OAKLAND – In what is now Jack London Square, the Oakland Power Plant went into operation in 1888. PG&E took ownership of the facility when the company was formed in 1905 and operated it until 1998. Today, the plant is owned by Dynegy.
PG&E recently completed a four-month environmental cleanup project at the plant site. The project was an example of PG&E’s commitment to cleaning up its historic properties. More than 2,000 tons of soil contaminated with petroleum products was removed under the supervision of PG&E’s regulators.
“Safety is the No. 1 priority for this project,” said Carol Yamane, PG&E’s project manager. “On this project we conduct morning safety meetings with our workers. For the public we pass out flyers we conduct air monitoring everyday on the project.”
That focus on safety extended to PG&E’s contractors and subcontractors. And besides making sure that the cleanup was environmentally sound, PG&E wanted to be a good neighbor, too.
That was important to Justin Tascheck, the wharfinger with the Port of Oakland.
“They had a plan and it was permitted to work during a certain amount of hours Monday thru Friday and they really stuck to that,” he said. “Anything that came up they addressed immediately, they even went so far as to have a misting system, sanitization deodorizer system so that was greatly appreciated.”
During the project, PG&E and its contractors spent about $250,000 on local supplies and services. This includes restaurants and other food vendors and nearby hotels. PG&E also worked with a non-profit, CiviCorps, to employ some local residents. CiviCorps is the only accredited high school job-training program in the East Bay for young people between the ages of 18-24.
The program provides real life job training, said Alan Lessik, executive director of CiviCorps.
Reshawn Dunn, a CiviCorps student, benefitted from the project.
“You get to learn different types of trades here,” Dunn said. “You can work the shovel, work the excavator, work foam units, learn how to mix the foam, do grout plugs. I met some people here that really helped me out…like how to open up and just talk to people.”
As the project concluded, PG&E earned praised from an Oakland City Council member.
“I’m really grateful that PG&E took seriously the concerns of this community, and exercised due diligence as a good corporate partner here,” said Lynette Gibson-McElhaney. “We didn’t receive a single complaint in the four months.”
She added, “The regular communications, the weekly communications keeping folks abreast of what was going on. The engineering excellence that allowed you to remediate the harm to the environment, as well as keep down odors, and the things that impacted the businesses and residents of the Jack London district were phenomenal. I think what I’m most impressed with is the local hire provision. … It’s the kind of leadership we need more of from our corporate partners here. Good citizenship that gives back, and I’m just really pleased that you all took it seriously, and you did it so well.”