By Peak Johnson
While emergency responders and police officers typically get the most credit for putting themselves in harm’s way, wastewater utility employees are overlooked for the oft-hazardous positions they face.
In a recent example of this peril, Gary Patton, an employee working with welding equipment on top of a tank at Aqua Treat Inc., in Chattanooga, TN, was injured in an explosion.
Patton, 41, was doing maintenance work described by officials as “welding a wastewater solvent holding tank when an explosion threw him about 50 feet from the tank.”
Aqua Treat “is an industrial wastewater pre-treatment facility, and is designed to pre-treat difficult and recalcitrant non-hazardous (non-RCRA regulated) industrial wastewater and solids,” according to Metropolitan Engineering Consulting & Forensics. “All accepted waste has been analyzed in our fully equipped lab and been determined to be non-hazardous.”
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that, according to police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal, Patton was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of multiple injuries.
Aqua Treat officials said there was no danger to the public or the environment.
Myzal added that, following the incident, the plant stopped operations and that “employees were evacuated out of the building while fire and police officials investigated the incident and removed the injured worker from the site.”
Since Patton’s injuries were so life threatening, police responded quickly to the incident to assist with the investigation. However, officials were not able to say right away what was inside the tank where Patton had been working.
No foul play was suspected in the incident. The Chattanooga Police Department Major Crimes Unit is investigating.
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Image credit: "Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Facility, February 2011" Chesapeake Bay Program © 2011 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/