CSEA: Serious Violations Cause Sewage Treatment Worker's Death

CSEA: Serious Violations Cause Sewage Treatment Worker's Death

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The city of Watertown was cited for seven safety violations in the on-the-job death of a sewage treatment plant worker last fall.

The Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) released the findings of an investigation by the state Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau (PESH) into the death of 54 year old Gregory Eliopoulos in November.

See the PESH Notice of Violation and Order to Comply

Eliopoulos, who was from Sackets Harbor, was a CSEA member.

He was working the waste-water plant's evening shift on November 20. The union says he was adjusting a fitting on a high-pressure hydraulic line when it came off and hit him. The injury caused his death.

"Mr. Eliopoulos should have never been placed in this dangerous situation that ended up costing him his life and it was absolutely appropriate for the state to cite the city and hold them accountable over these violations," said Mark Kotzin, CSEA spokesperson.

According to the CSEA, the city failed to provide training, have an energy control plan, and provide energy isolation equipment, among other violations. The union says five of the violations are considered serious.

According to the PESH notice, "the release of stored energy caused the hydraulic line to strike the employee (Eliopoulos) in the head resulting in his death and exposing a second employee to hazardous materials."

The notice also said employees were "exposed to electrical shock hazards, burns, and fractures in the event of an accident."

In addition, PESH said the city failed to provide adequate training to employees on the hazardous energy control program.

CSEA safety specialist Josh Kemp says the violations directly contributed to Eliopoulis' death.

Colleen Wheaton, CSEA central region president, said, “This was no accident, because it was preventable."

"The city’s failure to properly train their workers on how to safely operate some very high-powered equipment, and other serious safety violations involving that equipment cost our member his life," she said.

The CSEA says it has offered the city its help at no cost to help bring the plant into compliance.

Shortly before 4 p.m. Friday, the city issued a news release saying it is aware of safety deficiencies and has already been working to address them prior to receiving the formal report citing safety violations.

"The violations will be addressed in advance of the abatement dates noted in the order to comply. The City takes these violations very seriously and will be working to rectify these violations and strengthen our safety program, not only at the WWTP, but also City-wide during the coming months," the release said.

City Manager Sharon Addison added that the city plans to address the violations before being fined.

Mayor Joe Butler told 7 News that he feels terrible for everyone involved, especially the Eliopoulos family. He says the allegations against the sewage treatment plant are very serious and the city will begin to deal with them.

We also reached out to Greg Eliopoulous' family to see if they had anything to say about the citations against the city. They choose not to comment.

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