Lansing Smith Electric Plant

The Lansing Smith Power Plant is located approximately fifteen miles from Panama City. It is a coal-fired plant, and it is owned by Gulf Power, a subsidiary of the Southern Company out of Atlanta, Georgia. Gulf Power operates Lansing Smith. The plant began to operate its first two units (Units A and B) in 1965 and 1967. They expanded and started to run units C and D in 2002 and 1971, respectively. The plant’s generating capacity is approximately 945,000 kilowatts.

The EPA drafted a Toxic Release Inventory in 2007. The inventory is a listing of chemicals released from the Lansing Smith facility. However, the Toxic Release Inventory does not provide details regarding the risks of the chemicals or the plant’s violations. Similar to other coal-fired plants, Lansing Smith releases heavy metals into the water and air, including vanadium, magnesium, lead, zinc, and mercury. Lansing Smith is second in the amount of releases in 2007 for Bay County. Overall, the same website ranks Lansing on the most dangerous side of the scale in terms of environmental danger. The total environmental compounds released from Lansing Smith in 2007 are estimated at 1,250,000 pounds of chemicals.

According to a 2009 Institute of Southern Studies publication, Lansing Smith was 57th of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the country, releasing 520,282 pounds of coal waste in 2006.  Additionally, Lansing Smith was found to be one of 29 sites contaminated with hexavalent chromium, which can easily infiltrate drinking water, from coal ash.

Unfortunately, coal ash was not the only hazardous substance to be found in the plant’s history.  During the 20th century, Lansing Smith, along with many other similar facilities, likely used asbestos due to its heat-resistant properties. Asbestos is a toxic material, and exposure to asbestos has lead to serious illnesses for thousands of people. Asbestosis, mesothelioma cancer and lung cancer are among the most serious conditions caused by exposure to asbestos. In many plants, asbestos materials became friable, or able to be crumbled, and were released into the atmosphere where they were ingested or inhaled.

Because asbestos-related illnesses may take years to develop, people who breathed in the material did not know they were affected. They may also have carried toxic particles home and infected their family through second-hand contact.  Today, there are strict government stipulations on the handling of asbestos materials. Workers must use respiratory equipment and take other necessary precautions as well.