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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Man rescued after fall at treatment plant


    A construction worker was able to wedge himself in a 4-foot-wide sewer line Monday after he came loose from his safety line and wastewater carried him 3,300 feet down the pitch-black pipe.

    Hearing the man’s calls for help, crews at the Chambers Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant were able to find him and use ropes to pull him to the surface.

    The 37-year-old man, who works for Frank Coluccio Construction Co., was rescued about 300 feet from where the sewer line empties into the University Plant treatment plant at10311 Chambers Creek Road W.

    “”He’s so lucky,”” said Hallie McCurdy, spokeswoman for West Pierce Fire & Rescue.

    The state Department of Labor & Industries has launched an investigation into whether any worker safety laws were violated in the accident, the first time in 25 years that someone had to be rescued at the treatment plant.

    The News Tribune was unable to contact the worker, and calls to the construction company were not returned.

    The man was conscious during the rescue and appeared to have only minor injuries. He was taken to a hospital for further evaluation.

    “”It was very fortunate that he was conscious”” the whole time, said Terry Soden, Public Works and Utilities Wastewater Utility maintenance manager. “”The planets were all aligned perfectly”” for a successful rescue.

    Employees from the construction company started work about 7:30 a.m. on relining the sewer line, which collects all the wastewater flows from Pierce County and takes them to the treatment plant.

    The worker had gone down a temporary access shaft and was in the sewer line when he somehow became unhooked from his safety line just after 7:50 a.m.

    Water regularly flows through the 72-inch-wide sewer line, and it swept the man down the 4 percent slope toward the treatment plant, Soden said.

    The sewer line narrowed as the water pushed the man, who passed two access points and was able to stop himself when the line narrowed to 48 inches, Soden said.

    On the surface, sewer crews had heard the man’s cries and scrambled to find him. They opened up access points to the sewer line and called down to him.

    “”We could hear him talking down in there,”” Soden said.

    Crews figured out that the man was closest to a manhole about 300 feet from the treatment plant and set up their retrieval equipment. A worker was sent eight to 10 feet down the manhole to catch the man and connect him to the safety ropes.

    “”He scooted his way to our employee down in the hole,”” Soden said.

    The man was pulled up to the surface to applause from rescuers.

    “”He was in good spirits,”” Soden said.

    If the worker hadn’t stopped himself, he would have gone into the plant, where screens sift debris from wastewater as it moves into the plant to be treated.

    That’s where the man’s hard hat ended up.

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