A transformer fire that broke out at the Indian Point Energy Center caused an oil slick in the Hudson River, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. The fire occurred on Saturday, when a transformer at a portion of the plant, known as Indian Point 3, blew and sent black smoke into the sky before it was extinguished by onsite personnel as well as a sprinkler system located in the facility. The material used to extinguish the flame was a foam like substance, which contained animal fat and protein and left an oily sheen on the surface of the water. In addition, it was reported that thousands of gallons of oil had leaked from the transformer at the Indian Point Energy Center into the Hudson River.
The governor told reporters that the oil from the transformer had entered a holding tank whose capacity was too small to contain it. The excess oil entered the river through a discharge drain. Although the governor reported that things were under control, and there was no threat to safety or public health, he could not determine how much oil had gotten into the water. The plant was promptly shut down and a crew got to work right away cleaning the area of the river which had been affected, and installing booms over a 300 foot area in diameter, in order to prevent the oil slick from spreading. Officials reported that it would take a day or two to clean the mess and that the neighboring Unit 2 reactor, which was unaffected will continue to operate on its regular schedule. They reported that everything was stable and there was no immediate danger.
The Indian Point Energy Center, where the fire broke out causing the oil slick is located Buchanan, New York about 30 miles north of Midtown Manhattan along the Hudson River and provides energy for businesses, facilities and homes throughout New York City, as well as Westchester county where the governor resides. The Indian Point 3 transformer is responsible for converting the grid’s energy voltage in order to supply the states’s electrical power. The plant, however, has come under much controversy from groups, including environmental watchdog, Riverkeeper, who issued a statement on Sunday that this incident proves that the plant must be permanently closed.
Several other activists in the past have called for its closure, claiming that the Indian Point Energy Center uses outdated technology, which makes it a hazard for residents and the environment overall. In addition, its cooling system draws 2.7 billion gallons of water per day from the Hudson River, which they claim harms fish and larvae during the summer months when mating occurs. Alternative methods for cooling have been proposed, which have included shutting down the Indian Point Energy Center during the period of time fish migrate, creating two cooling towers, or installing a wire mesh fence in order to prevent the fish from being sucked in to the plant. On the other side of the controversy are employees and supporters who argue that the Indian Point Energy Center has not only provided electricity for thousands of homes and business, but has kept employed thousands of people, who are committed to maintaining the safety and high standards of the plant.
The Indian Point 3 will be continue to be closed down temporarily and officials are unclear as to when it will be back in operation. A spokesman estimated that it would probably be a few weeks. Governor Cuomo, a Westchester resident himself, visited the plant to assess the situation, and called the Hudson River oil slick caused by the fire “minor,” but also assured reporters that he did not take the safety of Indian Point Energy Center lightly, as it has provided energy for the most densely populated part of the U.S. in New York He also expressed that this incident provided a good opportunity for the personal of the plant to assess its safety and ensure that proper emergency response procedures were put into place.
By Bill Ades
Photo by Flickr License