James F. Crist Plant

The James F. Crist Electric Generating Plant is a coal plant owned and operated by the Gulf Power Company in northeast Pensacola, Florida, and was deemed operational on January 1, 1945, when it could produce 22,500 kilowatts of energy. The plant was named for the president of Gulf Power Company, who worked in that capacity from 1948 to 1955.  A series of new power-generating units was added over the years, the most recent being Unit 7 in 1973.

Today, Plant Crist can produce 930,000 kilowatts of energy and also has installed a “scrubber” system for the reduction of sulfur dioxide emission. The plant has four operating units and through the scrubber system has reduced 95 percent of its pollutant emissions. Located on the Governor’s Bayou at the mouth of the Escambia River, Plant Crist draws water for cooling upstream from the Gulf of Mexico, and so was not in immediate danger from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Regardless, oil booms were put into place to protect the plant.

Though many power plants are now aware of the dangers of air pollutants, waste, and emissions, in the past, many used a material called asbestos for construction and insulation purposes. Asbestos is a natural mineral that was widely used across the United States as early as World War I. the commercial and military use of asbestos peaked during World War II. It was used largely in boiler rooms of military vessels and in power plants.

Asbestos is harmless if its fibers remain intact, but when they are disturbed, many workers, military veterans, and civilians inhaled and ingested them. The fibers build up in the mesothelium, or the lining of the lungs, and can also be found in the lining of other organs like the heart and the stomach. Because many workers did not realize that asbestos was a carcinogen, necessary precautions to protect against asbestos exposure were not taken, In fact many, plants and factories used asbestos materials to make protective gear for workers.

When the inhaled fibers scar the tissue of the lungs and other organs, the natural make up of cells was altered and the cells became cancerous, resulting in mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer overwhelmingly caused by exposure to asbestos. Because many current and former power plant workers do not make the connection to asbestos exposure and their symptoms, the proper care is not administered until it the cancer has spread too far.