Man rescued after falling into swirling sewer

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 9:08 PM
Man rescued after falling into swirling sewer

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A worker swept more than 3,000 feet through untreated wastewater in an underground sewer pipe was safely rescued with minor injuries on Monday after a 15-minute nightmarish ordeal.

The sewer worker somehow became untethered inside an 80-foot-deep access shaft and was "swept away by the flow" in the pipe that ran 150 feet underground, said Terry Soden, maintenance and operations manager of Chambers Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant near Tacoma, Washington.

The water surge initially carried the worker downstream at about five miles per hour through the darkened pipe, which measured six feet in diameter. But as the pipe narrowed, the worker managed to brace himself against a grate and get his bearings, Soden told Reuters.

Co-workers were then able to pull the man to safety with the help of firefighters. "He was very coherent and taken to a local hospital," Soden said.

Washington State Labor and Industries inspectors are investigating the incident.

The man was employed by a Seattle construction company contracted to work on a sewer plant in University Place, about a mile south of Tacoma.

(Reporting by Laura L. Myers in Seattle; Editing by Steve Gorman and Jerry Norton)