In this week’s news briefs, the owner of a Boston company has been criminally charged stemming from an October work site incident that killed two workers, and Baltimore officials hope to boost water conservation efforts with a new online portal.
A Boston contractor is facing criminal charges in connection with a work site incident that killed two of its employees last October.
According to a report in the Boston Globe, Atlantic Drain Services and its owner Kevin Otto each face multiple charges, including two counts of manslaughter. Prosecutors accuse the company and Otto of ignoring safety regulations that could have saved the two men who were killed, then forging documents suggesting required safety classes had been completed.
Along with the announcement of the charges last week was the first detailed description of what exactly happened Oct. 21, 2016, when Kelvin Mattocks, 53, and Robert Higgins, 47, were killed while working on a water and sewer project in a 14-foot-deep trench. The two men were buried to their waists after the trench collapsed. Then a fire hydrant that had been supported by the collapsed dirt was suspended by the water supply line, causing the line to break and fill the trench in seconds. Co-workers tried to save the two men, but the deep and fast-flowing water hindered their attempts.
Daniel Conley, one of the prosecutors, says the trench had no shoring despite an expandable metal trench box being on site. At the time of the incident, Atlantic Drain was also facing OSHA fines from past cases. Since then an ordinance has been approved requiring companies to report whether they are in good standing with OSHA before receiving work permits. Otto also allegedly forged employees’ signatures to make it appear as if trench safety courses — required due to the OSHA violations — had been completed.
“This isn’t something that has happened frequently in Massachusetts, but it’s a growing tool that DAs are recognizing is available when there are employers that recklessly put their employees in harm’s way. This was so egregious,” Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, told the Boston Globe.
Source: Boston Globe
Wisconsin Utility Investigating Cause of Well Contamination
A Wisconsin water utility has shut down a well that supplies customers 750 million gallons of water annually to investigate why it continually is infiltrated by sodium and chloride.
The Madison Water Utility plans on keeping Well 14 shut down for four weeks, according to a report by Channel 3000. The quality of the well’s water has been questioned in the last five years.
“They’d say, ‘The water used to taste great, and now it tastes different. It’s not as good,’” says Marie VanAartsen, who answers calls to the utility’s water quality line. “They couldn’t always pinpoint what was different. Just that it was different. It was more residents who had lived in the neighborhood for a long time, 20 or 30 years. This was their consistent source of water, and they could notice a change, not so much day-to-day, but from in the past.”
The utility is now working with the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey to do tests on the well.
“Before we make any decisions about rehabilitation, we really have to better understand the geology, better understand where the water’s coming from and the water quality characteristics of that well,” says Joe Grande, head of the utility’s water quality department.
Residents are being encouraged to limit their use of road salt on driveways and parking lots, one of officials' suspected reasons for the increased sodium and chloride levels.
Source: Channel 3000
Baltimore Aiming to Boost Customers' Water Conservation
The Baltimore City Department of Public Works launched a new online water billing portal in January that customers can use to monitor their water usage. Department staff will attend 50 community association meetings across the city during February to promote the new system and explain how to access its various features. More meetings are being planned for the coming months.
According to a city press release, thousands of customers have already signed up.
“It can really make a difference for citizens in tracking their water usage. It is a great tool to manage consumption and to save money through conservation, and through early discovery of leaks and service line breaks,” Mayor Catherine Pugh says.
The new portal is a successor to a system launched in 2015 that already allowed customers to pay their water bills online. Customers can view their water usage in daily or hourly increments. City officials say they hope it can help with overall water conservation in the city, given that drought-like conditions have persisted in many parts of the country. The most recent report from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that a majority of the states have regions with “abnormally dry” conditions and seven states have areas deemed “extreme drought.”
Source: press release