The New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau has fined the city of Santa Fe about $32,000 for workplace safety violations at its wastewater treatment plant following two inspections of the facility.
The agency issued a report Nov. 12 that said inspectors found multiple “serious” violations, including exposed electrical wiring and slip hazards caused by leaking pumps and pipes.
The city was given 15 days to pay the fine and until Dec. 2 to offer a plan to abate the violations.
Michael Dozier, director of the city’s Wastewater Management Division, declined to comment on the fines or violations Wednesday.
City spokesman Dave Herndon could not be reached for comment.
State inspectors also found instances in which bathrooms were not properly maintained, potentially exposing workers to biohazards; wet workrooms with substantial leaks, “with obvious wet floors existing for over 1 month in the pump house”; and unlit walkways, with uneven paths creating tripping hazards at the “bottom of stairways, digester area, pump room, and in testing area,” the report said.
The findings were similar to those cited by the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which filed a complaint against the city in May with the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau, alleging a series of “dangerous and life-threatening” worker safety issues at the treatment plant.
The union’s complaint included about 45 images showing slipping hazards around an acid bath at the plant, sludge puddles, broken effluent channel grates and open wires.
Union Vice President Gil Martinez said he was “glad” the state inspection report was finally released.
“They did find quite a few things,” he said. “I am glad they came out with it, because it is time they leaned on them a little bit and make sure they fix what is wrong.”
Herndon said in May if the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau — the state agency tasked with enforcing federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration rules — found any violations at the plant, the city would fix them “immediately.”
Failure to address workplace safety violations can lead to a subsequent fine from the bureau.
Violations involving exposed electrical wiring were particularly concerning to Martinez, who noted the 2019 death of city employee Tobin “Toby” Williams.
Williams, 27, died in a Denver hospital after being electrocuted while replacing light bulbs at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center.
The city was fined $183,000 by the state, but it later dismissed some of the claims. Ultimately, the city was fined $120,000, half of which went toward safety training and safety improvements. The city also paid Williams’ family a $500,000 settlement for a tort claim.
“It hasn’t been taken seriously,” Martinez said. “The safety issues are still out there. Thank God OSHA is stepping up.”