Resources for Patients and their Families

Fort St. Vrain

The Fort St. Vrain Generating Station is a gas-fired electrical generating facility currently owned and operated by Xcel Energy.

The plant, which first came online in 1976, was originally designed as a nuclear plant. However, the plant was beset with numerous operating problems as well as huge cost overruns, and was finally shut down in 1989. A natural gas combustion turbine was installed in 1996, followed by additional turbines in 2001.

Thanks to a heat recovery steam generators that allows the plant to operate in “combined cycle mode,” heat from the gas generators can be recycled and used to make steam that operates the turbines originally installed as part of the original nuclear power system. Today, Fort St. Vrain has a total generative capacity of 720 megawatts.

Asbestos Risks

A study from Puerto Rico first published in 2007 confirmed which industrial health and safety experts have been saying for many years; power plant workers run some of the highest risk of asbestos disease of any industry. In the study, chest x-rays of 1100 power plant workers were examined and analyzed. After tobacco use was taken into account, thirteen percent of the images showed signs of the early stages of asbestos disease.

Asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were a common form of insulation that was used almost every industry before prior to the 1980s. These were used in any location where heat, flame, electricity and corrosive chemicals might pose an injury hazard. As these materials aged however, they began to deteriorate and crumble. Fibers were then inhaled and ingested by employees. In addition, asbestos fibers could become lodged in hair and clothing and carried into the home, where family members were subjected to secondary exposure.

Diagnosing mesothelioma is highly difficult. Early symptoms are common to many other respiratory diseases, and by the time more specific symptoms begin to appear, the cancer has reached Stage 3 or 4. Most patients diagnosed at this point have a dim mesothelioma prognosis , and usually die within two years.

Those who were employed at Craig as well as partners and offspring should advise their family physicians about any asbestos exposure they may have suffered. New diagnostic methods allow pathologists to detect the markers of mesothelioma disease in early stages when the disease is highly treatable, so frequent monitoring is important.

Through the 1970s, it was normal for industrial sites of all types to be built with asbestos because it excelled at blocking fire. While asbestos' abilities as an insulator undoubtedly protected people and property in the short term, the eventual results of using it were tragic: numerous workers suffered serious illness from exposure to asbestos. The health conditions linked to exposure to asbestos include "miner's lung" and lung cancer; the largest chance of contracting these conditions happens when asbestos-containing materials become fragile, releasing particles into the environment where they are easy to inhale or ingest. The most serious of the asbestos-related diseases is mesothelioma, a cancer that involves the cells lining the pleural cavity; it is almost always a death sentence for those who contract it.

Those who work around asbestos in present times are generally safe from exposure because of the numerous rules controlling its utilization, inclusion in products and disposal. In the past, however, laborers unprotected by masks or other safety equipment frequently toiled in places where asbestos dust filled the air. In addition, workers took asbestos particles home with them on their clothes or in their hair when change rooms weren't offered at the company; as a result, this potentially deadly mineral also put at risk children of those who worked around asbestos.

Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses frequently take 20 years or more to appear, and the signs of these illnesses can be difficult to distinguish from those of less serious conditions; therefore, people who were employed at such plants at any time in the past, as well as their family members, should speak with their medical care providers about their history of exposure to asbestos.



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.

"About Xcel Energy." Xcel Energy Corporate Website. 16 May 2008. Xcel Energy. 26 Apr 2009,

"Fort St. Vrain Power Station History." FSV Folks. 2008. FSV Folks. 26 Apr 2009,

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