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    South Boston power plant collapse: Suffolk Construction implements building pause, locals eye air quality


    May 6, 2022 - Sean Philip Cotter, Boston Herald

     

      The big construction company running the demolition at the former Boston Edison power plant where a collapse injured three workers has ordered a “safety standdown” pause of all construction projects as it investigates the incident that has locals on edge.

      “This Safety Standdown will include a comprehensive review and evaluation of existing safety standards and procedures,” Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish said in a Thursday statement, saying this is a “voluntary action” the day after the incident that sent three to the hospital with non-fatal injuries.

      “We will also use this Safety Standdown as an opportunity to reinforce jobsite safety awareness and provide our teams the opportunity to secure, evaluate, clean and organize their jobsites for the restart of work,” Fish said, adding that the pause goes through Friday. “In the event this evaluation requires more time for an individual job site, that site may remain closed until the review is complete and prepared to safely re-open.”

      Suffolk is demolishing the building for Hilco Partners and Redgate, who are undertaking a massive redevelopment effort to get rid of the giant long-vacant pink power plant in South Boston and replace it with hundreds of apartments, a hotel and commercial space.

      The companies are taking the bulk of the big power plant down now, leaving some of the lower-slung buildings to include as part of the redevelopment. On Wednesday, per Suffolk, a catwalk collapsed.

      OSHA is investigating, and Boston’s Inspectional Services Department has requested stability reports from the developers.

      Among the three injured workers was one man who was caught under the collapse for hours and required a complicated rescue to avoid further collapse. A Boston Medical Center surgeon came to the job site to help free the man, and Boston EMS said they were able to get him out without an amputation on-site, though BMC declined to comment further or make the responding doctor available.

      City Council President Ed Flynn, a city councilor who represents and lives in Southie, said he’s spoken to the Boston Public Health Commission and made it clear they need to continue to monitor the air in the area near the old coal plant as it’s taken apart.

      “We need to monitor the air quality in the South Boston neighborhood,” Flynn told the Herald, saying he’d heard concerns from locals. “It needs to be investigated and it needs to be documented.”

      He noted that the old plant “itself has caused high rates of respiratory issues in the neighborhood.”

      Two decades ago, a big fire tore through the plant — and is blamed for leaving many of the firefighters who fought it suffering from long-term health issues including cancer.

      Boston firefighters union president John Soares, head of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 718, said he remembers working that “crazy” night, and said the building is “a long time coming to come down.”

      Now, he said, the safety measures are better.

      “We had our guys on respirators and air the whole time,” Soares said. “Yesterday I thought the guys did an amazing job.”

      He added, “When a building is going up or a building is coming down, that’s the most dangerous time for a firefighter.”

      ©2022 MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at bostonherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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