(SAN FRANCISCO, CA) Caltrans’ plan to implode the largest underwater pier of the old Bay Bridge threatens to pollute San Francisco Bay with dust and debris.
“This cost-saving operation is without precedent in San Francisco Bay, and it seems the Bay will end up paying the price to recoup money spent on cost over-runs and mistakes in the new bridge construction process,” says Baykeeper Staff Scientist Ian Wren.
Caltrans is proposing implosion of the piers in part because it will be less costly than the original plan involving mechanical methods.
Wren will relay Baykeeper’s concerns about the proposed blast during public testimony at a Bay Conservation and Development Commission permit hearing on September 17. The Commission will consider Caltrans’ application for a permit to use explosives to demolish the underwater concrete supports of the old Bay Bridge span.
“The most environmentally sound method for taking down the old Bay Bridge piers is mechanical removal, as originally proposed and as the original permits approved,” says Wren.
The implosion of the first pier is scheduled for November. Hundreds of simultaneous explosions are supposed to pulverize the pier, with debris falling into openings in the pier’s foundation below the water.
The November implosion is planned as a test to determine if explosives can be used to safely remove 21 more Bay Bridge piers. Baykeeper has played a role in developing a monitoring program Caltrans will use to measure water quality before, during, and after the pier implosion. The mud at the bottom of the Bay near the blast will also be tested to determine whether it becomes contaminated with concrete dust and rubble.
“We have worked with the agency to identify the risks and minimize harm to the Bay from this project, but if the first implosion harms the Bay, Baykeeper will work to ensure that a more environmentally sound method is used to dismantle the remaining piers,” says Wren.
San Francisco Baykeeper is the Bay’s pollution watchdog, using science and advocacy to enforce clean water laws and hold polluters accountable. For more information, visit us at www.baykeeper.org.