East River Generating Station
The East River Generating Station belongs to the Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. The plant is located in Lower Manhattan and is known as one of the Consolidated Edison Company’s biggest combined cycle stations. The station began operations in 1927, having two oil and gas-powered turbines that were built in 1951 and 1955. Recent enhancements to the facility increased the plant’s steam production to about 3 million pounds per hour. However, these improvements have not gone well with some of the residents surrounding the plant, who claim these changes produced emissions responsible for an increase in the incidence of asthma in the area.
In many power stations, especially older ones like the East River, workers are exposed to occupational dangers that employees of other industries never have to face. Many must handle dangerous materials as part of their day to day jobs. Though they are trained to handle high heat environments and heavy, dangerous equipment and machinery, most power plant workers are not of all aware the hazards that toxins like asbestos pose.
Asbestos was popularized as a manufacturing product during the industrial Revolution and First and Second World Wars. It was produced to provide structure and insulation for naval vessels during the wars and was also used widely throughout the country in homes and buildings. Power stations often used the mineral to protect workers against high heat and caustic materials as well, because of the material’s inexpensiveness and heat resistance.
However, when workers handled or disturbed asbestos, fine fibers are released into the air. Because of a lack of healthy ventilation in some plants, these fibers remained suspended until they were inhaled or swallowed by unsuspecting workers. After they were ingested or breathed in, the fibers traveled to the lungs, heart, or stomach of the workers and became lodged in the lining of these vital organs. Over time, and especially with continued exposure to the toxin, the asbestos fibers caused severe tissue scarring. The tissue cells around the lungs, heart, or stomach then became cancerous, developing into a rare cancer called mesothelioma.
Early mesothelioma symptoms are subtle and often indistinguishable from symptoms of other diseases like asthma and pneumonia. Yet once the cancer is diagnosed, it often spreads laterally to surrounding areas. If diagnosed early, mesothelioma patients may be treated using standard cancer procedures, including surgery and radiation therapy. However, few victims survive past anticipated life expectancy rates. Furthermore, many power plant employees were completely unaware that their symptoms were directly related to asbestos exposure, making it difficult for the family to seek compensation from the responsible party.