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Kanawha River Plant closure will mark end of era

Charleston Daily Mail photo by Tom Hindman A conveyor belt brings in coal from the coal yard, which is then pulverized into a powder to burn, generating steam and thus, electricity.
Charleston Daily Mail photo by Tom Hindman
A conveyor belt brings in coal from the coal yard, which is then pulverized into a powder to burn, generating steam and thus, electricity.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In about eight months, a 61-year chapter of eastern Kanawha County history will end when the turbines at Appalachian Power’s Kanawha River Plant spin for the last time.

“There’s a lot of emotion with employees . . . knowing the end is coming,” plant manager Aaron Sink said.

The plant, which came on line in 1953, currently employs about 50 workers, though more than 140 people worked at the plant during its peak.

When the plant shuts down next spring as a result of new clean air regulations, some employees will take early retirement while others will transfer to other positions within Appalachian Power. Most will go to the John Amos Plant in Putnam County.

“There was a hard conversation we had with our employees,” Sink said. “They have trouble understanding why it’s hitting close to home . . . There is a pride you develop when you work at a facility for so many years.”

Craig Ervin, a coal equipment operator and 33-year employee at the Kanawha River Plant, has been offered a job at John Amos Power Plant in Putnam County. The East Bank resident said he was “heartbroken” when news of the closure came around.

“After 33 years, you hate to lose what you’ve already built,” he said.

Though Ervin will be able to carry his company seniority with him, his plant seniority will start over and he may have to work different shifts versus his regular day shift position now. He’ll take a pay cut, but said he is “fortunate” to have an offer.

Jeff Harrah, a supervisor at the Kanawha River Plant and 30-year employee who lives in Belle, has also taken a job at John Amos.

The plant has been threatened with closure before…

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