Flint Creek Power Plant

Flint Creek Power station in Gentry, Arkansas, generates electricity for the surrounding area. The Flint Creek station is fueled by coal. When it was built in July of 1978, a single generator produced 528 megawatts of electricity. The Flint Creek Power Plant now derives its coal from Wyoming’s huge Powder River Basin which contains is the largest coalfield on earth.  The AECC is a joint owner of the Flint Creek Power Plant, holding 50% of the plant. The station was built to provide the state of Arkansas with a dependable supply of electricity.

In 2009, the Institute of Southern Studies published a list of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the United States.  The Flint Creek plant ranked 96th, releasing 221,456 pounds of coal combustion waste in 2006.  A 2010 study found groundwater contaminated with coal ash in 34 states, including Arkansas.  The water around the Flint Creek plant was found to contain levels of lead, barium, selenium, cadmium, and chromium that exceeded the Maximum Contaminant Level for these heavy metals.  Most recently, a February 2011 cited Flint Creek as one of 29 waste sites in the country that were contaminated with hexavalent chromium from coal ash.

However, not all the health dangers posed by the plant are in the form of groundwater contamination.  Asbestos is a mineral that was almost certainly used at the Flint Creek station as well as many other mills, factories and power plants throughout the nation. Asbestos was considered to be a safeguard because of its heat-resistance properties. Unfortunately, the mineral turned out to have the opposite effect.  Hordes of workers contracted serious illnesses as a result of exposure to asbestos.

When asbestos becomes airborne, humans in the vicinity inhale the fibers. These tiny particles cause lung damage and spark serious disorders such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is the worst of these asbestos-related conditions. With a latency period of 20 to 50 years, mesothelioma is a cancer that impacts the lungs and the lining of the stomach. The victims of this disease do not usually survive more than 2-3 years beyond their diagnosis. A clear connection has been shown between the inhalation of asbestos fibers and ailments such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Today, workers are safeguarded by legislation that spells out exactly how asbestos is to be handled and controlled, but it has not always been this way. As late as the 1980s, employees of power plants, factories and mills were expected to work in an unfiltered environment. If employees were not provided access to methods of decontamination, workers took asbestos particles into their households and inadvertently exposed their families and others to this highly toxic substance.


Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation