Local News

Tuesday, Aug 06 2013 07:12 PM

State, PG&E reviewed demolition plans

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Chris Johns, PG&E President.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    The days are numbered for the old PG&E power plant at Coffee Road and Rosedale Highway. as the utility plans to bring down the structure with explosives on Aug. 3, a Saturday.

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    By Dwaye Ardis/ Special to The Californian

    These photos — a few in a much larger series — of the Kern Power Plant implosion were taken Saturday in front of the Del Taco restaurant on Rosedale Highway. Photographer Dwayne Ardis reports that he shot them at 5 frames per second using a Nikon D200 DSLR with a 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto lens.

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    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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BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

State officials and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. employees reviewed demolition plans prior to Saturday's power plant implosion that injured several people, including one critically, the utility said Tuesday.

PG&E President Chris Johns downplayed the company's role in the planning process Tuesday, saying it took a look at its demolition contractor's timing and safety precautions but did not conduct an expert review.

"We had an observation of the general plan from beginning to end of the whole multi-month process," Johns said during a meeting with the Bakersfield Californian's editorial board. "But you know ... we're not experts on demolition."

He added that staff at the California Public Utilities Commission also conducted a "high-level" review of the demolition plans. A spokesman for the agency said late Tuesday afternoon that he had no information on the review.

No site-specific demolition permit was issued for the job, San Francisco-based PG&E said, because one of the subcontractors, Alpha Explosives, has a state license to perform such work.

Hundreds of spectators gathered early Saturday to watch the implosion of the two 1940s-era boiler structures along Coffee Road, which PG&E has not used since 1985. Detonations occurred about 6 a.m., sending debris eastward over Coffee Road.

One spectator, northwest Bakersfield resident Jerry Wood, 43, suffered serious damage to his legs when he was struck by shrapnel from the implosion. He was upgraded to "fair" condition Tuesday and remained at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.

Cal-OSHA and the CPUC are investigating the accident.

Johns said he was aware of at least three safety measures put into place Saturday prior to the implosion. One was a 1,000-foot safety perimeter. Another was the use of plywood to surround each of the structural columns as a way of containing shrapnel from blasts.

The third measure he referred to was a pair of berms placed about 100 feet east of the former power plant about a week before the implosion.

One of the berms, made of crushed concrete, measured 15 feet high and 78 feet long, according to PG&E. It said the other berm, made of rebar, was 10 feet high and 37 feet long.

Johns emphasized that the company's top priority is safety, and that it expects its contractors to act accordingly. He said the company is conducting its own investigation to determine what went wrong.

"We've got to make sure that these kinds of accidents don't happen," he said.

To demolish the plant, PG&E hired Covina-based Cleveland Wrecking Co., which in turn contracted Alpha Explosives, which is based in Lincoln. Alpha brought on Demtech Inc., of DuBois, Wyo.

According to OSHA's national database, each of the contractors involved in the PG&E plant implosion has been cited for violations by the federal work safety watchdog.

Cleveland Wrecking was hired by PG&E to oversee the demolition and removal of the old steam power plant. Since 2003 Cleveland Wrecking has been cited four times by OSHA. Those violations have included six "serious" and two "willfull" violations, along with fines of $156,350. The largest fine -- $135,900 -- came from a Dallas, Texas job in 2007 involving fall protection for employees and appropriate disposal of building materials.

Alpha Explosives was fined $150 for an unspecified 2004 violation.

The second subcontractor, Demtech, was cited by OSHA for exposing employees to lead and violating respiratory protection during a 2009 bridge demolition in Pennsylvania. The company was not fined.

-- Staff writer Steve Levin contributed to this report.

 

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