In the mid-20th century, coal-fired power stations were all the rage, especially in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where coal mining has long been a major industry. Whereas other parts of the country may have been unfamiliar with such power plants, they became an everyday sight to those who reside in that area. The plants were touted as efficient and the companies that ran them employed hundreds of locals in a variety of different jobs. Many of them are still operating today.
The Homer City Generating Station is one of those familiar mid-century coal-fired power plants. The power station was built by the Pennsylvania Electric Company, but in 2001 affiliates of General Electric bought the plant. For a while, this Indiana County plant was owned by Edison. With two units launched in the 1960s and another in 1977, the station currently supplies power to more than two million households.
Pollution tends to be a problem with coal-fired plants, and it’s something that certainly worries those who live and work nearby. In the earlier years of Homer City, sulfur dioxide pollution was of huge concern, but scrubbers added in 2012 reduced that pollution greatly.
The Pennsylvania Department of the Environment also cited the Homer City Generating Station for violating the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law back in 2007. Oxides of nitrogen emissions have also been a problem for the plant.
In addition, those who worked at the Homer City Generation Station during the first decade that it was in service were most likely exposed to dangerous asbestos-containing products.
Until about 1980, when the U.S. government issued stern warnings about asbestos use, the material was found in many products used inside coal-fired power plants, mostly for insulation purposes.
Workers that might have been exposed to asbestos in the job include:
• And many others
When asbestos is intact, it doesn’t generally cause concern. However, when it becomes worn or damaged, otherwise known as friable, tiny fibers are released and those working in the vicinity can inhale those fibers. Workers who replaced damaged asbestos materials were often the first to be exposed, usually ripping off the material with their bare hands and working through the day with asbestos on their bodies and clothing. Some even brought the dust home with them, exposing their families to the toxins.
Learn more about friable asbestos and where it may be found.
However, in most cases, no one told these power plant workers that asbestos was dangerous. Hence, they thought nothing of touching the material and probably never wore masks or respirators, which could have prevented inhalation of the toxic dust. As a result, power plant workers appear high on the list of those most likely to develop mesothelioma, a cancer for which the only known cause is exposure to asbestos.
Sadly, it has been proven many times in a court of law that employers often knew of the dangers of asbestos materials yet refused to stop using them, largely because they were inexpensive. Replacing these materials with something safer would have cost more money and put a dent in the bottom line profits.
If you were employed at Homer City Generating Station and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it’s time to learn about your rights as an individual who was negligently exposed to asbestos.
Schedule an appointment with an Indiana County-area mesothelioma attorney to learn more about your options.