February 9, 2023

Featured Face: Edwin Rivera – Concrete Finisher; Spillways/Stilling Basin

Edwin (Eddie) Rivera is a Concrete Finisher working at the Spillways/Stilling Basin.  He currently lives in Spruce Grove, Alberta.  Eddie has worked with concrete for his whole life, initially learning the trade while working with his dad as a teenager in El Salvador.

In 2015, his family emigrated to Canada, choosing the Edmonton area because Eddie had an uncle that was already established there.  His dad soon found work in Northern Manitoba on the Keeyask Hydroelectric project, and Eddie followed right behind him.  When that work was nearing completion, he made the move to Site C, starting with PRHP in 2019.

When the Covid-19 Pandemic arrived, Eddie was working on the Tunnel Outlet Portals.  At that time, diverting the river through the tunnels was the most schedule critical component of the project.  If the 2020 fall window to divert the river was not achieved, Site C would be delayed by a full year due to environmental constraints.

Not knowing how the pandemic would affect the workforce, BC Hydro made the decision to scale back all work (including AFDE’s scope) that was not related to completing the tunnels and diverting the river.  At the same time, the people who were working on the tunnels had their shifts extended.  Reducing the number of people on-site and restricting contact and movement in and out of the site was all done to reduce the exposure of the workforce to the virus.  For Eddie, it meant that he did not pass through the gate for 5 months!

That is a long enough sentence for anyone, so when Eddie finished up on the tunnel portals, he took a layoff and went to work on Edmonton’s Valley Line LRT, which allowed him to be at home every day with his two younger brothers and his baby sister.  But he returned to Site C, this time with AFDE, in March 2021 and has been at the Spillways ever since.

Hired on as a concrete specialist, he was originally placed as a helper on a carpentry crew and stayed there for a year.  While it was not what he was expecting to do, he enjoyed his time with the carpenters.  According to Eddie, the best part was “learning new things, and helping wherever I could”, and the worst thing was the winter work: “With concrete, you are usually working in the hoarding where there is some heat – those carpenters are right in the cold, with nowhere to hide from it!”

Although he enjoyed working with the carpenters, when there were big pours scheduled, he was often taken off his crew to work on them, and for about a year now he has been back full-time placing and finishing concrete.  What he enjoys most are the large pours, where finishers are brought together from different segments to complete the work.  They function well as a team: “Everybody knows each other – it’s like a family” he says.  And for a while, there literally was a family connection – it was a treat when he got to work with his dad, who was a Finisher at the Headworks before moving on to Kitimat.

Working on the steep pitch of the chutes is unique and challenging, but Eddie likes it.  He credits all of the experienced finishers that he has worked with from El Salvador to Northern Manitoba for teaching him the trade.  He says that it is important to watch and listen and stay busy.  “Everybody has a different way of working with the concrete.  When you are new, you have to be respectful and do what you are told, but slowly you take some tricks from everybody and make your own style.”  Then, with the big grin that is familiar to everyone at the Spillways, he adds, “And then you become the teacher!”

Thank you, Eddie for your contributions to the Project!