By JOHN BORGOLINI
EPHRATAH - Frequent travelers along Route 10 might have noticed a gray stone building, with its tall array of metal electrical equipment and its "keep out" signs, but few probably know the structure's history.
This Ephratah Hydro Power Plant, seen this week from Route 10, has been operating for 100 years and is the oldest active station in the state. (The Leader-Herald/John Borgolini)
The Ephratah Hydro Power Plant was erected and opened in 1912 and has remained an active plant for 100 years. The only such plant in the state that's older - in Mechanicville - has stopped operating.
Current and former employees say they know the plant's worth and its interesting past.
"It has been a vital resource for the area," said Chad Polnak, who works at the power plant, which is owned by Massachusetts-based Brookfield Asset Management and supplies hydroelectric power to the region's power grid using water from several sources.
"It provides Caroga Lake and its surrounding area its power," Polnak said. "It was a stepping stone to power supply lines. One hundred years ago, these guys really had this figured out."
The plant is connected by 11,000 feet of pipe to Caroga Lake, Peck Lake, the Rockwood dam and the Garoga Dam.
And the building itself isn't the only thing that has lasted 100 years.
"[The plant still has] the old copper and brass handles," Polnak said. "All these gauges say 1912 on them. The relative basic mechanics are basically the same as the valves they originally put in."
John Pickard, who worked at the plant for 32 years before retiring on March 1, 1996, said the plant has been able to remain open due to "tender loving care" over the years, and the old plant is cleaner than most modern ones.
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Pickard said generating hydroelectric power tends to be a clean process.
"There are definitely advantages, because there is no thermal or air pollution at any level," he said. "The water comes in at one temperature and comes out at the same temperature. At a nuclear station, the water would come out at a higher temperature. It's green energy like that. It's cleaner all around."
Polnak said Pickard has talked about doing something special to celebrate the centennial accomplishment.
"This plant is near and dear to my heart," Pickard said. "By the time I retired, I had spent half of my life there. It's a great asset to the community ... There are probably people that have driven by it so many times and don't even know it's story. It's got a lot of longevity."
John Borgolini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.