News Feature | June 11, 2019

Death In Baltimore Traced To Collapsed Catwalk In Wastewater Facility

By Peter Chawaga


Following a tragic accident in a Baltimore wastewater treatment facility, a local Department of Public Works (DPW) employee has been found dead.

“Firefighters believe the DPW supervisor fell from a catwalk that spans the water filtration system inside the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant in Curtis Bay,” according to CBS Local. “She was a DPW employee for more than 20 years — the last three of them at the wastewater treatment plant.”

The employee, identified as Trina Cunningham, was found after firefighters responded to a call about a missing employee at the plant. They found her body in a vat of water.

Employees reportedly saw her walk across the catwalk before she went missing and said that they found a missing grate on the catwalk. There have been accusations that safety measures at the plant were lax.

“[Trent Cunningham, Trina’s brother] and other wastewater plant employees said they’ve had safety concerns for quite some time and have done their best to voice them to management,” per CBS. “Now, the family is fighting for exact answers about what happened and requesting more information about the latest inspections of the plant.”

For now, the investigation appears far from reaching a definitive conclusion about the details of Cunningham’s death — though security footage has appeared to rule out foul play.

“Maryland Occupational Safety and Health is also investigating the case, said Maryland Department of Labor policy director Michael Harrison,” per The Baltimore Sun. “The department hasn’t inspected the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Facility since 2014, when its database begins, Harrison said, but no complaints were lodged about the plant during that period.”

Meanwhile, the president of the City Union of Baltimore Local 800, Antoinette Ryan-Johnson, appeared ready to call for more details about safety at the plant. The incident “calls into question workplace safety protocols for the women and men who make sure our public works are safe for us,” per the Sun.

To read more about workplace safety for public wastewater treatment employees visit Water Online’s Resiliency Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Fire Truck," Ian Dick © 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: