A survivor of the 1971 explosion in the Sylmar Tunnel that was built to bring water to downtown Los Angeles from the California Aqueduct is now an advocate for workplace safety. He recently stated that he would not want to be a part of the construction crew involved in the planned building of a tunnel through some of California’s most significant gas fields to divert water from the Sacramento River. He warns that digging around the gas wells will pose high risks of construction workers accidents.
The man, whose job was to operate a conveyor belt, says the two years before the explosion went smoothly. However, on June 24, 1971, an explosion was triggered when they unexpectedly struck a methane gas pocket. He lost 17 coworkers and friends on that day. He noted that the plans for the new tunnel contain several striking similarities to the Sylmar Tunnel project.
A civil engineer noted that the state provided a comprehensive map that indicates the locations of hundreds of existing wells and that he is familiar with the delta’s gas fields. He admits that tunneling around the existing wells will be challenging and points out that the most significant concern is the locations of old gas wells that were never recorded on the map. The safety advocate says worker safety should be a priority.
Even with modern advancements, tunneling through an area with known gas fields will pose multiple safety hazards and significant risks of explosions or other construction workers accidents. Those who will be members of the construction crews when plans for the tunnel building are accepted will likely find comfort in knowing that the California workers’ compensation insurance program will have their backs in the event of on-the-job injuries. The help of legal counsel can simplify the complicated benefits claims process.