News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, May 24, 2012
BARNWELL COUNTY, S.C. -- "I'm proud to have worked here behind my grandfather and my father, so it's really special," said Dustin Cain, a third-generation Savannah River Site worker at the D-Area powerhouse.
It was one of the first facilities built on Savannah River Site back in the fifties.
"We generate steam and electricity. Basically, we're burning coal to produce the steam and electricity," said Cain, the auxiliary operator.
The energy they produced helped workers in other areas of the site build bombs and win the Cold War. Now, times are changing. The D-Area powerhouse is being deactivated.
"You know, it was a sad day to see us go down, but we live in different times," Cain said.
The coal-fired plant, along with eight others on SRS, has been replaced with three cleaner-burning biomass facilities. Those three facilities are operated by Ameresco.
"We [generated] 75 million watts. At one time, it was probably enough electricity to supply the Aiken area," said Facility Maintenance Manager Brad Harrelson of the D-Area powerhouse.
However, since April 9, the coal facility generates electricity no more. That's the date it was taken offline. Harrelson says workers at D-Area continue to flush out chemical lines and finish the final touches before the historied powerhouse is abandoned for good.
"We're going to set it in a safe state. We're actually going to make sure we can't leech anything into the environment -- any kind of chemicals or hazardous materials," Harrelson said.
Even though it's a sad milestone, Harrelson says it's a necessary one.
"I think the future's bright. I think that everybody has a great opportunity to move forward, and they're all good workers, good people. You know, it's like a big family down here," he said.
Harrelson just hopes history never forgets this family -- a family that powered America's Cold War victory.
He says Ameresco has already about twelve of the workers who did work at the powerhouse. He says workers who'll be forced to find another job will have skills to work at any numbers of places on Savannah River Site.