Local News

Sunday, Aug 04 2013 06:13 PM

Demolition expert says PG&E plant's safety zone wasn't large enough

  1. 1 of 8

    By Autumn Parry / The Californian

    A hole in the fence near Lowe's marks where one man was seriously injured after a piece of shrapnel flew from the implosion of the old Kern Power Plant through two fences and hit him in the leg at Coffee Road and Rosedale Highway.

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  2. 2 of 8

    By Autumn Parry / The Californian

    A hole in the fence near Lowe's marks where one man was seriously injured after a piece of shrapnel flew from the implosion of the old Kern Power Plant through two fences and hit him in the leg at Coffee Road and Rosedale Highway.

    click to expand click to collapse
  3. 3 of 8

    By Autumn Parry / The Californian

    The two remaining towers of the old Pacific Gas & Electric steam power plant are on their sides Aug. 4 after the implosion knocked them to the ground at Coffee Road and Rosedale Highway early Aug. 3.

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  4. 4 of 8

    By Autumn Parry / The Californian

    The two remaining towers of the old Pacific Gas &Electric steam power plant are on their sides Sunday after the implosion knocked them to the ground at Coffee Road and Rosedale Highway early Saturday morning.

    click to expand click to collapse
  5. 5 of 8

    By Louis Amestoy/ The Californian

    A Kern County firefighter washes away blood near where at least one person was critically injured by shrapnel from the implosion of PG&E's power plant along Rosedale Highway. The victim was standing just north of Jet Way and east of Coffee Road.

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  6. 6 of 8

    By Louis Amestoy/ The Californian

    A Kern County firefighter picks up articles of clothing and other items where at least one person was critically injured by shrapnel from the implosion of PG&E's power plant along Rosedale Highway on Aug. 3, 2013. The victim was standing just north of Jet Way and east of Coffee Road.

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  7. 7 of 8

    By Autumn Parry / The Californian

    A demolished power plant lies in smoke where the old Kern Power Plant used to stand after PG&E imploded the two remaining towers at Coffee Road and Rosedale Highway early Aug. 3, 2013.

    click to expand click to collapse
  8. 8 of 8

    By Autumn Parry / The Californian

    An explosion knocks down one of the remaining towers at the old Kern Power Plant at Coffee Road and Rosedale Highway in August. The demolition of the plant, which has been closed since 1995 after operating for about 37 years, was part of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s plan to sell the site for redevelopment.

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BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer slevin@bakersfield.com

The 1,000-foot perimeter safety zone for Saturday's demolition of the Pacific Gas & Electric steam power structures that critically injured a spectator was not large enough, a demolition expert said Sunday.

The early morning implosion of the long-abandoned plant's twin boilers sent steel and concrete debris into a crowd of onlookers 1,000 feet away in the Lowe's parking lot on Coffee Road.

The contractor didn't have a safety zone large enough," said Herb Duane, a consultant for hundreds of demolition and implosion projects around the world. "When you have a strong force and you're knocking down steel, it will shoot out much farther than if you did a regular demolition."

Duane, president of Duane Corp., in North Conway, N.H., said there is no industry standard for a safety zone, but 1,000 to 1,500 feet from the blast is common. The size of the zone is decided by the contractor, he said.

The most seriously injured spectator Saturday was flown to a Fresno hospital where one of his legs was amputated. He had not been publicly identified by late Sunday, although Bakersfield police said he was 43.

The 6 a.m. explosion sent debris across Coffee Road and a canal bordered by two chain-link fences, peppering spectators and vehicles.

Four other people suffered minor injuries.

Duane said similar demolitions usually occur at off hours in order to keep the number of spectators low.

"The less people around the less chance of a problem," he said.

Cleveland Wrecking Co., of Covina, was the prime contractor. Subcontractor Alpha Demolition hired Demtech Inc. to take down the structures.

A spokesman for Cleveland Wrecking, a subsidiary of San Francisco-based URS Corp., declined comment Sunday. Representatives from the other two companies could not be reached.

Calls to the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration were not returned.

PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said the company "has reached out to all community hurt" during the implosion. He said the company has been "very, very concerned" about the most seriously injured spectator.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family," Smith said, declining to identify the victim.

Duane called Saturday's injuries "very, very rare." He said ultimate responsibility for them, however, rests with the contractor and subcontractor.

He said both Cleveland Wrecking and Demtech are well known in the industry with "respectable" reputations for demolitions.

According to Smith, PG&E paid Cleveland Wrecking to take down the twin structures and, as part of the deal, allowed it to remove and recycle all metal, concrete and wiring in the two 140-foot boiler towers that were collapsed.

He declined to give specifics about the contract but said it was "in the millions of dollars."

"The key to the contract is their ability to take those materials and recycle them," Smith said.

Current "unprepared" scrap steel prices in California -- the price paid for scrap steel 4 feet or longer -- is about $200 per ton. "Prepared" scrap steel, which is less than 4 feet long, fetches about $275 per ton.

Smith said there was about 13,000 tons of recyclable material, but could not say how much of it was steel.

 

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