By Joy Bergmann
A rupture in an underwater electrical cable has kept workers in the Hudson River busy for months.
Divers and crane operators are currently working to fix a section of the Hudson Transmission Project electrical cable buried 15 feet under the riverbed at about 92nd Street.
According to Chris Hocker, Vice President of Planning for Hudson Transmission Partners, the problem started on Thanksgiving when, “the force of electricity blew a hole in the cable,” and caused subsequent leaking of T3788 dielectric fluid into the water at a rate of about three gallons per hour.
Hocker says power flow through the cable was immediately shut down and a spill-response crew was dispatched to the site that night. The crew has remained in place 24/7 since the rupture, absorbing the fluid and monitoring the shoreline.
Pinpointing and tracking the leak hasn’t been easy because this fluid – used to insulate the cable – is a clear, synthetic, mineral-oil-like substance that’s difficult to see, says Hocker, noting there is “not any sort of environmental threat” from the leak. “The material itself is non-toxic. The quantity is small. And we’ve been continuously absorbing any fluid off the surface.”
The equally arduous task of repairing the cable started in recent days. “It’s very slow and very frustrating,” Hocker says. The Hudson’s notorious currents restrict divers to about three dives per day, each lasting no more than an hour. He’s confident that the operation will end the leaking by the end of next week.
So, will the 500 megawatt-capacity cable be back in operation in time for New York’s peak electrical season – summer?
“That’s still to be determined,” says Hocker.
Photos by Joy Bergmann.
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