Plant Operator Narrowly Escapes Jaws of 12-foot Sewer Alligator

The last thing the operator expected was an attack from a 12-foot-long, 800-pound alligator

Plant Operator Narrowly Escapes Jaws of 12-foot Sewer Alligator

When Joe Hixon went to measure the sludge blanket in the final clarifier at the Hollisville (Florida) Wastewater Treatment Plant, the last thing he expected was an attack from a 12-foot-long, 800-pound alligator.

“I stuck the Sludge Judge into the water, and this ’gator came up and bit the thing off, three inches from my hand,” a traumatized Hixon told Treatment Plant Operator. “The thing had teeth the size of hatchet blades.”

Hixon threw down the mangled Sludge Judge and ran to report the incident to plant manager Dave McGill, who promptly called an alligator control officer from the Florida Fish and Game Commission. A crew from the commission responded, shooting the alligator with rifle-propelled tranquilizer darts and trucking it to a remote area of the Everglades for release.

“They had to shoot the beast about a dozen times before a dart would stick,” says Hixon, who watched the procedure from a safe spot outside the plant fence. “They’re known for having a tough hide.”

The question remains how the alligator made its way into the clarifier. McGill maintains that it could have entered the plant only by way of the sewer system. “We are surrounded by a 10-foot-high chain-link fence,” he says. “The sewer system is the only possible route the alligator could have taken, unless somebody dropped it in from a helicopter.”

As best McGill can determine, someone must have flushed a pet alligator down a toilet years ago; the beast them prospered in the sewer system before being swept up in the heavy flow caused by 5 inches of rain the day before the attack on Hixon.

“I’m guessing it came through the main interceptor and made its way to the surface when the wet well filled up almost to the top,” says McGill. “From there it easily could have crawled over to the clarifier and slid right in.”

As for Hixon, he’s been given one week’s paid leave to recover from his ordeal. “I’ll be back to work after that.” he says. “But it’s the last time I use a Sludge Judge.”


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