Spokane, Washington, WTE plant cited for violations

Officials in Washington state have wrapped up their investigation into the accident at the Spokane waste-to-energy (WTE) plant that seriously burned two employees in October 2016.

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) cited the waste to energy plant for 10 violations discovered during its accident investigation.

The city reportedly faces up to more than $59,000 in fines. The injured workers, Larry Pratt and Craig Law, still work for the city of Spokane. Law is on light duty, while Pratt still is recovering. The pair climbed into one of the incinerator’s boilers Oct. 4, 2016, to patch a small leak.

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The boiler was shut down when the leak was discovered. Pratt and Law entered the boiler to make a welding repair and were engulfed in a plume of steam.

A spokesperson for the city of Spokane says the two men were using water to remove pieces of material off the walls of the boiler. When the water came into contact with a piece of molten material, cit caused the burst of steam.

The investigation reportedly determined the men’s 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 very hot. The citations include lack of training and proper protective equipment.

City officials say they already have made changes in operations and plan to make more safety improvements based on L&I’s findings.

For example, employees at the WTE facility are no longer allowed to conduct declinkering with water. Instead, small charges are being used to knock down the material with no one actually in the boiler.

The city of Spokane had 15 days to appeal the citations. Many of the abatement measures were required to be in place by the end of April.