News Feature | August 1, 2016

Second Worker Dies From Accident At Wichita Falls Treatment Plant

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

wichitaregular

The second worker who was injured in a tragic accident at the Wichita Falls River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Wichita Falls, TX, has died.

David Sheppard, a maintenance mechanic, died early in the morning of July 24th from injuries he sustained while conducting routine repairs at the plant, according to the Times Record News. Sheppard’s assistant mechanic Daniel Arredondo died earlier in July from injuries he suffered in the same incident.

Both men had inhaled lethal volumes of concentrated hydrogen sulfide gas at the plant. They had been dispatched on July 2nd to fix a pipe valve that was leaking sludge onto the plant’s floor.

The city reported in its own investigation, in addition to the one that was conducted by the Texas Department of State Health Services, and found that the incident was not caused by an error in training.

In the state report, obtained by the Times Record News, an investigator came to the conclusion that Wichita Falls was in compliance with “procedures meant to educate workers” on the dangers of hazardous chemicals.

The report also stated that the city complied with the Texas Hazard Communication Act by informing the state agency of the incident within two days. However, the document also shows that the state investigation was kicked off by a referral from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and not a report from the city.

The brief report stated that although both men used breathing masks and air tanks when they began making repairs, they were seen by another city employee removing the devices and placing them in a doorway.

The Times Record News further reported that the city’s statement had also mentioned that both Sheppard and Arredondo told another employee their air tanks were “running low” and that they’d be heading to the storage area to get full tanks.

City officials said Freese and Nichols Engineering has been hired to investigate how the gas became so concentrated, since it was “considered unusual” for hazardous levels of hydrogen sulfide to be in the area where both men were working.

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Image credit: "Wastewater Treatment Plant March 19, 2012" counterculturecoffee © 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/