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Second oil spill closes part of Church Street; PSEG to repair or replace cable

Village by: Joanne Kountourakis, April 1, 2022

Work continued yesterday on Church Street at Scudder Avenue, the site of an oil leak in Northport Village on March 30. An estimate of the amount of fluid spilled has not yet been determined.

A second oil spill in less than three months occurred on Church Street in Northport Village this past Wednesday, March 30. The spill was located approximately 50 feet north of another dielectric cable fluid spill on January 9 of this year, from an underground transmission line.

The Northport Police Department was informed Wednesday afternoon of this second oil leak, just south of Scudder Avenue and not far from previous PSEG repair on the underground high voltage transmission lines, said Northport Village Trustee Dave Weber. “Once again our Village Administrator, Mr. Roland Buzard, did an excellent job of notifying all applicable jurisdictions and began containment of any hazards,” Weber said, adding that northbound Church Street would remain closed from Franklin to Scudder for PSEG to make any necessary repairs and cleanup.

The DEC Spill Response Unit responded to this week’s spill at 2:21pm on March 30. According to officials at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the spill – like the first – consisted of dielectric cable fluid, which is “generally made up of mineral oils or other types of non-conducting liquids that serve as electrical insulation for high voltage cables, transformers, etc.” Its purpose is to keep the transmission cable cool, so that it can reliably carry power.

The spill was contained to the immediate roadway and limited neighboring properties, said officials. No water bodies or storm drains were affected. An estimate of the amount of fluid spilled has not yet been determined.

A spill record in the DEC’s “Spill Incidents Database” indicates that the January 9 spill resulted in 3,900 gallons of transformer oil spilled, and affected surrounding soil, sewers and impervious surfaces (roads, sidewalks, etc.). PSEG installed a permanent clamp on the transmission cable to stop the leak in January.

After the latest spill, an environmental contractor was hired by PSEG and the cleanup of the fluid on the roadway was completed overnight, confirmed DEC officials. The contractor is currently excavating any contaminated soil on neighboring properties, and all properties will be fully restored with clean soil.

The transmission cable has been depressurized and a temporary clamp has been installed to reduce further contamination. PSEG will assess the condition of the cable and make a determination on the proper repair or replacement as necessary. The DEC will continue to monitor the situation to ensure protection of public health and the environment, said officials.

“Looks like this will be a long process,” said Trustee Weber on a Facebook post regarding concerns about the duration of the work. “PSEG are making the patch safe for now to drive on, but unfortunately will need to be back to make the repairs.”

According to Trustee Weber, PSEG did not confirm if the transmission line is the same one that caused the January leak, but said the transmission line in question this time is offline until permanent repairs can be made. “They are still in an investigation stage to determine what is happening [and] plan to X-ray the area lines today,” he said.

Trustee Weber has asked PSEG officials to attend the April 5 Village Board of Trustees meeting to answer resident complaints but, according to Weber, representatives were not able to confirm attendance by press time.

A portion of the dielectric cable fluid spill, in front of a Scudder Avenue homeowner’s driveway on March 30.