Crane,tugs, barge
A yellow crane atop a barge, tugboats and multiple other vessels all gathered to repair a leaking electrical cable under the Hudson River near 92nd Street.

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.

One of several skimmer boats working Wednesday afternoon to gather the dielectric fluid.

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.

Thanks to all our tipsters who let us know about this issue. If you see something notable or just puzzling, always send us tips at westsiderag at gmail dot com!

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 9 comments | permalink
    1. Karen says:

      Thanks so much for the uncovering the mystery that I have been seeing outside my window (90th st.) for the last few weeks.I thought they were dredging.
      The next time I see wonderment,I will contact WS Rag.

    2. noemi says:

      Thank you so much for finding out what has been going on since Nov. which I was unable to do myself.
      Just today I received a call from Helen Rosenthal’s
      office to tell me about the wire repair.
      The question came up as to whether I was concerned. Perhaps somewhat, primarily environmentally, but very curious and surprised that no one seemed to know anything about it, noticed or seemed interested.
      Thank you WSR for your efficient reporting in this situation!

    3. Phoebe says:

      If it is non-toxic, then why are they bothering to “gather” it? Maybe I’m just tired, but, hope to read the/an answer in the morning:)

      • Joy Bergmann says:

        I spoke to Mr. Hocker about this. Although the fluid isn’t toxic or poisonous, it is still a pollutant — a non-native substance in the river. He said, “It’s the obligation of the party responsible for its presence to get it out of there.” He agreed with my analogy that if the cable were leaking a flow of household garbage/litter at a rate of 3 gallons per hour, you’d still want to be cleaning it up even though it would not be poisoning such a voluminous body of water.

        • Joy Bergmann says:

          Also, WSR received a message this morning from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation confirming Mr. Hocker’s portrayal of the situation.

    4. Ira Gershenhorn says:

      Very impressed you found this out. Do you also have a contract number? Donjon Marine does much work like this. I know they have the Mary Alice tugboat out there but could not make out the name on the crane-barge. Do you have any info on the 3 boats from Ed’s Marine Services who have pretty much been in the river daily since last year?

    5. Ursus arctos says:

      Interestingly, the DonJon dredger Delaware Bay and its companion tug Thomas Witte showed up Thursday afternoon and remain on the job.

      The smaller boats that had been present for the last several months were from Ken’s Marine Services (not Ed’s). I had made inquiries with that firm without success.

    6. ursus arctos says:

      The dredger and tug left early this morning.

      It is as yet unclear whether the problem has been rectified, or if additional work remains to be completed.

      • Ira Gershenhorn says:

        Thanks Ursos Archos for the correction to Ken’s Marine Services and the information that they were non-responsive to requests for information. My eyes were not good enough to read the name of the crane-barge. Very curious what caused the leak. Unlike land jobs were the contractor puts up a sign indicating the contract number, marine jobs have no such visibility.