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City water plant gets 10 safety violations

July 19, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Maryland Occupational Safety and Health has cited the City of Hagerstown for 10 violations at the city's main water plant.

Most of the violations are related to emergency policies in case of a chlorine leak, officials said.

All four of the violations deemed "serious" by a Maryland Occupational Safety and Health inspector have been corrected, said Austin Abraham, the city's project coordinator and acting city administrator while Bruce Zimmerman is on vacation.

City officials will ask that the four serious violations be reduced to "other than serious" since no one was hurt, there was no accident and three of the violations were corrected during the inspection, Abraham said.

City officials also will contest one of the six violations deemed "other than serious," Abraham said. It states the city didn't evaluate a contractor's safety performance, but the city's engineering consultant, Gannett Fleming, did, he said.

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The city was not fined for the violations because state law does not allow MOSH to fine public-sector employers.

The violations came after general inspections of the R.C. Willson Water Treatment Plant near Williamsport on March 26 and April 14, according to the citations.

MOSH has emphasized inspecting public-sector work sites because the lost time incident rate is higher than in private workplaces nationwide, said Dale Valentine, MOSH's regional supervisor.

Hagerstown is in good shape, Valentine said.

In 1997, only one Willson plant employee was injured, when he fell off a ladder and broke an ankle, said Jim Grafton, city safety coordinator. The accident resulted in 72 lost days and 20 days of restricted duty, he said.

Two of the serious violations dealt with a contractor working in the plant whose employees weren't told there was chlorine in the plant or informed of the emergency action plan, according to the citations.

Chuck Zitnick, chief executive officer of Johnston Construction Co., said everyone knew how to get in and out of the plant.

Grafton said the plant has several emergency policies that are expected to be formalized into a comprehensive plan within two months.

Abraham said the city will ask MOSH to extend the July 15 deadline for the plan until Sept. 15. The city also is requesting a formal conference with MOSH, he said.

As for the chlorine, Zitnick said, "All water plants have chlorine in them. The plant operators and contractors know that."

Zitnick said his company was cited for an "other than serious" violation and accepted a fine of about $200 for not asking the city for the emergency plan.

The Dover, Pa., contractor began work on water treatment filter boxes on March 17, 1997, and is expected to finish the $2.7 million phase of the plant's rehabilitation on Dec. 6, said Gene Walzl, manager of the city's water department.

The crew was not working around the chlorine, which is in a different section of the same building, Walzl said.

Plant employees working with chlorine must wear a special breathing apparatus because the gas can cause burns and breathing problems, city officials said.

Walzl said there was a small chlorine leak at the plant four or five years ago and nobody was hurt.

The other two serious violations were for two compressors that did not have guards over their pulleys and have since been covered, city officials said.

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