William Crawford Plant

The William Crawford Gorgas Electric Generating Plant, also known as the Gorgas Generating Plant, is a coal-fueled steam electric plant located on the banks of the Black Warrior River just outside Parrish, Alabama. The plant is owned and operated by Alabama Power and consists of a total of five generators.

The Gorgas Generating Plant officially began operations in 1951 with a single steam-driven generator. This generator produced 125 megawatts of electricity. In 1952, a second 125-megawatt generator was added to the plant. The third generator did not go online until 1956, but it was a larger generator with an output of 188 megawatts. Two years later, in 1958, the fourth generator was built, adding another 190 megawatts to the plants total output. When the fifth generator was added in 1972, the Gorgas Electric Plant became the largest electrical plant in the region. The fifth generator was a large-capacity system manufactured by General Electric capable of producing 789 megawatts of electricity. All five generators operate on steam created by burning coal.

The William Crawford Gorgas Electric Generating Plant has a total output of 1,417 megawatts of electricity. Producing such a substantial amount of electricity requires a substantial amount of coal as fuel. This has given the plant not only the distinction of being one of the largest power plants in the region, but the distinction of being one of the largest polluters in the United States.

A list of coal power plants ranked by pollution created was compiled in 2009 at the Institute of Southern Studies. The Gorgas Generating Plant ranked as the 7th most-polluting coal power plant in the country. Data used in the study was gathered from the 2006 Environmental Protection Agency Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). In 2006, the pollution created by the plant included CO2 emissions of 8.14 million tons, SO2 emissions of 81,268 tons, and NOx emissions of 13,076 tons.  In 2005, the plant also produced 1,004 pounds of mercury emissions.

In addition to these pollutants, it is likely that the plant may have contained asbestos within its structure.  Since the generation of energy produces an enormous amount of heat, this insulating mineral was used to protect facilities and equipment from extreme temperatures.  However, asbestos would prove to be toxic to those who worked with and around it, including power plant employees.