Bottomed Out

by kfrego

The six unit powerhouse at Bath County sits at the base of a mountain and was excavated over one hundred feet deep. The excavation was approximately four hundred feet long and a couple hundred feet wide. All of the rock excavation was accomplished with air track driils and explosives. Rock bolts were installed for ground support and safety bolting of features which might present safety hazards during construction. The area was separated from Bad Creek waters by a bentonite clay slurry wall which extended from the original ground surface to the bedrock along the side of the creek. Electric pumps and steel discharge lines maintained the dewater of the excavation. The pump positions were constantly changed to accomodate the drill, blast, and excavation needs. The pumps always required a sump lower than the excavation to collect the water.

When the powerhouse excavation was approximately twenty feet from bottom the twenty foot tunnel for each of the six units had to be mined. A bench wide enough for the tunnel work was established so the tunnels could be driven while the remainder of the powerhouse was excavated to grade. Most outside blasting is accomplished after day shift shuts down to minimize production delays. Tunnels are just the opposite. They are blasted immediately to maintain production activities. Our crews were soon very efficient at watching the miners and having a predetermined place to take cover when one of the tunnels was blasting. When the miners started sounding blast warnings on their air whistle you better get out of harms way in a hurry. They might pull the trigger on the third whistle or the tenth whistle. As soon as the blast went off old Gene Hailstone wanted the shot rock headed for the muck pile. More than one person hugged the nearest thing available to protect themselves from fly rock during the blasts.

We were close to being on grade with the powerhouse. It was late afternoon and a big thunderstorm moved in over the project. It dumped heavy rain on us. There was no way the pumps could handle the amount of water mother nature was laying down. When the rain started all the powerhouse drill crews picked up their gear and headed for the house. Myself, Walt Dzeima, and Cliff LaFountain went to check the equipment in the powerhouse. The six air track drills were in three feet of water with the water coming up fast. The control levers were above water, but you couldn’t see the undercarriages and tracks. The two inch air hoses were floating. We waded in and walked the drills to high ground in the pouring rain. In some places the water was four feet deep as we walked the drills. Water was running into the powerhouse from everywhere.

We didn’t complain about the drillers lack of foresight……….we were just doing our job.