IR #2005-20
Thursday, May 5, 2005

Dean Fryer
Renée Bacchini

Walnut Creek Explosion: Cal/OSHA Issues Multi-Employer Citation

SAN FRANCISCO - The California Department of Industrial Relations' Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) today released citations to multiple employers for violations leading to a gas explosion on Nov. 9, 2004 fatally injuring 5 employees and seriously injuring 4 others. The Companies involved included East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P. (KM), Comforce Technical Services (Comforce), Mountain Cascade, Inc. (MCI), Matamoros Pipelines, Inc. (Matamoros), Camp, Dresser, & McKee, Inc. (CDM), Carollo Engineers, P.C. (Carollo).

"After a six month thorough investigation, Cal/OSHA has determined that the explosion which occurred Nov. 9, 2004 leaving five employees dead and four seriously injured, was completely preventable," said Cal/OSHA Acting Chief Len Welsh. "The primary cause of the incident was that the location of the petroleum line was not known by the employees working in the area. Several employers failed to take required action and committed errors that contributed to the failure to determine and mark the location of the utility line."

On Nov. 9, 2004, at 1:22 p.m. an excavator operated by Mountain Cascade, Inc. (MCI) punctured a high-pressure petroleum line owned by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P., (KM). MCI was constructing a large water supply line for East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD). Gasoline was released into the pipe trench and was ignited by the welding activities of Matamoros Pipelines, Inc. (Matamoros), a welding subcontractor working for MCI. The resulting explosion and fire fatally injured five employees and seriously injured four other employees. All of the victims worked for Matamoros and MCI, and all fatalities and injuries were due to the explosion and fire. There was also extensive property damage.

Cal/OSHA also has a concurrent criminal investigation underway through its Bureau of Investigations. The findings from that investigation, which focuses on possible criminal liability involved in the accident, will be given in a confidential report to the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office for a determination as to whether criminal charges are applicable.

Employers were cited with the following violations:

California law provides that a company may appeal Cal/OSHA citations and penalties within 15 working days to the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board in Sacramento.