Kenneth Bruno, an employee of the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) Gas and Safety Enforcement Division, has filed a lawsuit accusing Sempra Energy and SoCal of responsibility for the benzene exposure that led to his diagnosis with hairy cell leukemia.
Bruno is a Program Manager for CPUC, and in that role, he was tasked with monitoring the capping of the gas well behind the Aliso Canyon natural gas explosion that occurred in October of 2015. According to the lawsuit, Sempra Energy and SoCalGas were aware that Mr. Bruno was going to be exposed to a host of known carcinogens, yet despite this, they took no action to advise him of the presence of those hazards.
Benzene exposure is a known cause of hairy cell leukemia, a rare type of blood cancer, and because of this and other risks, the CPUC’s Rule 30 standard prohibits natural gas from containing benzene at concentrations that present a health or safety hazard to the public or to its employees.
Despite this, the gas that Mr. Bruno was exposed to when was sent to the utility company’s storage facility contained dangerously high levels of benzene, radon, toluene, and formaldehyde. Though the company was aware of this, their only instruction to Mr. Bruno was that he wear “appropriate footwear and a hard hat.” They did not warn him of the need for protective clothing or equipment such as a respirator, and as a result, he breathed in the chemicals.
Suit Cites Benzene Exposure That Extends to Victim’s Family
Even more egregious than the benzene exposure that Mr. Bruno suffered is the fact that the lack of warning or instruction led to him carrying remnants of the chemical into his home, where his children and family were also exposed, and are now at risk for illness in the future. Speaking on Bruno’s behalf, a family representative said, “Time and again, Mr. Bruno unknowingly walked into a gas chamber and he’s now suffering the health effects because of it.
Exposing Mr. Bruno to outrageously high levels of known toxins is a despicable act.” He went on to say, “ What’s even more terrible is SoCalGas’ failure to alert Mr. Bruno of his exposure to toxic chemicals which resulted in him unknowingly bringing those chemicals home to his kids.”