Local News

Waste to Energy Plant cited for multiple violations

SPOKANE, Wash. - State officials have wrapped up their investigation on an industrial accident that seriously burned two employees at Spokane's Waste to Energy Plant.

The State Department of Labor and Industries cited the Waste to Energy Plant for ten violations discovered during this accident investigation.

The City faces up to more than $59,000 in fines, but what managers are really concerned about is preventing this type of mishap in the future.

We know the injured workers, Larry Pratt and Craig Law, still both work for the City of Spokane. Mr. Law is on light duty, while Mr. Pratt is still recovering.

The pair climbed into one of the incinerator's boilers back on October 4 to patch a small leak.

“It happens, occasionally,” said Scott Simmons, Director of Public Works at the City of Spokane. “These things are under some serious heat and pressure on a regular basis. One of the boiler tubes was discovered to have a leak and the boiler was shut down.”

The next day, Pratt and Law ventured inside the boiler but before they could start welding, the men were engulfed in a plume of steam.

“The water they were using to remove bits of material off of the walls that would ultimately need to be repaired came into contact with a large piece of molten material that caused a steam burst,” said Marlene Feist, City of Spokane.

The men were wearing respirators but L & I says their clothing and protective suits were not designed to deflect intense heat.

Investigators also allege the injured workers had not received specific training about the dangers of hosing down clinkers that were still that hot.

The Labor and Industries investigation was made more difficult because there were no witnesses to the accident.

The citations include not enough training and proper equipment to protect employees.

City Officials say they've already made changes in incinerator operations and plan to make more improvements based on L & I's findings.

Employees at Waste to Energy are no longer allowed to conduct the de-klinkering with water. Instead, small charges are being used to knock down the material with no one actually in the boiler.

“We're going to use all that information to make decision and make changes at our plant that will make things safer for our employees,” said Feist. “We want our employees to be safe every day when they come to work. We want them to have the proper equipment and procedures and understanding of how the facility works so they can go home to their families every day the same way they came to us.”

So the City of Spokane has 15 days to appeal any of these citations.

Most of the abatement measures ordered up by L & I need to be in place at the plant by the end of April.