News Briefs: Plant Employees Sue City for Asbestos Exposure

In this week's water and wastewater news, worker safety triggers an East Lansing lawsuit, a Texas loan program receives positive response and subzero temps cause problems in Canada.
News Briefs: Plant Employees Sue City for Asbestos Exposure

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The City of East Lansing, Michigan, is facing a lawsuit filed by employees of its wastewater treatment plant. The employees — eight current and one former — claim they were repeatedly exposed to mercury and asbestos.

The complaints date back to 2007, when employees say they were not informed about the results of an asbestos inspection at the plant. At that time, numerous areas of asbestos were identified, including some spots that were “friable,” meaning they could be crumbled or reduced to powder. According to the lawsuit, the city never adopted recommendations to remove the asbestos, and thus exposed employees to the material for seven years.

The lawsuit also lists other incidents, including a November 2013 spill in which a pound and a half of mercury was disposed of in sinks. That spill was not reported until March 2014 when a group of plant workers asked for a meeting with city officials to report what had happened.

“It should have been promptly cleaned up thoroughly,” says attorney Neal Wilensky, who filed the suit on behalf of the employees, in a WLNS report. “All of the various departments that have to be notified should have been notified. There’s been a total disregard for worker safety.”

Wilensky says the employees hope to improve worker conditions.

“They want to make sure East Lansing doesn’t do the same thing over and over. They want money damages, they want better employee training and they want people to know what happened in the city in regard to the exposure to workers of asbestos and mercury,” he says.

Source: WLNS, Lansing State Journal

Texas Receives 48 Applications for SWIFT Loans

The application period for the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas is now closed. The Texas Water Development Board received 48 applications for more than $5.5 billion in loans. As expected, the demand for SWIFT exceeds the amount available in the first round of SWIFT funding.

The Texas Water Development Board will start the evaluation process immediately. Over the next few months, the agency will conduct a comprehensive scoring process of all applications based on prioritization criteria developed through public input in 2014.

The new voter-approved SWIFT fund will fund projects in the state water plan. Money was transferred from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

Source: TWDB press release 

18-Wheeler Dumps Wastewater Headed to Plant

Commuters in Duval County, Florida, were in for a messy surprise earlier this week when an 18-wheeler headed to a wastewater treatment plant in Jacksonville overturned, dumping 6,000 gallons of untreated wastewater on the highway.

“It is leakage from a landfill,” says Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Gracie Kennedy to WJAX-TV. “It was going to a landfill and it was going to a wastewater facility.

Hazmat teams responded to the incident. The spill took three hours to clean up. No one was injured in the accident.

Source: WJAX

Frozen Intake Pipe Leads to Water Emergency

Residents in Port Hope, Ontario, were under a water emergency earlier this week thanks to a frozen water intake pipe at the municipal water treatment plant. Because the municipality’s reserve tank held only enough water to get the area through 10 hours of water use, residents were asked to conserve water and businesses were asked to use only what was required for minimum sanitation and food preparation.

The frozen intake pipe stretched about 800 meters into Lake Ontario.

“Late Sunday night, plant employees saw the water flowing in was diminishing and by Monday morning it got to a trickle,” says Mayor Bob Sanderson to Northumberland Today.

The water supply was re-established on Tuesday, Feb. 16, and the water conservation alert was canceled. Sanderson stated that municipal staff were “absolutely incredible” in their response to the emergency.

According to Environment Canada, temperatures were around 0 degrees F with a windchill of -13 degrees.

Source:  CTV News, Northumberland Today



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