News Briefs: WWTP Supervisor Dies After Falling from Catwalk

Longtime public employee Trina Cunningham was found dead in the filtration system of the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant in Baltimore, Maryland

A longtime public employee in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, died after falling into a wastewater treatment tank, according to CBS Baltimore.

The worker, Trina Cunningham, was a public employee for 20 years and had been working at the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant in Curtis Bay for three years. She was a supervisor for the city’s Department of Public Works.

Authorities say Cunningham fell from a third-level catwalk into 20 feet of churning water. Coworkers noticed she was missing and found her body 600 feet away in a filtration system.

Baltimore DPW Director Rudolph Chow tells CBS Baltimore all the facts of the incident are still under investigation, but it appears a grate was missing from the catwalk, and first-responders believe Cunningham fell through the catwalk.

The City Union of Baltimore issued a statement, per CBS Baltimore, saying they were deeply saddened by Cunningham’s death. “Beyond being a CUB member and faithful employee of the city of Baltimore, she was a wife, mother, sister and daughter. Each of her colleagues spoke highly of her commitment and dedication to the job. It pains us that a person with so much life ahead of them dies so young and tragically.

This also calls into question workplace safety protocols for the women and men who make sure our public works are safe for us. Each employee, private or public, deserves a safe work environment to do their job. While this is the first fatality at this facility that we know of, any fatality at the workplace is unacceptable. Our employees deserve to have working conditions that are fully compliant with state and federal regulations.”

WWTP in Oklahoma Overwhelmed by Floodwater

A wastewater treatment plant in Muskogee, Oklahoma, was underwater for a number of days after being overwhelmed by floodwaters.

The city’s public works director says the Arkansas River crested a full 31 inches higher than the 6-foot walls surrounding the facility, and a large portion of the plant was flooded, including electrical panels that were two or three feet deep in floodwater. “There is a lot of electrical work that will have to be done to be able to turn the plant back to where it is working, functioning,” the director tells the Muskogee Phoenix. “It’s going to be a long process getting everything back up and rolling.”

EPA Seeks Comments on Proposed Perchlorate Regulations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a notice of proposed rule-making that seeks public input on a range of options regarding the regulation of perchlorate in public drinking water systems.

The agency is seeking comment on a proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for perchlorate to establish a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) and a health-based Maximum Contaminant Level Goal at 56 micrograms per liter. In addition, the agency is seeking comment on three alternative regulatory options: an MCL and MCLG for perchlorate set at 18 micrograms per liter; an MCL and MCLG for perchlorate set at 90 micrograms per liter; and withdrawal of the agency’s 2011 determination to regulate perchlorate in drinking water.

The EPA will accept public comment on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register via

Should Water Utilities Be Liable for Wildfire Damages?

A coalition of public and private water utilities in California are lobbying lawmakers to draft legislation that protects them from liability for damages caused by fires they didn’t start, even if they failed to help put the fires out.

The Coalition for Fire Protection and Accountability is citing a couple lawsuits in which water districts were held liable for $70 million in damages after being unable to help firefighters put out fires. In one case, the utility had a pump station damaged in a fire and it stopped working.

Justin Skarb, director of government relations for California Water Service, tells the Enterprise-Record that it’s an untenable situation. “The water utility was a victim of the fire and held responsible for that same fire,” he says. “That seems pretty far removed from anything remotely fair.”


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