Asbestos Halts Work at Power Plant

The installation of pollution controls at Mirant’s Morgantown (Md.) Power Plant had to be temporarily halted last week due to the presence of asbestos.

According to an article in the Washington Post, already-present asbestos materials may have been disturbed during the installation process, causing an immediate work stoppage until levels of the hazardous fibers could be checked.

“The construction to install the Selective Catalytic Reduction System, which is a pollution control technology, was temporarily halted due to a potential concern of asbestos in the construction work area,” said Misty Allen, a Mirant spokeswoman.

“Once we brought in the equipment to do the testing and analysis, all the testing results came back favorable and well below any limits that would have triggered concern or additional required action,” she added.

Allen notes that the asbestos in question served as insulation for an industrial fan. Though it was clearly marked, a contractor broke a barrier that surrounded it, causing damage to the material. Contract workers were immediately evacuated and a third party was brought in to properly remove the asbestos.

Some of the contractors were concerned about exposure during this incident and throughout the three weeks they’ve been working at the plant. Power plants once made widespread use of asbestos for thermal insulation purposes.

“I don’t think it was a big contamination, but it could be,” said one worker from Kentucky, who added that workers told their superiors twice, on different days, that the barrier had been disrupted before testing was done. “Somebody needs to complain because people go home to their families after they work,” he said.

An official complaint has now been filed with the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health division with the state labor department, said Rhonda Wardlaw, a spokeswoman for the agency. Nevertheless, some workers continue to express dismay about the incident.

“Asbestos ain’t nothing to play with,” said one worker. He and others who commented asked not to be named for fear of job repercussions.

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