DETROIT (WWJ) – Crews are battling a two-alarm fire at the wastewater treatment plant in southwest Detroit.
The fire took off early Friday morning at the complex on West Jefferson Avenue, located along the Rouge River across from Zug Island.
A fire chief on the scene said a rubber conveyor belt that runs throughout the building is on fire. Worker Anthony Hughes said it’s happening at the plant’s incinerator building.
“They burn the waste that’s coming in, the feces and waste coming from your toilets — yeah, that’s burned in there,” Hughes told WWJ’s Mike Campbell. “There’s probably four to six people that work in incineration.”
Another worker, who did not want to be named, said a lot of the “material” falls on the floor during the incineration process and that could have caused the fire to spread quickly.
“That’s complex two that’s on fire right now,” she said. “I don’t know which incinerators are on fire, but it should be between number seven and number 14, because that’s what’s in there, seven through 14.”
Another employee, who also did not want to be named, speculated that the fire might have something to do with a reduction in their workforce.
“To have two or three people in a control room overnight watching seven incinerators doesn’t make sense,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of feed falling on the equipment. We’ve been having it for months because we don’t have enough employees to watch it.”
The woman described “feed” as raw sewage.
Crews initially had trouble — ironically — with water pressure and fire hydrants when they arrived on the scene. Battalion Chief Tracy Thomas said the problems caused a slight delay in attacking the fire.
“We had some frozen hydrants, so we did address the frozen hydrants with the risk management people with wastewater,” said Thomas.
William Wolfson, compliance officer with the Great Lakes Water Authority, said everything worked out as good as could be expected. He said no one was injured and there’s no safety risk to the public.
“The first goal is to make sure that everyone on duty was safe, and they were all accounted for and were all safe. There was no need for anyone to have any treatment,” said Wolfson. “After that, we wanted to make sure that there was no environmental issue, and we made that assessment that there isn’t. Third is to continue operations, and with the new bio-solid drying facility across the street having come online, we are able to do that.”
The fire remains under investigation.
Stay with WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBSDetroit.com for the latest.