Beaufort County gets grant for water treatment safety

WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) — New grant money is making water treatment safer in Beaufort County, coming concerns grow over the use of gaseous chlorine during the treatment process.

Water system commander Erick Jennings has worked at a Beaufort County water treatment plant for 13 years and every time he is exposed to the gaseous chlorine tanks, he’s exposed to a possible leak.

“There always is a risk that if we do have a chlorine gas leak, that a fatal amount can be inhaled by our employees,” said Jennings.

The gas is chained to the wall and locked into chambers. It can kill those who are exposed to it.

“Chlorine gas, if you look back, it was actually used as a war weapon, so it’s very dangerous stuff,” said Brian Alligood, county manager.

Alligood said with new grant money, the county’s water system is getting safer for plant workers.

“What we are doing is converting it to a liquid chlorine, which is a lot safer and provides a safer avenue for our people working around it,” said Alligood.

Workers said liquid is easier to control than gas, and they won’t be at risk for gas leaks.

All of our employees are relieved,” said Jennings. “It is something that is always hanging over our head. So having the switch to chlorine liquid is going to be a big sigh of relief for us.”

“Gives me a big peace of mind that I am that much safer,” said Dan Garrard, treatment plant operator.

The county said safety of the workers, is their No. 1 priority.

“We want to make sure our folks are safe in their jobs, and they come home at night the same way they went to work in the morning,” Alligood said.

They wanted to emphasize that the water will still be treated with chlorine, but the chlorine will just be in a different state, so there shouldn’t be any impact on the end user’s water.

The project will take up to two years to finish, and construction won’t affect the surrounding community of the plants.


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