A sewage screening unit with unprotected augurs at the Marysville Wastewater Treatment Plant in Marysville, Washington. Sergey Devyatkin was assigned to clean the augurs while working the night shift at the 2020 City of Marysville Biosolids Removal and Remediation Project. (Marysville Police Department)

A sewage screening unit with unprotected augurs at the Marysville Wastewater Treatment Plant in Marysville, Washington. Sergey Devyatkin was assigned to clean the augurs while working the night shift at the 2020 City of Marysville Biosolids Removal and Remediation Project. (Marysville Police Department)

Marysville, wastewater contractor to pay $9.8M in death of immigrant worker

In 2020, Sergey Devyatkin was working his first day at a Marysville wastewater plant. He fell into a draining machine.

MARYSVILLE — A wastewater contractor and a machine operator company in Marysville agreed to pay a combined $9.8 million to the mother of a Russian immigrant worker who died after falling into a draining machine in 2020.

On Aug. 13, 2020, the Canadian wastewater contractor American Process Group, Inc., hired Sergey Devyatkin, 54, to work as a technician at Marysville Biosolids Removal and Remediation Project, according to a 2021 lawsuit filed in Pierce County Superior Court. He immediately began work on the night shift.

Management instructed Devyatkin to clean a dual augur screening unit used to drain wastewater from the city’s sewage settlement pond at 80 Columbia Ave.

“To do so,” attorneys for Devyatkin’s estate wrote in a press release, “he had to stand atop a series of angled panel grates, open one, and direct a jet of water with a fire hose through the unguarded opening to wash a set of two churning augurs located a few inches below the panels. He fell in.”

A nearby truck driver reportedly heard screams.

“The augurs ripped his body apart and ejected his body parts out the end of the machine, killing him,” according to his attorneys, of Stritmatter Kessler Koehler Moore in Seattle.

A close up of the unprotected augurs at the Marysville Wastewater Treatment Plant in Marysville, Washington. Sergey Devyatkin was assigned to clean the augurs while working the night shift at the 2020 City of Marysville Biosolids Removal and Remediation Project. (Chad Jones/The Stritmatter Firm)

A close up of the unprotected augurs at the Marysville Wastewater Treatment Plant in Marysville, Washington. Sergey Devyatkin was assigned to clean the augurs while working the night shift at the 2020 City of Marysville Biosolids Removal and Remediation Project. (Chad Jones/The Stritmatter Firm)

A state Department of Labor & Industrie`s investigation into the death revealed “grave safety lapses,” the attorneys wrote.

“The investigation revealed that the employer was allowing employees to access the top of the screening unit to conduct cleaning operations without first ensuring all employees were trained in those procedures,” the department wrote in a letter to Devyatkin’s mother in January 2021.

The attorneys alleged the machine did not have an interlock to stop the augurs from churning when the sewer grates opened. The wastewater contractor reportedly had a “lock out tag out” policy, requiring employees to turn off machinery before cleaning them. But in depositions, coworkers testified the rule was ignored by management, because it was not possible to quickly clean the augurs unless they were turning, according to the plaintiff’s attorneys.

“The defendants knew this machine would eventually kill someone in a most gruesome way unless good luck prevailed,” attorney Daniel Laurence said in a written statement.

A spokesperson at American Process Group declined to comment Friday.

“We are devastated by Mr. Devyatkin’s tragic death,” Marysville spokesperson Connie Mennie wrote in an email Friday. “APGI was contractually responsible for safety on its jobsite and was responsible for the safety of its workers.”

Mennie added the Labor and Industries investigation found the city did not violate any workplace safety standards.

The city of Marysville was dismissed from the lawsuit in 2022. Insurers for American Process Group paid $8 million in Canadian dollars and $250,000 in American dollars on behalf of the city, Laurence said Friday.

Synagro Techonolgies insurers paid $1.745 million.

In court documents, Devyatkin’s attorneys also alleged American Process Group failed to turn over copies of the machine’s operation manuals as requested by state investigators.

The contractor provides a “broad range of services and solutions” for wastewater, according to its website. It serves multiple clients in the United States and Canada.

The claims were made to Devyatkin’s mother and sole survivor, Galina Glebova. A change in state law now applies to all claims for wrongful death, including those living abroad.

“I have defended and prosecuted catastrophic injury product liability lawsuits for over 33 years, and have never seen such a dangerous machine or so terrible a death,” Laurence wrote. “If that augur were to catch one shoelace, that would almost surely be the end of you.”

Maya Tizon: 425-339-3434; maya.tizon@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @mayatizon.

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