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CA Water Tank Explosion Causes Fatality

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

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Last week, a 1.5-million-gallon water tank exploded in at the Station 7 Water Facility in Lemoore, California.

The incident resulted in the death of a contract worker and injured a city employee.

What Happened

According to reports, while three contractors and a city employee were working on the tank, an explosion occurred around 1:23 p.m. In videos of the incident from a nearby surveillance camera, viewers can see the moment where the explosion and rush of water ripped the tank from its base, launching it about 70 feet in the air.

It was reported that 41-year-old contractor Dion Jones was welding the tank when the explosion occurred. Two of the other contractors were uninjured, City of Lemoore employee Jeramy Climer was taken to a local hospital, while Jones was pronounced dead at the scene.

Jones was a longtime employee of J.R. Filanc Construction, based out of Southern California.

“As they went to start the tie-in, the tank failed,” Lemoore City Manager Nathan Olson said the evening after the incident. “It appears we had a small explosion. The tank lifted off the pad ... (causing) the 1.5 million gallons of water to dump. We kind of had a big tsunami.”

Olson further predicted that there had to have been some type of gas or build up in the tank, as the explosion took place in the structure’s headspace, causing the tank to rip at the seam and lift up.

As a result of the incident, Olson reported that residents could witness a change in water pressure and color, but that the water was safe to drink. The explosion had taken out three of the city’s wells offline, in addition to the loss of the tank and pumps.

The day following the incident, the city declared a state of emergency on its water, implementing new regulations which included no watering lawns and no washing down vehicles and concrete until further notice. No boil notices were also issued for the area.

Clean Up & Investigation

By the following Wednesday, Olson reported that crews were working to clean up the site.

“I think the shock and awe are over now, and today we're in rebuild mode,” Olson said. “And I think people are a little bit refreshed and they've rolled up their sleeves. I'm really happy with the progress we made this morning.”

At the time, crews were reported to be working on restarting the two wells so they could complete the urgent task of sending water to their new treatment tanks as to avoid the high costs associated with a gap in the recycling process. In addition, they were also trying to repair a line that feeds into the other 1.5-million-gallon tank and prepare it for use again.

“Once we get that then we have to fill that tank, chlorinate it, hold 24 hours to sample, send it to the state,” Olson said. “Wait another 24 hours, take another sample, so there's going to be about two to three days where we're going to have water there ready to go out but we got to wait for the testing to happen.”

On the explosion, Cal/OSHA issued the following statement: “On June 21, Cal/OSHA was notified of a fatality involving an employee of J.R. Filanc Construction. According to the notification, an employee was fatally injured when a water tank exploded. Cal/OSHA is investigating to determine the cause of the incident and identify any violations of workplace safety requirements.”


Tagged categories: Accidents; Fatalities; Health and safety; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Tanks; Tanks; Water/Wastewater

Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (6/29/2021, 8:49 AM)

Would be interesting to know if a risk-assessment was perormed before the work commenced. Also gas testing protocols.

Comment from John Bethell, (6/29/2021, 11:52 AM)

Mr. Olson's comments come across as cavalier and self centered. A man died and one of his own workers was injured. I cannot fathom how an explosion that lifted a mega structure off it's foundation could be referred to as small therefore his workers injuries must be significant. Mr. Olsen should be grateful that neither of the victims were my brother because he would be in for the worst dressing down of his life courtesy of me. I offer my heartfelt support to the two victims and their families. Additionally his reference to them having a sunami was inappropriate. What they had was a tragedy!!

Comment from John Bethell, (6/29/2021, 11:56 AM)

As someone who has crews welding on water storage tanks and who has heard of this type of explosion occurring on water tank before, I would like to know the cause. I have heard that it is a build up of chlorine gases. Anyone who alternate information can you please share it with me via my email ?

Comment from rob gaeth, (7/4/2021, 8:22 AM)

Not sure if testing the interior air would be part of the protocal for welding on the exterior. Although I will do it on every one my future projetcs that involve welding repairs on a in service water tank. Usually owners don't want the water supply exposed . But from now on the space will be ventilated and tested before myself or my crew make any repairs on top of live water tanks. A real shame Mr. Jones had to loose his life to teach us this lesson. Let it not be in vain.

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