General James M. Gavin Power Plant 1

The General James M. Gavin Power Plant is a coal-fueled power station located in Cheshire, Ohio. The plant is owned by American Electric Power, and commenced operation in 1974. It is the biggest coal-fueled power plant in Ohio. The facility runs at a capacity of 2600 megawatts. Each of its two units has a smokestack and a tower for cool-off. When running at its full capacity, the coal-fired plant uses 25,000 tons of fuel every day.

The Gavin station serves over 2 million people and supplies most of the power for the Cheshire and for the neighboring city, Columbus. At one time, the coal was derived from a mine in nearby Meigs County, but this source closed in 1999. Currently, the coal is brought up the Ohio River by freight ships and stored on site. It is then ground into a fine powdery substance and infused into a generator to supply the plant with fuel.

The Gavin facility has instruments to regulate air pollution. Unfortunately, in spite of the EPA-approved pollution control devices installed at the station, emissions from the plant became problematic in the late ’90s. The emission-control devices filtered the nitrogen oxide in the emissions coming from the station’s smokestacks, but the equipment increased the amount of sulfur trioxide in the air. The problem often worsened when weather conditions pushed the exhaust fumes down, causing a blue haze at ground level.

In 2002, American Electric Power Company agreed to buy the town of Cheshire after sulfuric acid contaminated the air to the extent that it became dangerous to residents with asthma. Emissions from the power plant also caused headaches and sore throats. AEP moved all of the town’s inhabitants away and bought the community for $20 million. The company recently spent over $7 million to install devices to control the plant’s sulfur emissions.

Asbestos exposure has also occurred in many power plants, such as Gavin, as well as in other industrial facilities. In the past, power plants frequently used asbestos in their boilers generators and other equipment because of its insulating and fire-retardant properties. Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause several illnesses, including mesothelioma and asbestosis. People do not always know when they have been subjected to this toxic mineral because the fibers are very small and the symptoms are sometimes dormant for many years.