Local News

Monday, Feb 03 2014 04:32 PM

State issues fines for PG&E plant demolition

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    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.

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    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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BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

State investigators have issued fines totaling $28,400 against two subcontractors involved in the Aug. 3 demolition of the former Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power plant that sent debris flying across Coffee Road into a crowd of onlookers.

In the first regulatory actions stemming from the early morning accident that critically injured a Bakersfield man, Cal-OSHA fined DuBois, Wyo.-based Demtech Inc. $14,000 for two “serious” and one “willful” violation connected to the event.

The agency also levied $14,400 in penalties against Lincoln-based Alpha Explosives for the same two “serious” violations as Demtech.

No fines were leveled against property owner PG&E or its prime contractor on the job, Covina-based Cleveland Wrecking Co. A Cal-OSHA spokesman said the agency will not take enforcement action against either company.

The spokesman said the agency’s investigation of the accident will be considered closed if Demtech and Alpha do not appeal the fines within 15 working days of the penalties’ Friday issuance.

Cal-OSHA has said there can be clean up of the site only after the investigation is complete.

One of the violations classified as “serious” resulted from Cal-OSHA’s determination that Alpha and its subcontractor, Demtech, failed to correctly evaluate the hazards posed by the semi-gelatin dynamite and linear shape charges used to demolish the plant.

Both companies failed to properly evaluate the blast area, leading to projectiles flying outside the calculated blast area and resulting in injury to a bystander, the agency stated. It said the strength of the structural columns where charges were placed also was not properly evaluated.

The citation noted that two employees of the Bakersfield Police Department and one Cleveland Wrecking worker were exposed to the hazard of flying fragments.

The other “serious” violation Alpha and Demtech were both cited for accuses the companies of failing to verify that all personnel were outside the designated blast area or under sufficient cover.

As a result, Cal-OSHA wrote, employees of BPD and Cleveland “were in the blast area at the time of the blast and not under cover.”

Demtech was levied $4,500 for each “serious” violation; Alpha was levied $7,200 for each. No explanation was given in the report for the varying fine amounts.

The agency further determined that Demtech “knew” it was supposed to obtain an annual permit for placing and detonating the explosives but that it failed to do so. Cal-OSHA issued a $5,000 fine for that “willful” violation.

Attempts to reach Demtech and Alpha officials were unsuccessful Monday afternoon.

The man whose legs were critically injured by debris from the blast, Jerry Wood, has hired Bakersfield attorney Dennis Thelen to represent him. No lawsuit has been filed, though Thelen has said previously he was waiting for Cal-OSHA’s investigation report.

Thelen said Monday he had not had an opportunity to review the report in detail, but that it appeared from the agency’s narrative that people involved had “woefully miscalculated” the amount of explosives necessary to bring down the building.

PG&E’s primary regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission, has opened an investigation of the accident. A spokesman for the commission said Monday he was uncertain whether that inquiry remains open.

 

 

 

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