Workers are rebuilding New York's Tiffany Street Pier after lightning struck it, damaging about one-third of the plastic lumber deck and a gazebo. ``Right now we're in the process of removing the burned-out plastic that was the decking and cleaning up some of the debris that was down there,'' said Charles Kriss, project engineer with the New York Department of Citywide Administrative Services.
Measuring 410 feet long and 49 feet wide, the $2.3 million Tiffany Street Pier in the Bronx is one of the largest single uses of plastic lumber, which is extruded from recycled plastic into board-like shapes. It was completed in 1995 using plastic lumber from six companies. Lightening struck the pier in early August.
Even though lightning damaged the pier, plastic lumber survived better than a traditional wooden pier would have, Kriss said. Fire experts have told him a wood pier would have exploded when struck by lightning. But the plastic partially melted, then hardened again. ``It looks like candle wax,'' he said.
Only a small amount of plastic melted enough to drop into the water.
Paula Young, director of communications for the DCAS, said New York remains bullish on plastic lumber to replace creosote wood, which by law cannot be used on New York waterways for environmental reasons.
``Had this pier been wood, there would be no pier. In a sense, this lightning episode was a wonderful advertisement [for plastic lumber] because it shows you can't beat Mother Nature, but you certainly can fool her.''
Last week, workers from one of the suppliers, Seaward International Inc. of Clearbrook, Va., were doing cosmetic repairs on Seaward's recycled plastic pilings at Tiffany Street Pier.
New York officials have not yet tallied the cost for the repairs. Money is already available in the city's maintenance budget. Kriss said the city will buy lumber to replace the damaged portion of the pier from International Plastics Corp. of Lexington, Ky.
Kriss said the city is also using plastic lumber to retrofit old wood piers. That extends the life of a wood pier by about 10 years.