Essential Divers Adapt to Pandemic and Protests
UPDATED 1:50 PM ET JUN. 08, 2020
Yet like everything else, this work has been impacted by recent protests and the COVID-19 pandemic.
James Alvarez is in the union of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters and he’s part of a five-person team. Only one diver goes in the water at a time. After his 75 minutes underwater, he’s got work to do on land.
“As long as I keep my eye on the prize and I make sure that I’m safe and that my crew’s safe then I feel pretty confident,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez is working on the Clearwater Project in Carson. It’s extending and updating the Los Angeles wastewater treatment system.
The shaft he is lowered down into goes down about 140 feet and the water in it is more than 80 feet deep, almost deep enough to fit an eight story building. Dirt and construction debris keep the water looking murky.
Basically, divers like Alvarez are doing what any other construction worker does, but underwater.
Back on dry land, the pandemic and protests have touched every aspect of life.
“I feel privileged. I know there’s a lot of people that aren’t really working right now,” said Alvarez.
But everything from what they wear to how they get the job done has changed.
“All of a sudden you’re running out of gas for your compressors and your generators and you go to the gas stations and they’re locked. That proved tough. We had to modify our procedures and make sure we operate during non-lockdown times, so yeah, it’s been difficult,” said Kerry Donohue, Vice President of Associated Underwater Services.
When he started diving 11 years ago, Alvarez took jobs wherever he could. Now that he’s in a union, he can see his family every day rather than every other month. He’s back home.
“Growing up in Long Beach you’re near the water so you know I mean it’s just kind of like second nature I guess,” said Alvarez.
It will likely be several years before the Clearwater project is complete.