Coal has always been a huge commodity in West Virginia and, as such, coal-fired power plants have been abundant in the region. One of those plants is the Kanawha River Power Plant, located near the town of Glasgow and just recently shuttered after more than 60 years of operation.
Operated by Appalachian Power, the plant was recently shut down as a result of new clean air regulations, an issue that has long been a concern for the residents who live near this and other coal-fired power plants.
When it was built in the early 50s, however, it was an exciting time for the people of Glasgow and it certainly brought more financial prosperity to the area.
Billed as the “world’s biggest steam electric generating plant” it employed 140 individuals at its peak and just 50 before it closed in early 2015. The location was chosen because of the proximity to the river, on which the coal was transported to the plant.
But because of the old technology used at the Kanawha River power plant, concerns arose about local air quality. In particular, newer systems can reduce the amount of arsenic, mercury, and other toxins emitted by the plant.
Such emissions have long been of concern for those who live and work in the area, and employees over the years have also reported respiratory issues.
The respiratory systems of employees were also compromised by the use of asbestos inside the Kanawha River Power Plant. Asbestos materials were once used throughout the plant as insulation and for other purposes as well.
For example, the EPA sited an incident in 1992 where asbestos-containing transite siding blew off the conveyer belts used to transport coal. The event may have exposed some workers to the toxin, but the transite remained in place even after that happened.
While that incident may have been considered minor, the long-time use of asbestos materials at this and other plants meant that employees who put in years of work there may have been consistently exposed on a daily basis.
While asbestos materials tend to be safe while intact, any time these workers encountered old or damaged asbestos – known as “friable” asbestos – they may have inhaled tiny, sharp fibers that can embed themselves in the lining of the lung. At that moment of inhalation, the seeds of mesothelioma could have literally been planted.
Now, decades after that exposure occurred, employees of Kanawha River Power Plant have been – or will be – diagnosed with mesothelioma. Sadly, their chances of survival will be low as mesothelioma is one of the most difficult-to-treat forms of cancer.
Though progress is being made through diligent research, most victims of the disease face a grim prognosis and their families are left behind feeling bitter and cheated, wondering why no one warned their loved one about the risks associated with asbestos.
If you are a former Kanawha River Power Plant employee who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should recognize that you may have options that involve filing suit against the plant and those who manufactured the asbestos products you once encountered on the job. Consult a West Virginia-area mesothelioma attorney for more detailed information.