B.I. Wind Farm safety measures critiqued

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 2:45pm
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The Deepwater Wind Block Island Wind Farm is experiencing continued safety concerns, according to the latest report issued by the company monitoring the project.

ABS Group, in a report covering the construction period from July 19 to Sept. 22, noted that equipment reliability and worker safety issues have plagued the construction of the five turbine, 30-megawatt wind farm pilot project that is being built three miles off the southeast coast of Block Island. ABS Group is what is known as the certification verification agent (CVA) for the Deepwater Wind project.

"The safety issues that were brought up have been implemented," CRMC Executive Director Grover Fugate told The Block Island Times. "We're continuing to monitor the situation."

Laura Dwyer, spokesperson for the CRMC said, "The CRMC continues to work with both the CVA and Deepwater to ensure these safety issues are being addressed. The information conveyed to the CRMC by ABS, to date, in accordance with the process outlined in the Ocean SAMP, has been very informative. Of course the CRMC would be concerned with any safety issues related to this project, and we will continue to monitor the situation through the CVA, which is why we keep an open dialogue with both ABS and Deepwater.”

According to a report published by ecori.org on Monday, Sept. 28, attention on monitoring the project's safety has "shifted to the quality of construction — specifically welding procedures and construction practices by the builder, Weeks Marine of Cranford, N.J.”

In the ecori.org article, CRMC vice chairman Paul Lemont demanded better oversight from ABS. “We don’t want to be caught short-handed here, because we’re on the hook and if something goes wrong they (the public) are going to look to us, and if you are telling us something is wrong, dammit, I want to see it corrected."

In the Sept. 22 report, ABS cited several concerns regarding the installation of the steel jacket foundations. These included "full-time safety representation during the installation process to allow for identification and timely resolution of issues;" safety standown to review current practices, safety concerns, personnel concerns, process failures and retraining as required;" and "review of crane capabilities based upon current experience gained from first five weeks and engineering review of rigging for operations and pile driving to minimize safety hazard to personnel."

According to the report, there are now fulltime safety representatives on the Weeks cranes and the L/B Robert also now has full-time safety representatives and has increased safety sweeps and hazard hunts. The crane capabilities issue has been addressed by the addition of the L/B Robert to the project.

The report also listed safety recommendations, including "establishing a safety commission to meet regularly and report on progress safety system and resolution of issues;" "establish a formal process to identify root cause of near misses/issues to prevent recurrence;" and "verification of Weeks/Marine Safety Management System for compliance with their written processes and procedures." All three of these were identified as having been completed "according to DWBI" — Deepwater Wind Block Island. But each item had yet "to be confirmed by ABS."

The report also noted several issues with welding procedures, including weld maps, pre-heat temperatures not being measured, voltmeters not working and the lack of procedures and drawings at the work site. 

Theodore Hofbauer, who prepared the report for ABS, referred all questions to the CRMC.

Learn more about this story on this website and in this week’s edition of The Block Island Times.

This story has been updated with the comments from Grover Fugate.