Alma Generating Station

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River in Alma, Wisconsin, the Alma Generating Station is a coal-fired electric power plant that is owned and operated by the Dairyland Power Cooperative. This power company services a large residential and commercial population in five Great Lakes states. The first two boiler units at the Alma Generating Station were completed in 1947 and produced over 40 megawatts of energy. Additional units were installed between 1950 and 1960 and today the five units produce a total of 214 megawatts, all fueled by low-sulfur coal that is brought from mines in Utah and Wyoming. Both Units 4 and 5 have advanced reheat technology that allows steam to be used a second time before being completely cooled, a process that saves on the amount of coal needed.

Over the past two decades, a number of modifications have been added to the power station. The units now have built-in electrostatic precipitators that capture solid particulates expelled from the burners, preventing heavy metals from escaping the flue stacks and reaching the outside atmosphere. Non-recyclable fly ash is gathered and taken off-site to a processing facility where it is moistened and then taken to disposal areas.

All of the electricity generated at the Alma Generating Station is sold by the Dairyland Power Cooperative as wholesale electricity. The power is bought by 25 different public utility companies to be made available to consumers.

Because it was constructed over a half century ago, the Alma Generating Station was among many such facilities that installed asbestos in the ceilings, walls and bulkheads surrounding boiler units. Asbestos is lightweight and acts as an efficient heat insulator. The tiny fibers of this material can be mixed with chemicals and used as a coating for wires, while it was also used to make protective, fire-retardant clothing for workers.

By the 1980s medical research had linked the inhalation of asbestos fibers to a number of serious health problems. Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos fibers embedding in the protective lining of organs, and asbestosis is also caused by long-term exposure to asbestos. These symptoms often do not appear for many years after inhalation of the fibers, and past employees at the Alma Generating Station could be at risk for disease even several decades after working at the facility.