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Yards Creek Prepares for Fall Outage


Employees who are part of the Intake Gate project team at FirstEnergy’s Yards Creek Generating Station, near Blairstown, N.J., are preparing for their plant’s planned outage, scheduled for early fall.

The outage will tackle the first of a two-phase effort designed to provide the pumped-storage hydroelectric plant a way to isolate its upper reservoir from its penstock, a large 19-foot diameter pipe that connects the station’s source water to the turbine. Yards Creek’s upper reservoir holds about 1.5 billion gallons of water.

“The penstock is an exposed pipe,” said Yards Creek Manager Tim Hicks. “We perform regular maintenance and compliance inspections on it, but if the penstock were to leak when the upper reservoir was full, we have no way to stop the flow of water presently.”

That’s where the critical path of the outage comes in.

“We’ll be installing anchors to reinforce the intake structure,” Tim explained. “The current configuration only allows 31 feet of water to accumulate in the reservoir. The new, post-outage configuration will allow 92 feet, a much bigger margin, which requires additional reinforcements.”

Phase one of the project, to be completed this fall and winter, involves building the base of the reservoir structure up 47 feet – high enough to allow workers to install a bulkhead. Work scheduled for phase two, slated to begin next year, includes building the structure base up an additional 60 feet and installing gates inside the structure to seal off water in the reservoir from the penstock.

The work, to be completed by construction firm Mascaro, presents certain challenges, but the station has readiness plans in place to protect the safety and environmental health of everyone onsite. The project team recently created a Construction Emergency Action Plan and is reviewing job-specific safety plans for different outage tasks with its contractors.

“We’re going to train and conduct a safety drill covering the Emergency Action Plan procedures to ensure all parties involved in the outage understand it,” said Tim. “From a safety perspective, care of water poses the largest risk. We will have a huge reservoir that’s empty, and anytime it rains the water will funnel directly to the area where crews are working. To manage the rainwater, a cofferdam will be installed that can retain water up to a certain level while allowing releases through two 24-inch pipes.”

Maintaining proper ventilation also is a top priority, as the outage requires contractors to work in a confined space while operating diesel-powered equipment. Environmental precautions will be taken to prevent diesel fuel from spilling onsite.

“There’s a fair amount of demolition needed to remove the existing concrete structure, requiring a lot of cutting work. We’ll be training crews to take precautions to avoid eye injuries and pinching injuries,” added Tim. “We also have a Reptile and Amphibian Protection Plan we’ve just revised with the help of ECSi, an environmental contract firm of biologists, wetland scientists and reptile/amphibian specialists that will be monitoring the outage work to keep our wildlife and workers safe.”


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the continued ability of our regulated utilities to recover their costs; costs being higher than anticipated and the success of our policies to control costs and to mitigate low energy, capacity and market prices; other legislative and regulatory changes, and revised environmental requirements, including, but not limited to, proposed greenhouse gases emission and water discharge regulations and the effects of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s coal combustion residuals regulations, Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, including our estimated costs of compliance, and Clean Water Act 316(b) water intake regulation; the uncertainty of the timing and amounts of the capital expenditures that may arise in connection with any litigation, including New Source Review litigation, or potential regulatory initiatives or rulemakings (including that such expenditures could result in our decision to deactivate or idle certain generating units); the uncertainties associated with the deactivation of certain older regulated and competitive fossil units, including the impact on vendor commitments, and the timing thereof as they relate to the reliability of the transmission grid; 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