California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Video Central

Script: Cleanup Helps San Bruno Neighborhood Rebuild After Pipeline Explosion

San Bruno--September 9, 2010

(Slide show of San Bruno neighborhood damage)

Voice over by Ed Wilson: On September 9 two-thousand-ten, a PG&E natural gas line ruptured, causing an explosion and fires that cost eight lives and destroyed more than 35 structures in a San Bruno neighborhood.

Voice over by Ed Wilson: CalRecycle and the County of San Mateo Environmental Health Services Division created a multi-agency team to oversee the clean-up of the debris and toxic waste the disaster left behind.

Voice over by Ed Wilson: CalRecycle waste management engineer, Todd Thalhamer, is the Operations Section Chief for the clean-up.

Todd’s sound bite, introducing himself and explaining the goal date

Todd Thalhamer: My role here as the Operations Section Chief is to manage this particular incident from start to finish, to implement the designs, control measures, to protect both the community, the environment and the workforce. Typically the rainy season here in the bay area starts around October 15th. Our goal is to get this material off the ground by then to prevent contamination from impacting the local waterways and environment.

Voice over by Ed Wilson: Todd starts the day with crew meetings to discuss what needs to be done and then meets with section leaders Albert Johnson, Frank Simpson, Andy Marino, and Marc Arico, all from CalRecycle. Todd calls this team his “A” team.”

“A” team staff graphic.

(Todd addresses his crew)

Todd Thalhamer: Trucks caught up perfectly. Everything is in “syncro”. We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re doing damn good work, man, damn good work.

Voice over by Ed Wilson: The goals are outlined to the section leaders and work begins.

Leaders sound bites, describing the steps and goals for clean-up.

Sound bite from Todd about site documentation.

Todd Thalhamer: One of the things that have most impressed me about this particular project is the efforts from the number of agencies out here to assist. From the Department of Toxics to local air board, state air board, Cal EMA, Cal EPA, the staff from CalRecycle has really made it happen.

Marc Arico (Division Supervisor): There are three construction crews that are doing clean-up here. My responsibility is to oversee the excavator operator, the water truck operator and the two laborers –keep an eye on them to make sure things are safe. We keep track of all the trucks that come and go in and out –the debris loads, what time they came and went and what kind of debris they remove, so that we’ve got a good record of everything we’ve taken off of each site.

Albert Johnson (Division Supervisor): We’re removing the waste in four phases. Initially we remove the metal, secondarily we remove the ash, third we remove the concrete, and lastly we go over the entire site and we scrape it down and remove three to six inches of soil to leave a site that is perfectly clean –that a three year old could walk across it.

Health and Safety:

Voice over by Ed Wilson: Safety issues are also a concern. CalRecycle takes extensive measures to prevent breathing ash dust, which contains heavy metals and toxins from the burned structures, batteries, vehicles, oil, paint, treated wood, asbestos, pesticides, and tires.

Sound bites from Leaders

Shots of office staff off-site.

Marc Arico: Because this project has ash removal, the ash is considered hazardous waste. All the workers on the site that are actually involved with the removal project have to be 40 hour hazardous waste certified. They need to have their hardhats, safety vests, safety glasses, suited up with respiratory protection, a double glove, boots taped off. Because we are removing hazardous waste here, we are doing air monitoring. Things we are primarily concerned about is the asbestos in the air. We’ve done some sampling actually on site and found asbestos on site. We have a consultant and the air resources board that are actually doing air monitoring.

Andy Marino (Division Supervisor): Health and safety is a big issue on site- air born contaminants, heavy metals, asbestos. We have local air monitoring around our site. As you can see, I am wearing a devise that is monitoring me for possible inhalation hazards. We are also doing a community wide off-site migration of contamination. So we are really trying to protect not only our workers, but the community.

One of the reasons we use this coordinated debris program is to prevent toxins from entering the environment, impacting the community a second time. For us on the ground, the most important is to stay out of the dust. One of the ways we do that is with lots of water on the ground to protect both the homeowners, the surrounding community and the environment.

Planning and Logistics

Voice over by Ed Wilson: Just offsite, at the San Bruno Recovery Center another operation team staffs and office called the Debris Removal Operations Center or DROC. Lead by San Mateo County Incident Commander Dean Peterson. Personnel from a variety of agencies provide environmental status updates, field reports and other information. The work is invaluable, as the team helps schedule, track, report on, and guide this huge task.

Sound bites from Leaders and Todd

Frank Simpson (Division Supervisor): We collect all the metals from the homes have that recycled. Collect the debris ash, make sure that’s managed properly and goes to a hazardous waste facility and then collect the concrete which also goes to a recycling center. So at the very end you’ll have a nice clean lot with zero background and a clean place for someone to build a new home.

Todd Thalhamer: One of the ways we track the project is by the use of our site documentation signs. Each step gets a sticker. That sticker represents the phase of the project and it also allows anybody that walks by the sign whether it’s a regulatory agency whether it’s a homeowner, whether it’s a community to recognize where that site is in the project.

Property Access and Recovery

Any Marino: We have to get a right of entry in order to access the site and in that we ask the homeowners if there is any specific, um, items that they would like us to save for them or to look for as we are doing the removal. We’ve found some china, some sculptures,

Crew member: This may be important to the family so we all stopped and had him look at it and put it offsite continued on, so…

Crew Leader: We appreciate you guys doing that

Crew member: I’m sorry? Yeah, no problem…

Crew Leader 1: As we get to more houses that are not totally destroyed…

Crew Leader 2: As a memento, I mean, if somebody…if you lose your entire house, that photograph that you rescue is all they have …so…awesome…awesome

Voice over by Ed Wilson: Within three weeks, most of the lots are cleared and the goal date is met. More than 7,800 tons of debris was removed from the area Thanks to the tireless efforts of Todd and his team, the neighborhood has a clean slate on which to rebuild.

Last updated: January 20, 2011
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