Raja was attempting to fix a block in a valve chamber at the sewage pumping station in Kotturpuram

A 27-year-old contract labourer died of asphyxiation after he entered a valve chamber to fix a blockage at Metrowater’s Kotturpuram pumping station on Saturday afternoon.

Another worker was hospitalised.

The Kotturpuram police identified the deceased as Raja, a resident of Thirukazhukundram in Kancheepuram. Raja and Murugan, both contract labourers with Metrowater, had come to fix a block in a valve chamber at the roadside sewage pumping station on Park Avenue near Kotturpuram MRTS station.

According to the police, around 1.15 p.m., Raja, wearing a safety harness but no mask, entered the dry pit to repair the valve but was struck by poisonous gases. He died on the spot. He had descended into a five-feet-deep pit to repair the valve in the 150-mm diameter sewer pipeline.

Murugan and area assistant engineer Venkataraman fished out Raja’s body. In the process, Murugan too was assailed by poisonous gases. He was taken to a nearby hospital.

The Kotturpuram police reached the spot and carried out preliminary probe. Raja’s body was sent to Government Royapettah Hospital for post-mortem.

Over the past 30 months, at least 30 persons have died of asphyxiation while cleaning septic tanks and sewer manholes, across the State.

A majority of such accidents occurred in and around Chennai, said A. Narayanan, convenor of Paadam, a non-governmental organisation.

Despite the 2008 Madras High Court directive prohibiting the engaging of sanitary workers to enter manholes and septic tanks, such instances continue, resulting in asphyxiation deaths.

Even while engaging in permissible work such as removal of broken manhole covers from sewer lines and interlinking new sewer lines with existing ones, necessary safety measures are not taken, resulting in the loss of workers’ lives, said Mr. Narayanan.

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