An accident and resulting fire that put the John W. Keys III Pump Generating Plant at Grand Coulee Dam out of commission last fall has cost the Bureau of Reclamation $990,000 for cleanup, fire response and incident investigation alone, and will lead to a “corrective action plan” by April.
An investigative team issued its report last week on the cause of the incident that left one worker severely burned in the Nov. 18, 2013 incident and facing a lengthy recovery. Actual repair costs for damaged are still unknown.
But of 12 units that can pump water 280 feet up to the canal that fills Banks Lake, eight or nine are ready or nearly ready to pump water for irrigators who were initially worried that might not be possible.
The accident happened when an employee closed a ground switch and short circuited part of the electric power to the plant, the Bureau’s Serious Accident Investigation Team reported. The resulting arc is what burned him and damaged associated equipment.
“Additional factors extended the duration of the electrical fault,” a press release states. “The electrical arc and fire generated smoke and distributed residue throughout the plant. The plant was safely evacuated, the fire was extinguished, and the injured employee was airlifted to a hospital.
“Initial action causing the incident:
“A ground switch was closed on a live line causing a short circuit and electrical arc.
“Factors as a result of routine testing and maintenance extended the duration of the electrical fault:
“Test switches used to isolate circuits during routine maintenance and testing were left out of service.
“The setting for the secondary level protection system was not set at an increased sensitivity level as previously recommended.”
The Grand Coulee Power Office has begun to address the issues and implement processes to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
• A recommitment to employees that safety comes first in performing all duties.
• Validating settings on secondary protection systems associated with the pump-generating equipment.