The Richard M. Flynn Power Plant first came online in 1994. Located outside of Holtsville on Long Island, it currently operates under a contract with the Long Island Power Authority.
The Flynn facility uses a “combined cycle” technology, which allows two units to be run with a single fuel source. In the case of Flynn, this is primarily natural gas, although fuel oil is used with necessary. This enables plant to produce 157 megawatts with a fraction of the fuel required by older facilities.
Because Flynn is a fairly new facility, it is not known if asbestos exposure has been a major issue for employees working at the plant. Use of asbestos-containing materials were gradually phased out starting in 1980, largely due to the revelation in a court case three years earlier that demonstrated a corporate conspiracy among Raysbestos, W.R. Grace and Johns-Manville – all major manufacturers of asbestos products – to hide information about the health effects of their products from the general public.
Prior to that time however, power generation facilities normally contained large amounts of asbestos insulation. Asbestos is resistant not only to heat and flame, but electrical current as well. Generators, boilers and turbine combustion engines and thermal control devices were all insulated with asbestos-containing materials as well as pipe and conduit lagging, electrical cloth and junction boxes.
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.
Today, both the EPA and OSHA have issued strict regulations that govern worker safety as well as asbestos issues in general. However, a asbestos disease usually has a very long latency period; symptoms usually take decades to develop, and by the time they are diagnosed, it is usually too late.
The good news is that recent tools have been developed that allow pathologists to detect early signs of asbestos disease; it is therefore important to receive regular checkups if possible if you believe you were exposed to asbestos at a power plant.
This installation was one of numerous factories, mills, power plants and worksites that, in the first seven decades of the 1900s, used the mineral asbestos for its ability to resist electrical current. Although the use of asbestos was usually intended to protect human life, it unfortunately ended up with the opposite effect. Asbestos exposure while at work has resulted in illness and death for untold numbers people. The reason for this is that asbestos strands, if inhaled, damage respiratory passages, leading to serious diseases such as "miner's lung" and lung cancer. The most serious of the asbestos-caused illnesses is mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the lining of the pleural cavity; it is very difficult to treat, and patients seldom live more than two years after being diagnosed.
Now, regulators understand the dangers associated with being exposed to asbestos, and laws ensure the well-being of employees who work with or near this potentially lethal mineral. Even as late as the 1970s, however, laborers without protective equipment all too often toiled in places where asbestos dust filled the air. Family members were also subjected to asbestos exposure when employers did not provide showers, because workers inadvertently transported asbestos to their homes in their work garments.
Men and women who were employed at this site during their career, as well as their spouses and children, are advised to find out about these health conditions and tell their healthcare professionals about their history of asbestos exposure, because the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses are often difficult to distinguish from those of other conditions. Individuals who may have been negligently exposed should seek legal counsel 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.
New York Power Authority. “The Richard M. Flynn Power Plant.”