Explosion at Water Reclamation Plant Injures 10 (Updated)

Aug. 31, 2018

Far South Side Chicago water reclamation plant sludge concentration building explodes


In a release to the media Friday, Aug. 31, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago released a statement about the events at the Calumet Water Reclamation Plant, noting that water treatment operations will continue, water is safe to drink, and teams are being mobilized for clean up.

"We are grateful to report as of Friday morning that eight of the 10 individuals impacted by yesterday’s roof collapse at the Calumet Water Reclamation Plant have been released from area hospitals. We wish them all a speedy recovery," the release stated. "We are working with local, state and federal investigators to determine the cause of yesterday’s incident while at the same time mobilizing to begin the cleanup process."

The MWRDGC also thanked emergency crews for their quick response to the roof collapse, particularly in extricating two workers who had been trapped in the rubble. The Chicago Fire Department has control of the scene during this period of investigation and when its work is complete, it will release the scene to MWRDGC so that clean up can begin.


Methane gas is the expected culprit for an explosion in the sludge concentration building at the Calumet Water Reclamation Plant in Cook County, Chicago, that injured 10 people Thursday, according to the Chicago Tribune. The plant is one of the oldest plants in Cook County located on the south side of the Windy City.

As of Friday, Aug. 31, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) said all but one of the injured workers were released from the hospital.

According to the Chicago Tribune, one of the workers was rescued 20 minutes after the explosion while a second was covered by the rubble for two hours before firefighters were able to free him. In a quote to the Chicago Tribune, Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago said:

Companies had to dig 6 ft down and then tunnel their way across 20 ft to the victim.

All workers injured by the explosion were taken to nearby medical facilities where they were listed as being in serious to critical condition. One worker’s leg was trapped by a heavy beam—reports conflict as to it being metal or concrete—which was lifted off him as paramedics administered help to ensure he did not go into shock. According to CBS Chicago, those paramedics provided intravenous fluids and medication to treat him and to avoid amputation. It is not clear if amputation was needed. That worker also sustained a broken jaw in the explosion.

Among the oldest working plants in Cook County, the Calumet Water Reclamation Plant began operations in 1922. It serves 1 million people. According to the Chicago Tribune report, it is not clear how the explosion will affect long-term operations.

WWD will provide regular updates as this story develops.