Transformer Oil Release Update
Hundreds of Con Edison personnel and environmental contractors continue working around the clock to clean up insulating oil released from one of its large transformers in a Brooklyn substation earlier this week, while also aggressively working to prevent any further release of oil to the East River.
Since the failure and rupture of the transformer on Sunday, Con Edison has been excavating and removing oil-soaked soil from the affected area around the transformer, while deploying 4,000 feet of boom, absorbents and skimmers to contain and collect oil from the East River.
The company has been working closely with a number of city, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard and state Department of Environmental Conservation to monitor and remedy the situation.
In anticipation of this weekend’s heavy rains, Con Edison will be covering and securing the impacted area near the transformer to make sure there is no additional saturation that could cause further seepage to the river. Con Edison said members of the public who have questions about the cleanup efforts may call the company at (212) 358-4562.
The transformer contained approximately 37,000 gallons of insulating oil, and about 6,400 gallons was recovered from the damaged equipment. The remainder was released into the soil onto the substation property and is being excavated and removed. Some of the oil leaked from the property into the East River, and approximately 560 gallons has been recovered from the river. The amount of oil that could not be recovered from the river is difficult to calculate, but Con Edison said it would attempt to make that assessment when the cleanup is completed.
The transformer oil is a common, light oil used for electrical equipment and in many other applications, including consumer products. The oil can impact fish or wildlife if there are heavy concentrations in the water, and the company is working to remove all the oil that can be recovered. Oil samples collected during the cleanup contained low levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) ranging from 6 to 8 parts per million (ppm), which pose minimal hazard to the public. The general public should stay out of the work zones and avoid direct contact where sheening is noted.
During the week, to assist with the cleanup process, the Coast Guard has issued reduced speed restrictions for commercial vessels operating in the area, and is banning recreational vessels. The restricted area has been reduced in size as oil sheens have dissipated.
“We deeply regret this happened and we are doing everything possible to make sure we conduct the cleanup as safely, thoroughly and quickly as possible,” said Andrea Schmitz, vice president of Environment Health & Safety for Con Edison. “We are grateful to the U.S. Coast Guard, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York City Emergency Management and all the other agencies for their assistance, and we appreciate the patience of boaters and the community.”
Con Edison said it would work to remove the damaged transformer and install the replacement transformer next week.