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Oil Spill at Indian Point Contaminates Hudson River

Indian Point

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When alarming news broke in early November that an electrical transformer had exploded at Indian Point, a key piece of the story was missing: this major failure resulted in thousands of gallons of oil releasing to the environment and the Hudson River.

Though it was not disclosed to the public, Entergy Corporation, the owner of Indian Point, called in a report several hours after the transformer fire to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) notifying the state that oil from the transformer had been released as a result of the event. By the next day, involved officials had ascertained that the “entire contents” of the 20,000 gallon capacity transformer had “been lost,” with the oil having been released into the site’s storm drain system and discharge canal, and to the Hudson River. According to DEC’s spill reports, oil sheens were repeatedly observed in the Hudson River in the days following the transformer explosion, and the Coast Guard was called in for support. After the incident, private contractors hired by Entergy scrambled to contain and remediate the oil, yet, as of November 21, 2010, less than 10,000 gallons of oil have been recovered, and it is still not clear how much oil has ended up contaminating the river. There are also indications that Entergy made it extremely difficult for DEC spill response personnel to access the site after the accident, in order to assess the magnitude of the spill. Riverkeeper fully expects DEC to take enforcement action against Entergy for this latest environmental fiasco.

Entergy’s decision not to notify the public about the spill is outrageous, and should be a wake-up call to anyone who believes it is a good corporate neighbor who can be trusted to operate Indian Point safely. From the steam generator tube rupture and yearlong shutdown in 2000, to the news of radioactive water leaks in 2005, to two transformer explosions in the last three years, Indian Point has a shameful history of concealing the real effects of its operational mishaps from the public.

Riverkeeper learned of the spill through our efforts to investigate the cause of the transformer explosion, which should never have happened in the first place: we are concerned that poor maintenance may have led to the most recent transformer failure and emergency shutdown, just three years after Indian Point 3’s 30+ year old transformer exploded and burned. After this latest accident, Riverkeeper formally called for an independent investigation to determine the cause and review Entergy’s maintenance procedures. There is ample cause for concern: it appears the degraded component which caused the explosion on November 7 was the same type of component which failed and led to the transformer explosion in 2007. Despite this first hand knowledge of the potential consequences of improper maintenance, Entergy again allowed conditions to get so severe that disastrous results could not be prevented.

Entergy’s inability to properly maintain the Indian Point power plant has yet again polluted the Hudson River, an invaluable and unique public resource, without even the courtesy of informing the public. Such blatant disregard for those who have a vested interest in the integrity of the Hudson River, and who have the right to freely enjoy and use the river, is inexcusable.

Entergy’s apparent attempt to downplay the consequences of the transformer explosion by refusing to disclose the resulting oil spill to the public has not gone unnoticed.

DEC’s Spill Reports:
DEC Spill Report Form
Oil Spill Response Log for Indian Point Unit 2

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