Voice: Lifelines study was flawed, needs to be done again

June 19, 2001

I received a copy of the lifeline safety study recently after waiting over five months. During the wait for the seven-page study to be produced, 14 more people drowned in the All-American Canal, including a husband and wife. That comes out to two deaths per page and rising.

My comments on the safety study can be summarized as:

1. Buffington was not qualified to perform the study. His inflated resume was 12 pages and listed a career in criminal justice and mine safety. Included were every course he had taken since high school. These include such topics as "Managing Interpersonal Relationships," "Basic Safety During Gas Cutting and Welding Operations." "OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program," "Mine Rescue Training." There is zero experience cited with water safety. There was no indication he had ever even been near a canal or water hazard during his entire career.

2. He cites surface speeds of 8 to 10 mph and undertow speeds of 15 to 20 mph. In other parts of the report he cites surface speeds of 5 to 8 mph and undertows near buried objects of 16 to 18 mph. These are based on his discussions with Imperial Irrigation District employees. He then cites "the undertow is similar to someone grabbing your foot and even the strongest swimmers cannot free themselves." I agree undertows exist at all the drops 1-4 and that is why IID itself has installed safety lines at those locations.


Safety lines work. I have used the safety line in front of Drop 4 to traverse the All-American to the halfway point and back. I will be happy to produce the videotape.

3. Buffington states, "Water moving at 10 mph will exert 400 pounds per square inch (such as a person who is trapped, pinned or trying to hold on a rescue line.) Water at 20 mph will exert 1,600 PSI on a stationary object." This is totally wrong. The pressure at 10 mph is 1.5 psi and the pressure at 20 mph is 5.8 psi. This can be easily calculated. His numbers that are the basis of his conclusion are off by a factor of 276!

4. Buffington concludes the canal is safer without safety lines than with them! This is based upon his miscalculation above. A correct calculation vindicates the safety lines. Even in the absence of a calculation the fact that IID put safety lines into drops 1-4 of the canal shows they work and IID knows it. They installed them for the safety of their own workers.

In regard to the IID vote 4-1 against the lifelines after previously authorizing them:

The rapid vote precluded any time to review the safety study. If they had shown us a preliminary version, we would have found the errors then and Buffington could have corrected the report. My friends and I had less than one day to review the report after waiting five months. This is unacceptable.

Director Maldonado alone had the nerve to buck the system. He was coincidentally the only one of five directors who had recovered bodies from the All-American. The directors have delegated the task of body recovery to others.

The vote was made based on a totally flawed report. IID should either have Buffington correct the study or bring in a real water safety expert.

After the report is corrected and my friends and I have been given time to review it, the board should vote once more.



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