Concerns raised over electrical wiring at Eisenhower Army Medical Center

Monday, May 23, 2016

FORT GORDON, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Two electricians are sounding the alarm about what they call a "ticking time bomb" at the hospital on Fort Gordon. They say faulty wiring at Eisenhower Army Medical Center is an accident waiting to happen, and when it does, the results could be, in their words, "catastrophic." They say they first noticed the problem three weeks ago and reported it. Both say it cost them their jobs. They're speaking out now because they say they're worried it could cost someone their life.

"It's like being on Candid Camera. You don't understand what is behind their way of thinking. Why are they doing this? You know, it is...it really is unbelievable," said Dale Smith.

Smith says the mistakes he noticed are on camera, and Scott Schwindt says he has pictures to prove it, too.

"They've definitely got themselves a problem," said Schwindt.

Both Schwindt and Smith say that problem is with electrical work happening right now at Eisenhower Army Medical Center. Both tell me they were hired to help a crew that had already started running wire to the hospital's new MRI building. The two of them say combined, they have around 65 years experience, but that it doesn't take an experienced electrician to see something is very wrong.

They say there are multiple wires where the coating has been shaved off because they were forced. They showed me pictures of pulleys that don't line up, creating an angle that's scrapping the wires' coating.

Schwindt says he saw other wiring already installed that looked so bad, he tested it. "These particular cables megged out at .0004," he said. "That means it is dead short. That means you could potentially have an explosion."

A dead short is when an electrical circuit has zero resistance. It can happens when a "hot" electric feed comes in contact with a metal object, like a metal outlet box, or with the ground or neutral wire.

Another electrician still working that job was too afraid to go on camera, but told me he's seen wires like this too. While it's not uncommon for jackets to have some damage by the end of a big pull, he's never seen this much damage this soon. He says they are being damaged only after 150 feet. They still have 500 feet to go.

All three say the maze of wires carries more than just power; it carries a fire risk.

"Even death," Smith said. "If not among the person turning it on, it could happen anywhere throughout that hospital."

They tell me they noticed another problem with a couple of ground wires. Ground wires have a main purpose: safety. Basically, they send dangerous voltage into the ground instead of throughout the electrical system. In this case, both Smith and Schwindt say each set should have a ground wire. Instead, they have pictures of one set with two. The set beside it doesn't have one at all. They believe that's because the wires wouldn't fit. "They tried to pull two grounds in one pipe to make up for the difference," Smith said. "I just never seen noting like that in my life."

That's because they say it's not just dangerous, it could be deadly.

"I know what's right and what's wrong," said Smith. "Believe me, what they're doing out there is totally wrong."

Also wrong, they say, is being fire once they spoke up, but that's not why they're speaking up again. They say with so much that could go wrong, they want someone to make it right. "It's not about me. It's about the people that use that hospital. It's about the vets. It's about what we can give them. They deserve everything we can give them," Smith said. "And if it's not done right, I don't want no part of it."

I spoke with someone in the Public Affairs Office late this afternoon. He tells me leaders on post are aware of these concerns, but they haven't tested the wires yet. He promised they'll make sure the job is done right before they flip the switch to power the new building.

The work is happening at Fort Gordon, but Fort Gordon isn't doing it. This job is contracted out to a company out of our area. I spoke with the owner just before the newscast. He tells me no employee has been fired for bringing up safety concerns. He says there have been some staffing changes, but "I couldn't say more good things about our crew." He admits a problem has been identified, but told me that was due to testing done by the company. Fort Gordon says the project has been delayed some, but the company owner told me it's his understanding that the wiring isn't needed for another two months.

I plan to speak more with the owner. I'm hoping he'll be able to sit down with me soon.