HEMPSTEAD HARBOR TRANSMISSION LINE WAS LEAKING 50 GALLONS OF FLUID PER HOUR NYPA OFFICIALS SAY
February 19, 2014 -- The New York Power Authority cable damaged by a tugboat anchor on January 6 was leaking 50 gallons of dielectric fluid per hour into the water at the mouth of Hempstead Harbor during the first 48 hours following the mishap, NYPA officials said yesterday in a conference call with local government officials.
The amount is significantly greater than the five gallons per hour that was reported in a January 10 joint press release issued by NYPA, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Coast Guard.
According to NYPA, the dielectric fluid, which is used as an insulator for high voltage transmission lines, is non-toxic and not a danger to wildlife or to the environment.
During Tuesday's call, in response to a question from Sea Cliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy, NYPA officials said that as the pressure of the fluid running through the line dropped, the amount leaking in to the water diminished to the rate initially reported.
In addition to Mayor Kennedy, several other local officials or their representatives were on the line during Tuesday's call, including Sea Cliff Village Trustee Tom Powell, Eric Swensen of the Hempstead Harbor Protective Association, and representatives of State Senator Carl Marcellino's and Assemblyman Charles Lavine's offices, as well as representatives from each of the local governments surrounding Hempstead Harbor.
Paul DeMichele, a NYPA media relations specialist, said that power authority officials had become aware of the leak almost immediately when the pressure of the fluid running through the line dropped tripping an alarm that shut down the line. Officials were able to identify the area of the breach after a Coast Guard Helicopter observed a “visible sheen on the water’s surface.”
A skimmer vessel was dispatched to the area and hard and soft booms deployed to contain and collect the fluid. By the end of January, divers were able to determine the precise location of the damage to the line, 13 feet below the sea floor, in an area of the harbor that is about 30 feet deep. The cable has been clamped and the leak virtually stopped, with approximately 1 gallon per day oozing out.
Mr. Swensen asked if NYPA had measured the amount of fluid that had been collected and compared it to the amount that had leaked. NYPA officials replied that it was nearly impossible to make that determination as the fluid mixes in with water and some of it is absorbed by the booms.
Tappen Beach on Shore Road in Glenwood Landing has been a launching point for the operation with a large tent, trailers, and several trucks from Miller Environmental Group, an environmental response, remediation and restoration services company, in the parking lot.
Now that the breached line has been uncovered, NYPA officials said that the next step is to raise it to the surface where it will be placed onto a barge. 200 ft of the damaged cable will then be removed, and replaced with a new section.
The work is expected to continue for another few months, and NYPA officials said that their goal is to have it completed before large numbers of pleasure craft are out in the water as the summer season approaches.
Mayor Kennedy asked if the leak would affect the bathing season. The officials replied that it would not - that the fluid is non-toxic and that none has reached the shoreline.
According to NYPA, the 26 mile transmission line, which is capable of carrying 675,000 kilowatts of power, the equivalent of a large electric power plant, extends from Con Edison’s Sprain Brook Substation in Yonkers to NYPA’s East Garden City Substation in Hempstead and was put into service in 1991. Eight miles of the line are buried 10 to 15 feet underneath the sea bed from New Rochelle to North Hempstead.
The loss of use of the line has not affected power service on Long Island, and power transmission has been transfered to a spare trans-sound cable already in place.
NYPA has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against Bouchard Transportation of Melville, to recover the extensive costs that the Authority says it has incurred as a result of the accident. NYPA asserts that a tugboat operated by Bouchard damaged the cable by dropping anchor in the area, despite the cable being clearly marked on navigation maps.
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EFFORTS UNDERWAY TO REPAIR LEAKING HEMPSTEAD HARBOR TRANSMISSION LINE (January 13, 2014)