Green River Generating Station

Green River Generating Station is a small coal-fueled power generating station owned by Kentucky Utilities (KU). The station is one of the five primary power plants owned and operated by KU. The Green River Station is located on US-431 near Central City in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. As the name suggests, it is located on the banks of the Green River. Despite the fact that the plant only has four small generating units that produce a total output of 242 megawatts, the Green River Station is the third-largest power plant owned by Kentucky Utilities. It was one of the first plants owned by KU to install advanced pollution controls.

In 1974, the Green River Station became the first plant for KU to have a commercial scrubber installed. This scrubber cleaned the emissions produced by Unit 1 and Unit 2 at the plant. The scrubber is responsible for removing 90 percent of the sulfur dioxide emissions created by the burning of coal in the two units. In 1995, special burners were installed on Unit 4. These low nitrogen oxide burners automatically adjust the fire, controlling the output of the gas byproduct. The 16 burners installed on the unit are responsible for cutting NOx emissions by half their previous rate.

The plant also has a continuous emissions monitoring system installed. This system samples the gases as they are discharged through the smokestack. If any of the emissions reach a dangerous level, the system warns plant employees so adjustments or repairs can be made. The Green River Station burns approximately 1,600 tons of coal on a daily basis, which adds up to over 500,000 tons per year.

A survey conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency reported that the Green River Generating Station released nearly 1.70 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2006. While the plant also released large amounts of sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and mercury, no data on the exact amounts is available.

Another study conducted by ABT Associates for the U.S. Clean Air Task Force, an independent non-profit organization, has assembled statistics regarding the number of deaths and illnesses caused by the pollution created at the Green River Station. Pollution from the plant in the form of acid, soot, heavy metals, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide were said to be directly responsible for 21 deaths in the area around Green River. In addition to these deaths, the pollution was also responsible for 31 heart attacks, 13 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 45 trips to the hospital or emergency room.

In addition to the fine particle pollution caused by emissions, the effects of asbestos on workers in plants presents yet another serious threat to employees of these older facilities built without regulations on insulation materials. Built in the 1970s, it’s possible the Green River plant was one of those plants constructed with asbestos materials. Furthermore, the repairs and upgrades the plant saw put workers in further risk, as these asbestos-containing materials might have been greatly disturbed, allowing the particles to fragment and enter the air. Although an effective insulator against heat and electricity, asbestos poses significant health risks when humans make contact with it, meaning any current or former employee of this plant may be at risk.