The Ministry of Labour says the 192 work orders issued against Eastern Power while building its gas plant in Courtright is “not extraordinary.”
But construction insiders say “it’s a very large number.”
The Globe and Mail detailed a litany of problems at the plant which has been under construction on Oil Springs Line in St. Clair Township since April 2013. In one incident a beam fell to the floor, sending workers running. There was a stop work order issued by the Ministry while the determined if the structure was sound.
St. Clair Township’s building inspector has also been on site about 20 times during the construction including during what he called a “very serious incident” where the turbine foundation was damaged. Duane McKay, in an email to Mayor Steve Arnold, says the rest of the building remained structurally sound.
But the turbine incident isn’t the only problem. Ministry of Labour Spokesperson William Lin confirmed there have been 192 work orders issued on the site after 60 inspections by the ministry. Some of those inspections were brought on by 18 separate complaints by trades people on the job.
Lin says all but four of the work orders have been complied with and there is still one stop work order in place for the battery compartment area of the plant where the workers were not provided “proper personal safety equipment” according to Lin.
The gas plant has been controversial from its inception. It was planned for Mississauga but neighbours were angry. During the 2011 election, then Premier Dalton McGuinty cancelled the plan for Mississauga and another in Oakville at a cost of $1.1 billion.
The province then offered Eastern Power land near the Lambton Generating Station to build. The company chose instead to buy land across the road and began work.
As they began, there were concerns raised by the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority since the plant was being built on a flood plain and the land is prone to fast flooding. The company agreed to build a holding pond and to raise the plant slightly to avoid any problems.
Work at the plant has gone on without much fanfare until the Globe and Mail article which detailed the problems.
Lin downplayed the number of problems at the Eastern Power plant. “This is a large multi-year complex construction project,” he told The Independent. “These numbers aren’t extraordinary…Inspectors visit for a variety of reasons and it is not uncommon to visit that many times. We don’t want to characterize this in terms of numbers.”
Industry insiders disagreed. One, who did not wish to be named because he has dealings with the company involved, says “I find it to be a very large number; more than I would normally expect on a project.”
Lin also wouldn’t say whether charges could be laid against Eastern Power saying he didn’t want to “speculate.”
Ray Curran of the Sarnia Construction Association says it is clear under the Occupational Health and Safety Act that once the work orders are completed, a full investigation takes place.
“You can be charged…if you did something contrary to the rules you would be charged,” he says.
Lin says the Ministry of Labour will “monitor the situation closely…maintaining open lines of communications,” he says. “Our top priority on this worksite and any worksite is workplace safety.
“If any workers have concerns, we want to hear from them.”