Monroe Power Plant
In the 1970s, the Monroe Power Plant was constructed to keep up with Detroit’s then-booming economy and the need for more electricity. The plant currently has four units which produce a combined total of 3,300 megawatts. This output makes it the eleventh-largest electrical plant in America and the second largest coal-burning plant in the country.
For several years the Monroe Plant has been embroiled in environmental controversy. The plant is known to be exceedingly dirty, with massive outputs of sulfur dioxide and mercury, among other toxic gases. In 1999 the plant attempted to take steps to clean up its facility and its output with a $1.7 billion investment in new technologies, but was reportedly slowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its attempts to do so.
President Bush said that the ultimately five-year delay was “inefficient.” As a result, the Bush Administration streamlined the New Source Review rule, which required plants to install new pollution controls on any equipment upgrades unless they could prove that the upgrades wouldn’t increase the amount of emissions. John Walke of the Clean Air Project for the Natural Resources Council said that the streamlining would mean more pollution in the air, and that it was not even necessary for the Monroe Power Plant.
Years later, it was reported that pollution was still an issue at the plant. In 2007 Monroe was ranked as one of the top producers in mercury pollution. Detroit Edison, which owns Monroe, installed sulfur dioxide scrubbers on the units to significantly reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide emissions coming from the plant’s exhaust pipes.
Most recently, the plant has undergone a $65 million dollar renovation to replace corroding pipes that have been in place since the plant began operating in 1970. It is the hope of Detroit Edison that these upgrades will increase the life of the boiler. Additional work is also underway to further reduce the plant’s emissions.
However, the reduction in emissions is not the only concern for this known contributor to health conditions among residents in the area. In addition to surrounding pipes, like those that are corroding at the Monroe plant, asbestos was used in numerous areas around such facilities to act as an insulator against heat and electricity. Unfortunately, as the material ages, its structure becomes friable, allowing it to pollute the work environment of these plants and impact employees. If the Monroe plant does not take the same asbestos removal steps being taken to curb emissions, there is a strong chance workers might continue to be exposed to a toxic environment on a daily basis.
Slat, Charles. (September 2003) “Monroe, Michigan’s Detroit Edison Power Plant Visited By President George Bush September 15. 2003.” Retrieved March 23, 2011 from Historic Monroe.