News Briefs: Gun Scare at Plant Ends With Operator in Custody

In this week's news, a lead operator at an Illinois wastewater treatment plant is taken into police custody. Also, a municipality bans gas drilling wastewater.
News Briefs: Gun Scare at Plant Ends With Operator in Custody

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A lead operator at the Fox River Water Reclamation District in Elgin, Ill., was taken into custody Oct. 1 after police received reports that the man brought a handgun into the plant.

“My understanding is the employee had a bad day, came in, was disgruntled,” says Executive Director Bob Trueblood in an ABC 7 interview. “Family members were trying to calm him down and we were trying to get him to go home.”

The employee was scheduled to work at 7 a.m. He arrived at 8 a.m. and started working at his operator’s station. He soon went across the street to the reclamation district administration building and returned to the station.

Other plant employees called 911, stating the operator had a gun and had taken a hostage. Upon arriving, police officers tried to negotiate with the individual, but he refused to cooperate.

“He refused to surrender, and an officer deployed a less lethal ammunition round, which incapacitated the individual,” says Elgin Police Commander Dan O’Shea to ABC 7.

The operator was taken to a local hospital.

Trueblood stated the operator, who had worked at the plant for 25 years, had a stellar work record. The individual was well-liked, well-respected and just a “good guy all around.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, Trueblood stated a gun was never found on the individual. The incident is still under investigation, but district authorities assure the public the treatment plant was never compromised, even though some systems were turned off during the incident.

The plant treats wastewater for about 150,000 residents in the Elgin area.

Source: ABC 7 Chicago , Chicago Tribune

City Extends Gas Drilling Wastewater Ban

Officials in Auburn, N.Y., have again banned the city’s wastewater treatment plant from accepting gas drilling wastewater. This is the second time in four years that the City has enforced the regulation. After initially banning all drilling wastewater in 2011, the City partially lifted the ban in 2012 to allow wastewater produced from vertical natural gas drilling wells, but not horizontal drilling wells. According to an article in the Auburn Citizen, the new ban “mirrors the original, complete ban effective immediately.”

Earlier this year, GHD Consulting Firm, an engineering agency, completed a headworks analysis of the wastewater treatment plant and determined that high chloride levels in the waste stream could disrupt the plant’s biological treatment process. (See: "Can Municipal Treatment Plants Handle Fracking Wastewater?")

Only one council member, Peter Ruzicka, opposed the resolution to ban the drilling wastewater, stating the byproduct in question is not from hydraulic fracturing wastewater but water brought up in natural gas production. He said the chloride levels are caused by sodium chloride, which doesn't affect the plant’s nitrification process as heavily as other, more toxic constituents.

Ruzicka stated the ban was unnecessary because the City would need to conduct additional studies, which it can’t afford, before accepting drilling wastewater.

Source: Auburn Citizen 

14 California Communities Are Almost Out of Water

In California, water wells are drying up and several communities are precariously close to bone dry. Since January, 28 small communities have cycled on and off a list of “critical water systems,” which means they could dry up in 60 days. According to an article in the LA Times, a late spring rain saved some of those communities, but 14 others remain on the list and are quickly approaching crisis point.

“It’s a sign of how severe this drought is,” says Bruce Burton, an assistant deputy director for the State Water Resources Control Board.

Communities on the list tend to be small and in remote areas with a single source of water. But officials warn that if the drought continues, larger communities — with more sophisticated water sources — will also be affected.

State officials are working with the at-risk communities, funding projects such as digging new wells, making existing ones deeper or bringing in outside water.

“We didn’t want water systems to come to us and say, ‘Oh, we ran out of water today,’” says Burton in the article.

Source: LA Times


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