The Blue Plains Tunnel Project

Deep below the ground, in some cities around the world, a massive tunnel is being built.

by Emilio A. Rodriguez


The tunnels are being built to save rivers from severe water pollution or to make way for better means of transportation. One of those tunnels is the Blue Plains Tunnel Project, a tunnel 158 feet (49 meters) below ground level and runs about 24,000 feet or 4.5 miles (7315 meters) under the United States Capital, Washington D.C.


The concrete-lined shaft is dry now, but eventually storm water will rush through to keep our local river clean and pristine. During tunneling operations, the environment is hot, dark, and slightly musty, with sporadic lighting along the walls. "Lady Bird", the train-sized boring machine, is in the process of gouging out 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometers) of tunnel below Washington D.C. Lady bird - 443 feet (135 meters) long and weighing 1323 tons - cuts through about 100 feet (30 meters) of earth per day.

The Falck Team

In an environment with pressures as high as 73 psi (g) or 5 bar, the expertise and knowledge of the Falck Safety Services Dive Medical Technicians/Paramedics play an important role in operations. We are a peculiar set of people with a keen sense for underground adventures. We work 12-hour shifts and are specially trained to operate any of the four decompression chambers on site as well as render advanced medical aid to the compressed air worker if needed. I am the team leader, or Hyperbaric Operations Manager, Emilio A. Rodriguez. I am responsible for over-all operation and safety of all workers during the intervention. The Tender, or Chamber Operator is Chris Ray. He is the brain in front of the machine and is responsible for the decent and ascends of all of the compressed air workers (CAWs). The is done manually using a set of valves to pressurize and depressurize the hyperbaric chambers (specialized subset of skills). Finally, we find the Lead Dive Medical Technician, Robert Hall. He is in charge of patient care and he also supervises the CAWs during compression and decompression of the chamber for any signs of trouble.


Tunnels are becoming increasingly important as the population grows, both for the purposes of sewage disposal and for unobstructed traffic arteries and rail services beneath large urban centers. Through events and projects such as these, we, the Falck Safety Services US DMTs/Paramedics are exceeding the industry's expectations.



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