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Spokane pays $36,300 fine to state regulators following Waste-to-Energy Plant incident

FILE - Trashed is burned at 2,000 degrees inside Boiler No. 2 at the city’s Waste-to-Energy Plant on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. An incident that left two city workers severely burned in October 2016 was investigated by state regulators, and Spokane has paid a $36,300 fine for safety violations. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE - Trashed is burned at 2,000 degrees inside Boiler No. 2 at the city’s Waste-to-Energy Plant on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. An incident that left two city workers severely burned in October 2016 was investigated by state regulators, and Spokane has paid a $36,300 fine for safety violations. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The City of Spokane paid $36,300 in fines and has changed the way boilers are cleaned at the Waste-to-Energy Plant on the West Plains following an incident that severely burned two workers in October 2016.

The city appealed a previous fine total of $59,400 brought by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries after an investigation into the incident, which sent workers Craig Law and Larry Pratt to the hospital with extensive burns. Both men have recovered and are back working at the facility on the West Plains, said Marlene Feist, director of strategic development for the city public works and utilities department.

Investigations by the Labor and Industries Department, as well as an outside firm hired by the city, did not indicate the 12-hour shifts worked by plant employees had a role in the incident, Public Works Director Scott Simmons told city council members last month. The incident shuttered for several days the facility that burns trash as part of a process to create electricity.

Of the 10 safety violations found by state investigators, one was lessened in severity and another was eliminated as a result of the settlement negotiations.

Workers were burned during a routine maintenance procedure known as “declinkering,” where workers had previously been using hoses to remove solidified ash from the boiler’s walls. The city has permanently switched to using remote explosions, with no workers present in the boiler, to remove the buildup in accordance with the settlement agreement.

“They confirmed that was the best way to handle that,” Feist said.

The agreement also requires the city to conduct routine safety and evacuation training at the facility. Feist said Thursday that training is underway at the Waste-to-Energy Plant.

The city has already paid the fine out of its solid waste disposal collections, Feist said.


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