Project: Bear Swamp Industrial Steel Blasting & Painting, Florida, Massachusetts Client: American Hydro Corporation, on behalf of Brookfield
Alpine Electrifies Client With Its Experience Working in Unique Environments and Troubleshooting Skills
Alpine Painting and Sandblasting was contracted to conduct an aggressive blast of a stay vein at Bear Swamp Hydroelectric station. The purpose of the blast was to remove the coating so that American Hydro could weld steel modifications to the stay vein for the purpose of improving water flow efficiency. The stay vein surfaces of the station, which was built in 1974, were heavily pitted and had a 30-40 mil thick coating system that needed to be removed.
After an assessment of the assignment, Alpine quickly learned that the biggest challenge would be accessibility to the worksite. The hydroelectric facility was located at the bottom of a mountain where there was a reservoir. On top of the mountain there was another reservoir. When the Alpine crew drove into the facility to be worked on, they needed to drive into the mountain — a 40 foot diameter hole carved on the side of the mountain and about 650 feet deep. After parking, the crew needed to take an elevator approximately 150 feet down, directly underneath the reservoir.
Challenges at Every Turn
Most projects do not take place at a hydroelectric facility so this one involved extra effort around accessibility and a heightened need for safety observations. This assignment could not use the equipment typically used on standard projects so another big challenge presented itself: airflow. At the worksite, the crew was over 800 feet from topside or open fresh air.
Typically, projects utilize dust collectors that serve to extract the dust created and filter it in order to maintain good air quality. The team could not find a big enough electric unit to be 150 feet away so they needed to park a diesel powered one at the entrance of the plant which was 800 feet away from the work area. The team ran a hose about that distance which meant they had to dramatically oversize their dust collector in order to not have any dust escape into the work site. The challenge became having enough people to monitor the proper functioning of all the equipment and maintain good communication with crew members working so far apart from each other.
Problem Solving at Its Finest
The Alpine team used a unique type of product to limit the dust, called a Sponge Jet, Silver 30 (a sponge with an abrasive embedded inside). This product allowed the team to recycle the abrasive and to not produce as much dust as other abrasive blasting. That led to increased visibility, reduced dust, and a safer worksite, as well as reduced waste disposal because of the recyclable feature of the abrasive.
The original paint specifications of the assignment called for Tnemec Series 104 which is an 82% solids by volume epoxy. Alpine asked the owner to switch products and allow the crew to use Tnemec’s Series 22 (100% solids modified polyamine epoxy). The reason for the change request was the need for a product with less than eight times the VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) given the confined space they were working in. The new product was much safer for the team and the other contractors onsite.
Another challenging factor that needed a solution was that the worksite was a confined space. Alpine had to work alongside other trades that were doing modifications around the same time as Alpine was working on this project. The Alpine team found ways to be extremely efficient reducing their presence at the worksite to a fraction of the time originally estimated.
A New Level of Safety
Safety measures took another level for this project as much effort was needed to get the equipment safely into the work location. Every day, the team had to walk out the tags to make sure all the equipment and valves were de-energized because if there were to be a faulty valve, a couple of million gallons of water would rush into the work space.
During Alpine’s work, Brookfields corporate safety came to the site and performed an inspection of all contractors. Alpine was the only contractor onsite that did not get shut down or reprimanded because of safety compliance issues and was given praise for their consistent focus on safety throughout the project. Alpine’s team received accolades from American Hydro Corporation and Brookfield for its professionalism.
Throughout the project the owner and general contractor were given timely updates on its progress including pictures of work completed. By providing a way to track the work in an area difficult to access, the photos gave the owner and general contractor a level of comfort. After work was completed, the owner and general contractor expressed their thanks for a job well done and how they would like Alpine to work with them on future projects.
Excellent Execution Was the Name of the Game
Mornings at the worksite began with the Alpine team having a toolbox meeting and discussing the goals for the day. The team then walked the lock out, tag out to ensure all electricity was off and that potentially dangerous valves were closed. Next, the team put on their PPE, monitored the confined space and began their work.
For the surface preparation, the Alpine team did the following:
- Cleaning surfaces according to SSPC SP1 (Solvent Wipe Clean) to remove oils and grease.
- Abrasive blasting selected interior surfaces of the stay vein according to SSPC-SP10 (Near White Blast Clean) to bare metal.
- Vacuuming all abrasive and blow all surfaces clean with compressed air to prepare it for coating.
After the modifications were done, Alpine re-blasted the areas and coated them with 100% solid epoxy.
A Job Well Done
Alpine’s efficiency led to a considerable shortening of the completion timeline. They did so through the efficient work of the crew and their ability to work long 12-14 hour days. Alpine was in the critical path for the customer to get the site up and running. For both the first and second phases of the job, Alpine saved them a week each. In other words, Alpine cut their execution and completion schedule in half.
Alpine’s onsite team was well trained and had all of the requirements to work on the site, such as OSHA 30, Haz Com, Confined Space, Abrasive Blasting Training, Fall Protection, Lock out & Tag out, just to name a few. Even with all of this training, the team's biggest asset was experience working in the unique environment of this project. They used every bit of training they were given to ensure the project’s safety.