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Bowen Power Plant, Euharlee, Georgia

The Bowen Power Plant in Euharlee, Georgia has the largest generating capacity among coal-burning plants in the US; it is capable of producing 3,499 megawatts. The plant began operations in 1971 and expanded quickly over the next few years. In 2006, it was ranked third among US power plants of all kinds for net generation of electricity.

Unfortunately, this impressive generation of power has an environmental cost. Like most coal-burning power plants, the Bowen Power Station has been criticized for its emission of heavy metals and other pollutants. In 1998, the plant was ranked as the largest emitter of toxic chemicals in the US.

The Bowen Power Plant: Environmental Impact

Whenever coal is burned, it releases certain byproducts that can be harmful to the environment. The large amount of coal burned at the Bowen Power Plant means that many toxins are released into the air and nearby water. Environmentalist groups have cited this plant as a significant source of mercury, sulfur dioxide, arsenic, carbon dioxide, and more. In fact, in 2006 this plant was the largest emitter of sulfur dioxide in the US.

Since this information was released, the plant’s owner, the Georgia Power Company, has been taking steps to reduce the plant’s environmental impact. For example, in 2005 the company announced plans to install scrubbers in all four units of the plant. Scrubbers are devices that can remove sulfur dioxide from the exhaust emitted by a fossil fuel-burning plant. They are expected to reduce the Bowen Power Station’s sulfur dioxide emissions by up to 95%.

While reducing current pollution is a very positive step, it cannot undo the harm caused by past exposure to toxins. For example, many plants constructed before 1987 contained insulation, cement, and other materials made from asbestos. Anyone who worked in or lived near any power plant during that time could be at risk for asbestos-related conditions such as mesothelioma.

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