W.H. Sammis Power Plant

The W.H. Sammis plant is the largest coal-fired power plant in Ohio. It is owned by the FirstEnergy Corporation, an energy company based in Akron. The W.H. Sammis plant is located on the bank of the Ohio River between Steubenville and East Liverpool, in Jefferson County. The plant is situated with the river on one side and Ohio State Route 7 on the other. 187 acres are occupied by the plant, which has undergone extensive renovations over the years.

The first generator unit went into operation in 1959. By 1962, the total number of coal-fired generators was four. It is currently 7, with generators coming on line in 1967, 1969, and 1971. Five oil peaking units were added in 1972, bringing the W.H. Sammis generating capacity to 2,233 megawatts of electricity.

The plant currently employs 410 technicians and support personnel. Over the years, many upgrades and improvements have been made to the plant, bringing contractors and temporary employees on site. These upgrades were performed on air quality control and environmental systems. Baghouse technology and electrostatic precipitators are used on the various units to remove particulate matter before it reaches the open air.

As an older power plant, W.H. Sammis has experienced many changes in engineering technology as new discoveries were made. In 1959, when construction was being completed on the initial phase of the plant, asbestos was a common construction material used in power generation facilities. Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance that is resistant to fire and heat damage. It was used extensively in industry to protect ducts and pipework in environments that exposed them to high temperatures. Likewise, the walls and infrastructure of boiler rooms and furnaces used asbestos as a safety measure to protect the plant property from explosions or uncontrolled conflagrations.

Medical research has linked asbestos exposure to mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of organs, as well as other pulmonary conditions. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has been linked to asbestos exposure, specifically as the condition known as asbestosis, in which asbestos fibers lodge in the lungs. Mesothelioma does not always show readily apparent symptoms. It is often discovered when the tumor has advanced to a stage requiring drastic therapy. The extensive upgrades to the environmental systems at the W.H. Sammis plant may have even exposed workers to asbestos, as previously-contained materials were disturbed.