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“He could have drowned,” official says of worker rescued after being swept down sewer line

Post by Kris Sherman / The News Tribune on March 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
March 22, 2011 7:57 am

Dramatic photos and a short video show the final moments of a sewer worker’s rescue this morning after he was swept down a pipe at Pierce County’s Chambers Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Crews from Pierce County and emergency personnel labor to haul a worker out of a sewer line after he was swept down the pipe this morning./Pierce County photo

The man was sluiced some 3,000 feet down a 72-inch sewer main line before he was caught at an access point, county officials said.

The 37-year-old contract worker reportedly suffered only minor injuries. He was taken to a hospital for evaluation, according to a news release from the county.

“Our staff really rose the occasion,” Terry Soden, a Public Works and Utilities manager, said in the news release. “In my 25 years of service, we’ve never had to rescue someone like this. He could have drowned.”

Emergency crews tend to sewer worker following his rescue./Pierce County photo

The man was working 150 feet below ground on the sewer system at the plant, 10311 Chambers Creek Road West, when a surge of water pushed him through the pipe, officials said.

Fire crews were called for a swift water rescue just before 8 a.m. Coworkers and firefighters eventually pulled him up at an access point.

In the video posted on the county’s Public Works Facebook page you can hear a firefighter calling for a backboard; someone saying the worker was wearing a harness but wasn’t hooked up when he was swept away; and crews cheering and applauding as the yellow-jacketed man is hauled out of the hole to safety.

An unseen man is heard to exclaim, “All right. We got him out!”

Here’s a copy of the county’s news release:

A worker was rescued Monday, March 21, after sliding 3,000 feet down a sewer pipe at the Chambers Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Maintenance program manager Scott Roth received a call around 7:53 a.m. from Public Works and Utilities inspector Bob Buckley stating the man, who works for a contractor, came loose from his safety line while working on a rehabilitation project.

The man was swept down a 72-inch sewer main line that has a steep 4 percent slope. He slid approximately 3,000 feet and went past two access points.

Public Works and Utilities sewer crews went into the third access point, a manhole, and connected a safety rope to the man. They could hear him in the pipe using access points to determine his location. A crowd around the manhole cheered as the man was pulled to the surface.

“Our staff really rose the occasion,” said Terry Soden, Public Works and Utilities Wastewater Utility maintenance manager. “In my 25 years of service, we’ve never had to rescue someone like this. He could have drowned.”

The man was checked out by West Pierce Fire at the scene and taken to the hospital for further attention. Soden said the Sewer Utility staff responded quickly with the proper safety equipment and were praised for the successful rescue. A short video of the man’s rescue is available at www.facebook.com/PierceCountyPWU.

The cause of the incident remains under investigation.

The project involves rehabilitating the main sewer line – which is six feet across – that collects all of the flow to the Chambers Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant. This project entails relining the concrete sewer line with a reinforced fiberglass liner. The project included installing two temporary access shafts to facilitate the installation of the new liner.

The contractor was working in the temporary access shaft located near the property used by the University Place School District as a bus barn, located at Chambers Creek Road and 64th Street West, prior to being swept away into the flow.

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