Exeter Gas Plant
The Exeter Gas Plant is in Rockingham County, New Hampshire, and it began its operations in 1942. The plant sits on 3.2 acres of land, and it is owned by Town of Exeter Housing Authority. The site also includes a sewer pump station, the Town of Exeter Housing Authority’s offices, and an elderly care residential facility.
Little is known about the previous operations of the plant. However, it is assumed that because Exeter utilized a coal gasification system to create energy, both coal and oil were converted to produce coal gas. Afterward, gas would pass through a purification box to extract impurities, such as cyanide and other substances. Wood chips and iron fillings once saturated with the impurities would be spread on the ground. Once they were exposed to the air, the mix would revitalize itself and its ability to soak up impurities. Thus, it could be recycled.
Today, the plant has only five full-time workers and two part-time employees on the premises. More than 18,000 people live within a four-mile radius. A child day-care center borders the plant. The plant’s grounds are not restricted to the public, and the land has walkways, gardens, parking areas, and recreation areas.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has done many assessments on the Exeter plant. In 1990, the EPA took samples of the facility’s groundwater. The water samples indicated that benzene, xylene, cyanide, toluene, and ethyl benzene were present. In 1995, soil samples removed from Exeter contained cyanide, five pesticides, fourteen semi volatile organic compounds, two polychlorinated biphenyl compounds, and five different metals.
In addition to these pollutants, asbestos is a toxic material likely used at Exeter and many other similar facilities due to its fire-resistant properties. The U.S. government now has regulations concerning the handling of asbestos materials. However, before these stipulations were mandated, workers routinely inhaled the substance and even carried its fibers home on their clothes, placing their family members at risk for second-hand exposure. Asbestos has been known to cause asbestosis, mesothelioma cancer, lung cancer, and several other serious illnesses. Because these conditions may take years for a patient to show any symptoms, workers exposed to asbestos were previously unaware of its hazardous effects.