May 22, 2009

Over 200 Water and Power Employees Died
Providing Vital Water and Power Service for Past 90 Years

LOS ANGELES – A new civic monument was dedicated today honoring more than 200 Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) employees who lost their lives while providing vital electric and water service to the city.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District, LADWP officials, and family and friends of fallen LADWP employees unveiled the new memorial during the City of Los Angeles Annual Employee Memorial Ceremony in front of the LADWP’s John Ferraro Building headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.

“As we begin Memorial Day weekend, it is fitting that we honor the city employees and their families who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the City of Los Angeles,” said Councilmember Tom LaBonge. “It’s also fitting that we moved the ceremony here from City Hall this year since the Department of Water and Power has lost more employees than any other department in the city.”

With hundreds of LADWP employees looking on, the third Annual Employee Memorial Ceremony featured the unveiling of a 16-foot long glass memorial. The memorial is etched with the names of the 218 employees who lost their lives in service to the Department between 1922 and 2008.  That number does not include 43 workers who died during construction of the first Los Angeles Aqueduct between 1908 and 1913, prior to records being kept.

“This monument is a testament to the extraordinarily dangerous work that DWP employees do every day of the week, and which most Los Angeles residents really know nothing about,” said David Nahai, LADWP CEO and General Manager, adding: “When you look at this monument you will see that one side is completely full with 218 names, and the other side is blank. I believe we owe it to those whose names appear on one side to make sure that no name ever appears on the other side.”

Too often we take for granted the usually unseen work and huge risks our DWP workers are forced to take to do their jobs to keep the water and power running for all of us,” said Lee Kanon Alpert, President of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners. “Our employees also save lives – lives of the elderly, the infirm and those who are in hospitals, whose very breathing depends on the electricity that runs the equipment that keeps them alive.”

Pointing out that the majority of deaths occurred during the Department’s first 30 years — through the 1940s — Nahai said the Department has elevated safety as its No. 1 priority, illustrated by the formation of a joint safety institute, an annual safety summit, and many other cooperative efforts between labor and management to foster effective safety programs and policies.

“Still, day in and day out, our employees risk their lives to provide water and power to an ever-growing city,” Nahai said.

The fallen employees worked for various divisions of the Department. The majority worked in the Power System in Power Distribution, Electric Trouble, Power Operations, Power Design and Construction, and Electrical Station Maintenance.

The memorial’s unveiling was witnessed by about 30 family members and friends of fallen LADWP employees, including the family of Herman Hermosillo, an electric mechanic who died in 1988. His son Marco Hermosillo, also an LADWP employee, said the memorial was a great tribute. “My father would be proud. This really means a lot to us and to all the families of those who have passed performing water and power work for the city.”

Charles Bragg, an LADWP electric service representative, was best friends with Brian Blaney, an electrical mechanic died in 1982. “This is impressive and fantastic,” Bragg said. “It was time.”

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the nation’s largest municipal utility, provides reliable, low-cost water and power services to Los Angeles residents and businesses in an environmentally responsible manner. LADWP services about 1.4 million electric customers and 680,000 water customers in Los Angeles.