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More than 6,500 rock bolts, 1,100 pounds of wire mesh went into rehab project on 4850 Level
Constance Walter

The numbers tell the story. 

For more than two years, Fritz Reller, a member of the Underground Maintenance Crew (UMC), focused on installing ground support in the East Drift of the 4850 Level. He removed thousands of rocks, drilled more than 6,500 holes for rock bolts and secured over 1,100 panels of welded wire mesh through an area that covers approximately 1,850 feet between the Yates Shaft and Four Winze Wye. 

“It was a challenging job, but we couldn’t be happier with the outcome,” said Bryce Pietzyk, underground access director. “The quality Fritz puts into the project is obvious. He is very dedicated and got the project done safely.”

The drift is used to convey scientists, crews, contractors and equipment via locomotive between the Davis and Ross Campuses. 

“The completion of the project ensures the ground will be stable and safe for all of our stakeholders,” said Mike Headley, executive director for Sanford Lab. “Fritz has been doing this kind of work for years. He is meticulous, and the work is of the highest quality.”

Luke Scott, UMC lead, knows first-hand what goes into ground support. He worked for nearly 14 years at Homestake and 10 years at Sanford Lab. 

His team, which included infrastructure technicians Reller, Mike Oates and Bill Geffre, excavated the Davis Campus and helped prepare the space for outfitting. They also put in ground support for CASPAR (Compact Accelerator System for Performing Astrophysical Research) and the Black Hills State University Underground Campus, both existing spaces once used as shops and maintenance areas by Homestake. 

The work is physically challenging. Crews must first bar down the drift to remove any loose rock. They use jackleg drills that weigh more than 100 pounds to drill thousands of holes in hard rock then drive the rock bolts. All to make the space safe for stakeholders. 

“We have to make sure we do an excellent job preparing every area and making sure we stay safe,” Scott said. “It all comes with experience and Fritz has got a lot of that.”

For more than two years, Reller barred, meshed and bolted along an 1,850-foot drift on the 4850 Level of Sanford Lab. He did it meticulously and without a single safety incident. 

“That says a lot for the kind of work Fritz does,” Pietzyk added. “I’m really proud of him and the rest of the team, too. They all take their work seriously and do a great job.”