FLANGING 40

Another natural disaster we have had to deal with are floods.  Brighton is on the Mill Creek, which runs behind our plant through what used to be our property (more about that later).  It flows in from the north past us in Sharonville then on through the middle of Cincinnati to the Ohio River.  So we are located in a low-lying flood-prone area.  When I  first started working here floods occurred frequently in the spring.  But the worst flood got an assist from us.

This happened in the 90’s.  There is a levee that runs east to west along the south side of our property .  This was designed to funnel flood waters away from our property.  I remember back in the 70’s when I was on second shift walking up on top of the levee after a hard rain and seeing a sheet of water on the other side.  And I remember times when Microcenter, a large computer store two doors south of us, would have their parking lot flooded right up to the front door of their store.

Then Brighton decided to put up a fence around our property, to cut down on the theft of metal (more about that another time).  So the maintenance supervisor, which at the time was Matt H., who had taken over the position from Joe K. after he quit and moved to St. Louis, decided to cut through the levee in order to put up the fence.  Of course, within one week of doing this one of the worst rains we’ve ever had occurred.

The plant was inundated.  Water rushed into the building and filled all the pits.  Every large flanging machine and press has a deep pit to anchor the machine, how deep depending on how big the particular machine is.  These all filled with water.

At the time we had a sand blasting shed.  We don’t do sand blasting anymore.  OSHA tightened the regulations concerning sand blasting, and our shed did not meet their new standards.  But since it was already existing it was grandfathered.  Which meant we could continue to use it, but couldn’t make any improvements to it.  So eventually it became so outdated it was torn down, and we now send out all the work that needs to be sandblasted. But at the time of this flood we still did sandblasting. So there were dozens of bags of sand to be used in the shed.  Every forklift we had began carrying bags of sand from the shed to the breech in the levee.  Eventually the levee was plugged and the floodwaters subsided.  But what a mess.

After the flood, the levee was rebuilt and the fence was installed on top of it instead of through it.  Trinity donated the back parcel of land Brighton owned, where the Mill Creek runs through, to Hamilton County.  At the time we heard they got a huge tax break for this, which made perfect sense because we knew how much money they sucked out of our operation.  But it actually was a good move for everybody.  The county used the land for flood control.  They established a wetlands area, what amounts to a huge retention pond. So now floods are a thing of the past.

Outdoor floods, that is.  As I’ve said before, Trinity let our facility go to ruin.  The roof became so rotten water poured through during rains.  When I first got out of polishing and back into flanging in the mid-90’s I ran the trimmer a lot.  The trimmer is a boring mill set up to machine the edge of very small tank heads, ranging in diameter from 6 inches to 36 inches.  The roof there was particularly bad.  During a hard rain the floor would fill with water so badly I’d put up signs for passing forklifts saying ‘NO WAKE ZONE’.  And after, when I ran one of the larger flanging machines, water poured down on top of it during storms.  I complained about this, but was told to keep operating it.  Until one time I was flanging a head and rainwater blew the motor.  It sounded like an explosion right above my head. Amazing how fast you can run sometimes.  So after the motor was replaced and the damage repaired, I was told not to run the flanging machine during storms.

Something similar happened when I was working at Deerfield in the early 70’s.  I was operating a shimmy trimmer there, which is a totally different kind of machine from the trimmer at Brighton.  At Deerfield I was strapped into the machine.  This was to insure my hands were away from the machine while it operated.  The transformer directly above me blew.  Hearing the explosion right above my head, I looked up to see sparks flying all across the shop.  Which was actually kind of pretty, like fireworks.  Until they began raining down on me and burning.  So I hit the floor, trying to get away from them, while I struggled to free myself from the safety straps.  Finally I got them off, got up and ran away.  The rest of the night I was so psyched by what had happened I didn’t realize how hurt I was.  That night in the shower I found I was covered with burns from the sparks and cuts and bruises from me scooting around on the floor trying to get away from the sparks. So being directly beneath a transformer or the electric motor on a flanging machine when either blows will get your blood pumping.

In 2002 Enerfab bought Brighton from Trinity.  One of the first things Enerfab did was repair our roof.  Enerfab has been very good to us.  So floods, external and internal, are a thing of the past.

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