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Athens Generating fire still smoldering

Jan 15, 2011 10:46 am
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="A transformer fire at Athens Generating during the snowstorm on January 12 pulled firefighters from around the area, who put out the blaze and are monitoring it as it was reported to be "still smoldering" as of January 14."][/caption]While the rest of us were battening down the hatches for the January 12 blizzard, a transformer failure at the Athens Generating plant caused a fire late Tuesday night that occupied local firefighters into Wednesday afternoon, although no injuries were reported and the incident was "contained immediately" according to a report in the The Daily Mail on January 15. The problem occurred shortly after 11 p.m. on Tuesday, with officials from Greene County Emergency Services and the West Athens-Lime Street and Catskill Fire Departments rushing to the scene. While the fire was contained immediately, the transformer continued to smolder on Friday afternoon, even though plant officials maintained the situation was "completely contained" and the incident did not cause a hazardous condition for the public.
“The system was engineered for containment and it worked,” Administrative Manager Kristine Overbaugh said on Friday. “Everyone is safe. We have two other units and operations were not impacted on those units.”

Plant officials are now saying they are in constant communication with local fire departments, which they say provided an excellent response to the emergency. The transformer is located outside the main turbine hall on the grounds of Athens Generating. The cause of the problem is not yet known.

Athens Generating produces and sells electricity to the Mid-Hudson Valley, southeastern New York and the New York City regions, according to the company’s website. Planning and construction of the massive plant occurred a decade ago despite opposition from many in the local community.

“We are still looking into the cause,” Overbaugh said.

Because mineral oil is inside each transformer, fire and company officials worked to contain that as well, and there is no danger to the community. The plant has also been in contact with the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Energy and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which is a requirement of the plant’s permit compliance in the event something like this should occur.

Employees are on-site at Athens Generating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so the regular operating crew was on the job when the transformer blew. There were no injuries.

According to Overbaugh, this was the first time an incident like this has occurred since the plant was constructed several years ago.