Coyote Station is a coal-fired plant outside Beulah, North Dakota in Mercer County. The local region has an abundance of coal, which is turned into synthetic gas and the nearby Dakota Gasification Company. Coyote Station is owned by a consortium of energy companies that includes:
- Otter Tail Power
- Northern Municipal Power
- Montana Dakota Utilities
- North Western Energy
Coyote Station first came online in 1981. Its primary fuel, lignite coal, is notorious for both its toxicity and its volatility. The plant has been ranked by environmental organizations as the third worst polluting facility in the nation. Emissions from Coyote include:
- carbon dioxide
- nitrous oxide
All of this has caused health problems among local residents.
Lignite coal is also known for spontaneous combustion, which has required the extensive use of asbestos-containing materials throughout the facility.
Asbestos was first established as a health hazard in the late 1930s; however, this information did not become available to the general public until 1977, when in the course of asbestos litigation, discovery of papers in the corporate offices of asbestos-product manufacturer Raysbestos, Inc. revealed a four-decade conspiracy in the asbestos industry to suppress information about the health hazards of asbestos.
All power plants built prior to that time, whether fired by fossil fuels, nuclear power or hydro were constructed using extensive amounts of asbestos insulation. Asbestos is resistant to heat and flame as well as electrical current. Industrial health and safety experts have long known of the hazards of asbestos; this was confirmed by a Puerto Rican study in 2003, which revealed that 130 out of 1100 chest x-rays from such workers showed indications of asbestos disease.
Generators, boilers and turbine combustion engines as well as thermal control devices have all been insulated with asbestos-containing materials because of their remarkably resistance to electrical current as well as their flame-retardant properties.
Asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma have very long latency periods; symptoms often are not apparent until such diseases have reached advanced stages.
However, new diagnostic methods have been developed and approved by the FDA, which enable pathologists to detect early signs of asbestos disease. Former power plant workers should discuss asbestos exposure with their primary care physicians and receive regular checkups if possible.
Given its insulating properties, the naturally occurring fibrous mineral known as asbestos was often utilized within numerous job sites across the country. Even though asbestos' strength as an insulator certainly protected people from injury and even death, the long-term results of its use were devastating: untold numbers of employees contracted serious illness due to contact with asbestos. The health conditions linked to asbestos include asbestosis and lung cancer; the greatest risk of contracting these conditions occurs when asbestos-containing materials become fragile, releasing particles into the air where they are available to inhale or ingest. In addition, job-related exposure to asbestos is the primary cause of the deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma, which develops as a tumor of the cells that line the chest cavity (pleural mesothelioma) or the stomach (peritoneal mesothelioma).
Today, regulators are much more knowledgeable about the dangers associated with asbestos exposure, and laws ensure the well-being of employees whose jobs put them in contact with this material. Even up to the late 1900s, however, laborers frequently were expected to toil in areas in which air filled with asbestos dust was not filtered; in many cases, the risks of asbestos exposure were unknown. Moreover, employees carried asbestos particles home on their work clothes when change rooms were not provided at the job site; the consequence of this was that the carcinogen also put at risk wives and husbands of those who worked around asbestos.
Those who were employed at this site in the past, as well as those who lived with them, should learn more about these health conditions and tell their family doctors about their history of exposure to asbestos, because the signs of diseases such as mesothelioma are often difficult to distinguish from those of less serious conditions.
Those who think they could have been negligently exposed should seek legal guidance with a mesothelioma attorney.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.
“Environmental Release Report: OTTER TAIL POWER CO. COYOTE STATION.” Scorecard.org.