Hallie McCurdy, West Pierce Fire & Rescue
University Place, WA – At 7:59a.m., March 21 West Pierce Fire & Rescue responded to a call for a swift water rescue. Firefighters arrived to find a 37 year old male who had been working 150 feet below ground on the sewer system. While he was working, a surge of water washed the man through a sewer pipe, roughly 6 feet in diameter. He was carried downstream approximately 3,500 feet. Luckily, the man got caught up in a grate and his fellow employees were able to pull him to safety with the help of firefighters. The man remained conscious and appeared to have minor injuries. He is being transported to an area hospital for further evaluation.
Following is press release from Pierce County, including a short link to a video posted to Facebook:
Worker rescued after long slide down sewer pipe
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.