Investigation and Response to a Sanitary Sewer Explosion - Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety Education and Research Center

Investigation and Response to a Sanitary Sewer Explosion

During the summer of 2022, a fire and explosion occurred in a sanitary sewer tunnel adjacent to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, propelling utility maintenance covers several meters into the air and jeopardizing the safety of the public and emergency responders. The investigation into the explosion highlighted the complex variables involved in the response to sanitary sewer events.

Occupational Hygiene student Caylin Crawford joined the investigation and response to this public health emergency, assisting with determining the source of the contamination, monitoring sewer gas levels, responding to odor complaints, and updating recommendations for the safety of the community and responders.

On the first day of my internship with Health, Safety, and Risk Management (HSRM) at the University of Minnesota, petrochemical contamination caused an explosion in the sanitary sewer tunnel underneath University Avenue, just a few blocks from the HSRM building.  The situation was a unique one with a multitude of complex variables and several jurisdictions. <span class="su-quote-cite">Caylin Crawford, Occupational Hygiene student</span>

Caylin’s work on this complex problem will help other agencies be better prepared to prevent, detect, and respond to sewer- related incidents in the future. A case study of the investigation, authored by Adam Krajicek, Neil G. Carlson, and Caylin Crawford, has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.