Hydro budget includes accommodations for workers

Reliable power side by side with health and safety considerations

Ashley Fitzpatrick afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com
Published on August 7, 2014
The NL Hydro plant in Rigolet, Labrador. — Telegram file photo

Imagine walking into your office or home, with the heat hitting you — the temperature 25 degrees warmer inside than outside.

That has been a reality for some Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro employees, who have dealt with heat building up in one of the utility’s isolated power plants, in Charlottetown, Labrador, where diesel engine generators run hot and the ventilation system doesn’t always work.

“Operators have seen the plant reach 50 C in the summer, which is unacceptable from both an equipment and personnel standpoint,” consultants with Hatch stated in a report filed with Hydro in April 2013.

The result is a proposed fix on the ventilation system — just one of the 109 construction, maintenance and replacement projects described in Hydro’s  new, 2015 capital budget application.

The utility has requested the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities to give approval for approximately $80 million in new spending to cover the utility’s project list.

A fix for the temperature inside the diesel plant in Charlottetown has been gathered together with similar upgrades for temperature control at the plants in Cartwright and Makkovik. The cost for the project, spread over two years, is estimated at roughly $493,000.

Another proposed project tied to working conditions, involves what has become a fly in-fly out location at Ebbegunbaeg, in central Newfoundland. Hydro wants to spend about $1.5 million over two years to replace the accommodations and septic system at that remote site.

The utility wants new housing with rooms for six people, each with a dedicated washroom. If approved, the facility will also have a kitchen area, laundry facilities and a common/recreation area, notes the budget document.

“Hydro employees working at Ebbegunbaeg have typically stayed at the existing site accomodations facility until 2013, when the condition of the facility was deemed unsatisfactory, as a result of concerns regarding the deteriorating building structure and mold growth,” it states.

The original accommodations were built in 1966.

“Employees no longer stay at the facility, but rather are transported to and from the site via helicopter daily,” it states.

The Telegram requested more information from Hydro on Tuesday afternoon. A representative for the utility said response would not be available before deadline for this story. But further information will be reported as it becomes available.  

Meanwhile, Hydro is continuing on its previously reported long-term plan for adding female washrooms to its buildings.

In 2015, the utility wants to spend roughly $260,000 on the work. It is the third year of a 15-year program intended to meet modern occupational health and safety regulations and industry standards.

“Given that the existing facilities contain single washrooms, the alternative of installing privacy locksets and affixing unisex signage on the washroom doorways was considered,” Hydro notes in justifying its expenditure.

“Consultations with the provincial occupational health and safety enforcement officers have deemed this to be an unacceptable solution. The regulations state that separate facilities are required — the provision of additional washroom space is required.”

And so prefabricated facilities will be attached to existing buildings at Hydro’s Come By Chance, Long Harbour and Stony Brook terminal stations, if the plan for 2015 is approved.

The utility’s complete capital budget will be reviewed by the regulator, with input from industrial customers, the consumer advocate and any interveners over the coming months. The regulator reviews planned spending project by project.

Hydro’s submission includes a five-year outlook on its capital expenses. Averaging $66.1 million a year from 2009 to 2013, the utility plans to spend an average of $209 million a year from 2015 to 2019.

Ratepayers will be tapped to cover the costs.

 

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com