News Briefs: Worker Dies After Falling Into Wastewater Tank

In this week's water and wastewater news, a worker dies after becoming trapped in a wastewater treatment tank, the EPA gives Flint a list of demands to address its water issues, a utility in El Paso boosts its safety program, and Gary Hanson is recognized with the George F. Bernauer Award in Wisconsin.
News Briefs: Worker Dies After Falling Into Wastewater Tank

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A 31-year-old man died Oct. 26 after becoming trapped in a tank at the Coney Island Wastewater Treatment plant in Sheepshead Bay, New York.

Emergency personnel from the New York City Fire Department initiated a large rescue effort to search for Michael Buffamante, and they pulled the worker from the water unconscious and unresponsive. He was transported to Coney Island Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

About eight minutes passed as dozens of first responders tried to get him out, according to FDNY Dep. Chief John Hodgens, who spoke to CBS New York.

“There was no sign of him on the surface of the water,” he told CBS. “It's just a big 35-foot tank of concrete and he fell and he went right to the bottom.”

Authorities said the tank Buffamante fell into was full of partially treated wastewater. Staff reports disclosed that he was wearing PPE while performing an upgrade installation.

The Occcupational Safety and Heath Administration will investigate Buffamante's death, which OSHA says could take up to six months.

Source: CBS New York

EPA Orders Flint to Build Connector Pipe

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy informed Flint, Mich. Mayor Karen Weaver via letter that the city must complete the construction of a 3-mile connector pipe to its water treatment plant within the next year. That task is part of a larger list given to the city by the EPA administrator.

Although Flint is currently using pretreated water from Great Lakes Water Authority, it's expected to lose access by October 2017 due to the unavailability of a 9-mile transmission line. That line will be used by Genesee County and will be distributed to communities neighboring Flint.

It's possible Genesee County will sell the water it treats to Flint in the short term, according to MLive, which reported the story.

Flint is now a partner in the Karegondi Water Authority, which recently constructed a pipeline to transmit raw water from Lake Huron to the area.

Source: MLive

El Paso Water Ramps Up Safety Efforts

After the deaths of two contract workers at its wastewater treatment facility, El Paso Water will now require bidders and subcontractors to submit safety records for projects of more than $100,000.

Alan Shubert, vice-president of operations and technical services, told the Public Service Board in a presentation that the utility had no safety thresholds in its bid documents. He told the El Paso Times the utility has been trying to enhance its safety program for the past few years.

Among the new documentation required for those contracting with El Paso Water will be workers' compensation forms from insurance providers, U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration forms dating back three years and company records from OSHA.

Source: El Paso Times

$151 Million Settlement Reached After Charleston Chemical Spill

A $151 million settlement has been reached between residents of Charleston, West Virgina, and two companies connected to a methylcyclohexane methanol spill that caused a state of emergency for nine counties and contaminated water throughout the southern part of the state.

The deal will include payments from West Virginia American Water Co. and Eastman Chemical for $126 million and $25 million, respectively, according to NPR. A federal judge tentatively approved the terms of the settlement last week.

The deal was part of a class-action lawsuit filed by more than a 250,000 residents, business owners and wage earners employed by businesses that are supplied water by West Virginia American Water Co.

Source: NPR

Hanson Wins 2016 George F. Bernauer Award

Gary Hanson of Short Elliott Hendrickson recently won the Wisconsin Wastewater Operators' Association 2016 George F. Bernauer Award at the WWOA's annual conference.

The highest honor bestowed by WWOA, the George F. Bernauer Award recognizes successful plant performance, successful solutions to complex operational problems or outstanding contributions in the field of wastewater technology in the state.

Hanson has operated many different treatment facilities since 1978 and continues to provide education and guidance to operators throughout Wisconsin and the upper Midwest. Hanson is a valuable resource to the wastewater industry, helping clients and operators across the country with his wisdom and advice, according to WWOA.

“As the announcer continued to list everything off, I began to realize that I was the winner,” Hanson says. “I didn’t know what to say. I never dreamed I would be honored with this award. I truly feel it is a privilege.”


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