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Work to continue at East Hills cesspool site

Emergency workers use heavy equipment in their attempts

Emergency workers use heavy equipment in their attempts to free Mario Flores from a cesspool installation in East Hills. (December 8, 2009) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The East Hills leaching pit that kept Mario Flores captive for nearly five hours earlier this week should be filled in Friday, as the contractor is expected to complete a cesspool upgrade at the site, said the village's mayor.

"As far as I know, the contractor is going to start tomorrow and our building inspector is going to sit there till they're done," East Hills Mayor Michael Koblenz said Thursday.

Koblenz said the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which started an investigation of the accident Tuesday, has not contacted the village or requested a work stoppage.

OSHA spokesman Ted Fitzgerald confirmed a work stoppage had not been requested and said an investigation - which by law must be completed in 180 days - can continue even if work is completed on a particular project. "Completion of a job would not affect the inspection," he said.

The purpose of an inspection, Fitzgerald said, is to determine whether the contractor complied with OSHA standards at the site. If violations are found, fines and citations could be issued to Flores' employer, Fitzgerald said. Citing an ongoing investigation, Fitzgerald would not comment on specifics.

Koblenz said the job would have been competed Thursday, if not for a heavy rainfall on Wednesday. "The only reason we're not finishing the job today is because of the rain," he said. The pit "needs time to dry out." The pit was cordoned off and boarded over by village workers on Tuesday night, Koblenz said.

Flores, 37, of Brentwood, was working for Affordable Cesspool, Sewer & Drain of Ronkonkoma in the front yard on Peacock Drive late Tuesday morning when he apparently lost his footing in sand around the edge and tumbled into the pit, which East Hills building inspector Frank Gagliano said was "20 feet deep, tops.

Some officials had put the depth at 35 feet.A Nassau University Medical Center spokeswoman said Flores could be released Thursday evening or Friday morning. Flores said Wednesday he could not recall how he got into the pit.

Phone calls to Nicholas Motta, owner of Affordable Cesspool, were not returned.Koblenz said after talking with village officials and rescue workers he still thinks that Flores fell into the opening.

"I believe he was too close to the edge and the sand gave way," Koblenz said.

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