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Fatal Blast Probed at CA Sewage Plant

Monday, June 20, 2011

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Authorities are investigating the death of an operator who was struck by steel shards when a 4,500-gallon water tank burst at the Clear Creek Water Treatment Plant, in Redding, CA.

Fred Crumb, 54, of Redding, a seven-year city employee, perished Thursday (June 16) afternoon.

 Fred Crumb
Longtime municipal employee Fred Crumb died a day after the accident.

Crumb was refilling a 4,500-gallon pressurized steel tank that had lost water when the top blew off about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Redding Record-Searchlight reported. Steel shards struck Crumb in the head, knocking him unconscious. He never awoke, and life support was removed the next day, the newspaper said.

Investigations Underway

Both the City of Redding and California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating. The city has hired an outside tank expert to review the situation, and city risk management staff have been on the scene, investigating.

Officials say an exploding water tank is rare.

“Personally, I have never seen an explosion of this type on a pressurized water tank,” wastewater utility manager Dennis McBride told KHSL-TV.  “So they do happen, but I am not aware of any in the industry that have exploded like this.

“There are a number of safety redundant safety systems in place and for whatever reason, something caused the tank to explode or erupt from the inside out and rip apart.”

Renovation Underway

The plant, one of three owned by the city, is undergoing an $80 million renovation that began in 2006 and had been proceeding without incident. The hydropneumatic tank that exploded had been installed in 1978 and was due to be replaced later in the project.

 Clear Creek Water Treatment Plant

 City of Redding Public Works Department

The plant is in the sixth phase of renovation, which includes rehabilitating the aeration basin.

Clear Creek receives wastewater flows from about 75% of the city’s households and businesses (about 65,000 people). The aging plant, which opened in 1979, is reaching its design capacity. The renovation project is designed to increase its treatment capacity and provide the capability to accommodate future wastewater flows.

‘Good Friend, Great Co-Worker’

Crumb had worked 16 years as a treatment plant operator, including seven years for the City of Redding. Operators are responsible for general plant maintenance.

Crumb was one of five plant operators who worked closely together, Redding Public Works Director Brian Crane told KRCR-TV.

“They’re shaken up, there’s no question about it,” said Crane. “They have lost a good friend and a great co-worker.”

Crumb was about to celebrate 32 years of marriage with his high school sweetheart, Cathy, local news outlets reported.

“My dad was an amazing man,” Ashley Jared, 29, told KHSL-TV. ”He was a loving father and an amazing husband.  He touched everybody that he came into contact with.  If you knew my dad, your life was a better life, because he was in it.” 


Tagged categories: Accidents; Explosions; Fatalities; Health and safety; Maintenance coating work; OSHA; Wastewater Plants

Comment from George McCormic, (6/21/2011, 8:19 AM)

Evidently the tank in question did not have a safety relief valve or it had one that did not function properly. Sorry for the loss of a loved one.

Comment from Daniel Morenings, (6/21/2011, 9:03 AM)

George, you would think that the top blowing off would be a huge warning sign that something is not right. I don’t know why you would refill a tank that has demonstrated failure at pressure control, without a full inspection of the tank components. A terrible loss...

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (6/22/2011, 8:37 AM)

Daniel, I think that is just a poorly worded sentence - not that the top blowing off was the reason for the water refilling.

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