At the Muskrat Falls Inquiry on Friday, March 15, a four-man panel of workers spoke about their experiences on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, and one of them — quality assurance professional and former Astaldi employee Ed Knox — gave a particularly odd and memorable piece of testimony.
He was talking about 2014, and about tools.
“When we’re out there actually using toilet brushes and windshield scrapers to clean rock, to me it was a lack of planning, obviously, and not the right tools for the job,” he said.
In response to questions from The Telegram, Nalcor Energy has confirmed some members of its project team — none specifically named — were aware of the workers using toilet brushes in 2014.
At the time, steps were taken to address what Nalcor representatives describe as broader performance issues. It was the contractor’s responsibility to provide proper tools.
“In 2014, Nalcor became aware that Astaldi was not utilizing proper tools for this work,” a spokeswoman stated in an email Wednesday. And “yes,” they heard about use of toilet brushes.
“There were many performance issues associated with Astaldi which required the oversight of the Lower Churchill Project management team. The project team organized a workshop and issued a guidelines document to aid Astaldi in its efforts to improve their foundation preparation means and methods. We can confirm that an inspection took place to ensure the final product met the quality required before concrete was poured.”
Before concrete was poured, an inspection would have ensured the rock faces where the toilet brushes and windshield scrapers were used were properly cleaned and prepped for concrete placement. The Telegram was told a quality assurance sign-off would have been required from the contractor and Nalcor Energy staff before construction continued.
The workers’ panel as a whole also testified at the ongoing Muskrat Falls Inquiry about labour issues. The panel was critical of both safety and quality management — all things Nalcor Energy says the project team was also concerned with in the context of the Astaldi contract in 2014. The Crown corporation says it worked with the powerhouse contractor to address identified issues.