“We want to advise the families of city employees and contractors that the building was evacuated immediately,” Mayor Greg Dionne said. “The water-treatment plant is carrying on operations as usual.”
A caustic soda line had been punctured with the liquid draining into a 30,000-litre containment facility, and thus, did not affect the water supplied to businesses and homes. The water-treatment facility is currently operating at its full capacity.
It is suspected by city manager Robert Cotterill that the leak occurred after the injured employee had bumped his head on the pipe. The man was showered and taken to hospital immediately following the incident. He asked not to be taken to hospital.
“A gentleman was doing some work in the area and I believe he hit the pipe with his head,” Cotterill said. “What they were trying to do was assess the work that was needed to complete some of the remedial work that we had identified as not being acceptable.”
Cotterill likened the corrosive liquid to drain cleaner, explaining that it is used by the city because it changes the pH of the water. He noted, however, that caustic soda is not currently being used.
“For us to have the caustic soda offline right now doesn’t affect our quality of drinking water,” he said. “We are not using caustic soda in our process because the pH of the water doesn’t require it -- and wouldn’t normally until closer to the summer.”
At any given time, there could be six to eight people in the building.
“The risk was to the employees, both within the plant and the contractors that were working there at the time,” Cotterill said.
Envirotec Services Inc., an environmental company based in Saskatoon, was dispatched to collect and store the material.
“We can then fix the line and put the material back,” Cotterill said, noting he was unsure of what repair costs might be. “If we can use the material, we will.”
The Fire Department attended the scene to assist in removing the alum, another chemical that was in the building.
“There were other chemicals in the building and that’s what our concern at the time was,” Cotterill said. “When the fire department arrived onsite, they assisted in removing the alum so that the only material there would be the caustic soda.”