Solid Waste Industry There at Time of National Crisis
Carl Bolander & Sons/SKB Environmental Managed Recovery & Removal Operations after I-35 Bridge Collapse
On August 1, 2007, the U.S. suffered a devastating tragedy when the I-35W bridge spanning the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, collapsed. Thirteen people lost their lives, and hundreds of others were injured. Prior to the collapse, the 2,000 feet long bridge carried hundreds of thousands of cars each day. The collapse not only blocked this highway traffic, debris from the bridge also blocked Mississippi commercial shipping.
On August 4, 2007, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) selected Carl Bolander & Sons to serve as the primary contractor in salvaging operations to remove debris from the bridge disaster site. Bolander's wholly-owned subsidiary SKB Environmental is an NSWMA member and is a longtime leader in innovative total waste management solutions in Minnesota providing hauling, waste processing, and environmentally sound waste disposal services.
In less than 3 months, SKB Environmental successfully removed the bridge. This operation included the removal of approximately 4,000 tons of steel and 10,000 tons of concrete. SKB Environmental provided recycling services for the project as well as the environmentally sound disposal of over 96,000 tons of contaminated soil resulting from the collapse and subsequent construction of the new bridge at SKB's state-of-the-art Rosemount Industrial Waste Facility. Bolander and its subcontractors had an average of sixty people on site working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. The men and women who worked on this effort are proud to have completed the project safely, ahead of schedule, and under budget. This operation was a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week process and required extensive coordination and team work with many other organizations including Minneapolis Police/Fire and Rescue, the National Transportation Safety Board, the FBI, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department, Minnesota State Highway Patrol, DOT, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In describing his company’s work on this effort, Rick O'Gara, CEO of Carl Bolander & Sons, stated, “The men and women of America’s solid waste industry provide essential services that help maintain the fabric of local communities across the country by protecting the environment and public health. Bolander's and SKB Environmental’s efforts after the I-35W bridge disaster demonstrate this fact clearly. We are proud of our work.”
On August 6, 2007, Bolander moved in three 110 ton cranes, loaders and both large and small excavators. The company secured the site with fence, cleared trees, and built steps to allow for visibility, surveying and access. Bolander also managed subcontracted barge services to provide river access, commercial dive operations, rigging to remove all the vehicles and steel from the site, and others to help with environmental issues, erosion control, lead paint abatement, etc.
The safety and security of the operation site and workers was paramount. The Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted daily air monitoring for noise, lead paint and silica dust levels. During the operation, numerous workers underwent physicals in order to wear the appropriate respirators needed to torch the steel. The project required more than 32,000 man hours worked without one lost time accident, an unbelievable accomplishment given the conditions of the site and the speed at which the operation was completed.
While completing their tasks, workers were faced with the devastation of the collapse. Workers needed to help recover the victims, while trying to preserve the steel and bridge components as future evidence. Working on this sort of site can be very emotional. It was hard to get workers to go home or stop for breaks. Everyone just wanted to keep helping, keep working. Families of the victims came to the site for memorial services. When the last victim was recovered from the river, Bolander had the crews attend critical incident de-briefings where workers could talk about their feelings and emotion.
By August 20, 2007, recovery efforts were complete, and Bolander began removing remaining material from the South portion of the river and the deck from the South approach. The Channel was officially cleared and opened on September 7, 2007, so commercial shipping on the Mississippi could resume.
Bolander then removed both the North and South approach areas of the bridge. As areas of the truss spans were released, the company removed the material. Since the steel and concrete were all under different tension, stress points and loads, this was very dangerous work. Every piece removed, everything cut, hammered, balled, or sheared could cause something to shift. Therefore, Bolander constantly monitored how things reacted.
The road deck was hammered into sections. These sections were sized down to pieces small enough to facilitate lifting them off with cranes. The sections of road deck, steel trusses, braces, and vehicles basically everything removed from the river was prepared, rigged, lifted onto material barges, and transported downstream. Once down river it was off loaded to land and then loaded and hauled off or placed in designated areas. Concrete and rebar and steel were processed, loaded and hauled to the company’s recycle yard. Carl Bolander & Sons and SKB Environmental’s commitment to environmental protection is reflected in the company’s focus on recycling economically recoverable materials.
By October 15, 2007, all the bridge components had been removed from the river, final dredging of the river had been completed, and the two piers on each side of the river had been removed. The site was turned over to the new construction contractor, so that a new bridge could be constructed, and the community could continue healing from this tragedy.
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