Tacoma Station

The Tacoma Power Station is located in the small town of Rockwood, Colorado. The historic station is hydro-powered and produces about 8.5 megawatts of electricity. The power source is Cascade Creek, where water is carried 18 miles and then passed though an old fashioned wooden flume to the powerhouse.

Construction of the plant was completed in 1906, and the original name of the project, Rockwood Hydro Plant, was changed when a large number of rail cars deposited the plant’s transformers with the name “Tacoma” marked on the boxes. Originally destined for a Puget Sound area hydro project, General Electric decided to serve the needs of Rockwood first and used the equipment at the Colorado site. The name stuck and the project was thereafter called Tacoma Power Plant.

A narrow gauge railway was built to transport the materials to the site of the powerhouse, and today this is still the only way to get to the power station. Originally operated by the Colorado-Ute Electric Association, Xcel purchased the facility in 1992 when the former owner dissolved. Xcel is a large electrical utility company headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota and supplies electricity and natural gas to millions of customers in the plains and mountain states.

The Tacoma Power Station is a popular destination for hikers and school groups. Tours are even arranged by the station operators. Because it is a hydroelectric generating station, there are no pollutants from this facility, and maintenance focuses on keeping the turbines and electromagnetic generators in proper working order.

Asbestos was used in the construction and operation of most power stations in the U.S. prior to the 1980s. This material was most commonly seen in coal-fire and oil-burning generator sites because of its use as an insulating compound. However, even facilities such as the Tacoma Power Station used asbestos for the protection of electrical circuits and as a flame retardant. Wiring and conduit was coated with special paints containing asbestos fibers and electrical breaker panels often had asbestos padding as part of their construction.

Asbestos was singled out as the cause of the cancerous condition known as mesothelioma, as well as other forms of lung cancer and the respiratory condition, asbestosis. Workers who were employed at the Tacoma Power Station may have suffered long-term exposure to asbestos fibers, which may not show symptoms of disease for decades. Nevertheless, it remains important these former and current employees recognize the risks and seek medical screening if they feel they underwent asbestos exposure.