AEP provides educational day for students

| May 18, 2016

CONESVILLE – In the late 1970s and early 1980s there were only two active pairs of reproducing Bald Eagles in Ohio. Today there are around 200 and one of those pairs is located on the AEP Conesville Plant’s land.

Almost 800 fifth and sixth graders had the opportunity to view those Bald Eagles on May 18 at the outdoor education event held at the AEP Conesville Plant.

The Bald Eagle viewing area was manned by Ohio Division of Wildlife Officers and was one of 27 activities that students from Adamsville, Conesville, Coshocton Christian, Coshocton Elementary, Keene, Nashport, Ridgewood, Sacred Heart, Union and Warsaw visited.

Coshocton County Wildlife Officer Jerrod Allison explained to the students that Bald Eagles were once considered an endangered species.

“Back in the day people didn’t like them so they were often shot and killed,” he said. “Also, the pesticides farmers used didn’t hurt adult Bald Eagles, but did harm the eggs they laid. The shell of the eggs would be so thin that when the Bald Eagle sat on them they would break so we didn’t have as many Bald Eagles.”

Over the years federal laws were enacted to protect Bald Eagles and changes were made to pesticides used by farmers. The Division of Wildlife stepped up to help educate people about Bald Eagles and promote good habitat for them. Their goal was to have 100 pairs in Ohio by the year 2000. They surpassed that goal and the Bald Eagle is now off the endangered species list, but still protected by federal law.

“A lot of times when we are here the kids say they don’t even know there are Bald Eagles around here,” Allison said. “It’s neat to see their faces. You’ll ask them if they see it and they will say no, but when they do you can tell because their jaws hit the ground. We just hope the day gives them a better understanding of the outdoors and what Coshocton County has to offer them.”

Several of the stations the students visited dealt with the outdoors and conservation, but AEP employees also taught them about what they do at the plant.

AEP employee Earl Duck explained to the students that the plant uses coal to create a total output of 1,600 megawatts of electricity.

“That’s enough to light 27 million 60 watt light bulbs,” he said. “You can’t see electricity though. It’s just electrons flowing that we send on wires.”

Duck shared with the students that using coal to create electricity has its good and bad points, but it is definitely needed.

“A lot of people like to protest, but if you take away coal fired power plants, nuclear power plants, fracking and dams that’s 92 percent of our electricity,” he said. “If you don’t want to have power then shut it all down.”

Duck noted that coal fired electricity is much more economical than wind or solar power, but it does cause some air pollution and uses a lot of water. However, the plant takes every step possible to be a good steward of the environment.

“Everything we do here we have to comply with the law and we feel we go well beyond that,” he said.

The plants cooling towers protect the river wildlife from hot water and the electrostatic precipitator removes 99.95 percent of flyash from the air, which can be hard to breath. Two different scrubbers prevent acid rain and remove 96 to 99 percent of SO2, the Select Catalytic Reduction cleans the air by removing 90 percent of NOx and the Gore Technology cleans the air by removing 90 percent of the mercury.

“People say coal is dirty, but in my opinion it’s a pretty clean way to light up 27 million 60 watt light bulbs,” Duck said.

The students also learned how to be safe around electrical lines when visiting the station hosted by power linemen and the importance of calling before you dig so you don’t accidently hit a buried line. AEP has a free service where all you have to do is call 811 and someone will come out to mark where lines are buried so they don’t get hit.

“We really want them to be aware of the hazards that are out there and that they need to stay clear of downed lines,” said Eric Erwin, an AEP line mechanic.

They showed the students how a piece of a car tire smoked when it touched a live wire and how even one of their gloves not in perfect condition can cause a spark.

“See the smoke and fire,” Erwin said. “That glove just had a pinhole in it. It’s important that we test our equipment before we use it. If you see a downed wire, call us. We will come look at it. It’s better to be safe.”

AEP also treated the students, their teachers and chaperones to lunch.

“I’m really glad we could come here and not just do school work,” said Seth Brown, a fifth grader at Sacred Heart School.

His classmate O’Rhyin Hoist also enjoyed getting away from school and said his favorite station was the water tank and Jonathan Vu agreed with him.

“I liked learning about water conservation,” Hoist said.

Heather Hardesty, one of the 230 employees at the AEP Conesville Plant, is always glad to see the kids enjoy themselves.

“This is fun to do and it’s educational,” she said.





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Category: Education, Multimedia, Photo Galleries

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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