Divers inspect Marion water tower

It was a hot day Friday when Liquid Engineering Corporation, a commercial diving business from Billings, Mont., came to Marion to inspect the city’s water tower — the water was a balmy 76 degrees.

Jason White, John Schafer, and Jimmy Richards are certified commercial divers. This particular day, Richards was the diver.

With precision, equipment and diving gear were hoisted to and from the catwalk of the tower by ropes and pullies. The city’s bucket truck and city employees assisted the crew in reaching the catwalk. Two divers climbed to the top of the tower. A diver went inside the tower to clean, inspect, and repair to maintain the tower.

“This tower isn’t as high as a lot of them,” Richards said. He has been a commercial diver for five years.

Marion’s main water tower is 100 feet tall. On Friday, the tower contained 500,000 gallons of water — a depth of about 35 feet.

The tallest tower Richards has inspected was 234 feet, he said.

To be certified as a commercial diver, a 10-month training session is required. Typically, this type of job is in demand but with oil drilling operations halted on the Gulf coast, there are more divers looking for jobs inland.

The crew is on the road for two months at a time, typically inspecting and cleaning two towers per day.

“We work seven days a week,” White said who has been doing this for about a year.

After working for two months or more, they get two weeks at home.

For White, that means time with his wife and three children.

The crew is on the road year-round with more work in the warmer months.

“The only time we don’t work is when there’s too much ice,” White said.

After finishing their task at the Marion water tower, the crew loaded up the equipment and got on the road. They were headed 200 miles away for another inspection.

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