Plant Bowen is located outside of Euharlee, Georgia, and is owned by Georgia Power. Coal burned at Plant Bowen comes from a variety of mines in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. The plant has the second largest burning capacity in North America, and is the largest in the United States. The plant produced over 22,900,000 MWh in 2007, but the output has come at a price. A report in 2006 showed that Bowen was the largest emitter of sulfur dioxide in the United States, which is known to cause a variety of health issues such as asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, lung disease, and pneumonia. A number of deaths are also attributed each year to exposure to sulfur dioxide.
Plant Bowen also received the dubious honor of being named the 25th most polluting power plant in the country in early 2009. Plant Bowen is aware of its impact on the community and has planned to install scrubbers on the four cooling towers. The scrubbers will work on the technology of flue gas desulfurization (FGD), which will remove the sulfur dioxide from the plant’s exhaust before it is released into the air. The toxins can be removed in a variety of ways, but generally the process involves the gas being pushed through slurry of limestone or other minerals to absorb the contaminants.
The four cooling towers at Bowen can cool 290,000 gallons of water per minute. 6,900 gallons are exuded as water vapor from the tower. Those who have driven past a coal plant will recognize the white plumes of water vapor exhaust from the cooling towers. Each of smokestacks is just under 1000 feet in height. The exhaust from these towers is monitored for particle emissions, to make sure that they are operating within federal regulation standards. This monitoring, combined with the scrubbers to be installed, will make Bowen’s operations more environmentally friendly in the years to come. Much of the coal ash waste also stored onsite in a coal ash pond, which is a body of water on the premises of the power plant created explicitly for the purpose of being a coal ash dumping site. Any coal ash that does not end up in the pond is sent to a landfill or resold for other purposes.
However, sulfur dioxide and coal ash are not the only pollutants associated with power plants. A toxin that proved more directly hazardous to many plants’ workers was asbestos, a fibrous mineral once prized for its strength and heat resistance. Plant Bowen was constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time when asbestos was widely used in industrial insulating materials to protect facilities, equipment, and workers from extreme temperatures. However, it has since come to be publically known that this mineral is the leading cause of mesothelioma, an extremely aggressive form of cancer.