Reeves Generating Station

First operating in 1958, Reeves Generating Station in North Albuquerque, New Mexico, was likely built using asbestos. Powered by natural gas, the station is not used as a primary supply of electricity; rather it is used as an auxiliary plant supplying additional power for transmission support and assistance meeting high energy demand when necessary. Capable of producing 154 megawatts, Reeves is owned by the PNM Corporation. It produces about enough electricity to serve 123,000 homes.

One of the most notable signs of aging is the elevator responsible for bringing visitors to the top of the seven-story structure. Now more than 50 years old, the elevator still uses an old-fashioned metal gate enclosure. A style of elevator that is no longer produced, spare parts were nearly impossible to find. In fact, it is so old that finding a company capable of maintaining it required an exhaustive search.  Also showing signs of aging is the plan equipment itself. Realizing the need to update, owner PNM has committed nearly $24 million to modernize the plant. Among the planned improvements, the stations outdated analog controls will be replaced with more accurate and dependable digital controls.

When reached for comment, maintenance and operations supervisor Ray Abbott stated that improvements were absolutely necessary. Abbott explained that there were several pieces of equipment that were outdated to the point where spare parts were no longer available and that the plant has had to resort to taking parts from machines that were not in use to keep the others running. It appears PNM has decided not to take a passive stance and is being proactive and taking measures to keep the station running smoothly.

The Reeves Generating Station was likely one of many work sites that, throughout most of the 20th century, utilized asbestos because for its flame resistant properties. However, many workers who were exposed to asbestos fibers, and subsequently ingested or inhaled them, ended up suffering or dying from asbestos related illnesses.  The reason so many individuals suffered from lung cancers and pleural plaques is that once inhaled or ingested, asbestos infiltrates one’s internal organs and damages the tissues. Additionally, asbestos exposure can result in the development of mesothelioma – an extremely difficult-to-treat cancer that affects the cells lining the pleural or peritoneal cavities.

Currently, the risks associated with asbestos exposure are better understood, and safety and health regulations offer protection to those who work near or with this hazardous substance. However, even as far into the 20th century as the 1980s, employees often worked in areas filled with asbestos dust with little or no protective gear in place. In addition, family members were also at risk when asbestos fibers were carried home on the employees’ hair and clothes.  Asbestos-caused illnesses such as mesothelioma frequently take 20 to 50 years to manifest, and many times, symptoms mimic those of other illnesses.