In the Underworld - Wacker Chemie AG


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In the Underworld

Almost 100 years ago the first meters of sewer were dug under WACKER’s site in Burghausen. Since then, this has developed into an extensive 166-kilometer network. Today, the Construction Workshop team is principally occupied with the maintenance and leak testing of the underground pipelines.

Anton Hennersberger (right), Roland Winzl (third from right) and Rupert Leipold (sixth from right) with the Burghausen Construction Workshop team.

Fine vapor rises up from below, and there is a smell of plastic. “This is a PVC sewer – you can identify it by the purple manhole covers,” explains the Construction Workshop supervisor Roland Winzl. His team has already placed a tripod with a winch over the open shaft. This is to secure the colleague who, equipped with a safety harness, breathing apparatus and orange protective acid-resistant suit, descends into the depths.

The sewer builders inspect whether the pipes – some up to 80 years old – are still leakproof. They rectify minor cracks and clean the shafts. “You can’t be finicky down here,” says foreman Rupert Leipold and shines his torch into the shaft. While there are hardly any rats, he relates, once a colleague spotted a whole knot of snakes in a rainwater shaft.

A large map on the wall of Roland Winzl’s office shows all the sewers. In recent years, two to three kilometers of sewer have been added. The legally required leak tests alone keep seven of Winzl’s team busy. Rupert Leipold and his two colleagues have already got through 13 shafts today, using the Construction Workshop truck as transport. A total of 3,600 of these access points on the site descend into the underworld. Some of the iron footholds in the narrow shafts extend as far as 15 meters below ground.

Roland Winzl’s other team members are employed in woodworking and in acid proof construction. Two masons carry out minor repairs on chemical-resistant floors and containers coatings. The carpenters do all sorts of jobs involving wood in the Workshop. New boards and panels are delivered almost daily to the historical Workshop building, erected in 1935. The team uses them to build transport crates for large plant components/pieces of equipment that are shipped to other locations or for repair. But they also produce delicate test pieces for labs or attend to urgent repairs at the various plants.

Winzl’s supervisor Anton Hennersberger enthuses above all about how flexible his team is. “They always give each other support,” he says. “In addition, our guys have accumulated many years of specialist knowledge about the workings of a chemical plant. You can’t buy in this sort of knowledge from outside.”

They don’t need teambuilding seminars in any case, reckons Roland Winzl. His people stick together, says the athletic 36-year-old: whether constructing sewers or at a football tournament in their spare time. The only time they are opponents is during their lunch break – playing cards.