently transported asbestos fibers home on their clothes or in their hair, thereby exposing spouses to this dangerous substance.

Asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma can take decades to develop, and symptoms are often difficult to distinguish from those of other conditions; therefore, people who worked at such facilities during their careers, as well as their family members, are encouraged to talk with their medical care providers about their history of exposure to asbestos. Those who have possible been exposed negligently to asbestos should contact a mesothelioma attorney.

Sources

Sources

Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Terrifying True Story of How Asbestos is Killing America. New York: Touchstone, 2003.

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.

New York Power Authority. “The Charles Poletti Power Project.”
http://www.nypa.gov/facilities/poletti.htm

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