The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation will continue oversight of the cleanup of Friday’s oil spill at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County. The governor and DEC commissioner have visited the plant, and a plant spokesman says cleanup likely will take a few days.
Some 600 gallons of oil spilled into a drainage canal leading to the Hudson River at Buchanan-based Indian Point Friday. Jerry Nappi, spokesman for Indian Point parent Entergy, says the oil leaked from a cooling system for the oil, which lubricates the plant’s turbine.
“On Friday morning, Indian Point personnel identified a light oil sheen in what’s called the discharge canal. No oil was identified in the River. And it was subsequently determined that oil, lubricating oil, similar to lubricating oil you’d see at any industrial facility or any power plant leaked from a system,” Nappi says. “We know that oil is collected in an area below grade, in a closed area, and we’re drawing that oil out starting today.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who visited Indian Point Friday night, says that under DEC oversight, Entergy's cleanup contractors Miller Environmental deployed absorbent booms to collect the petroleum sheen in the discharge canal and to prevent the spill from reaching the Hudson River. Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos returned Sunday and examined the plant by boat. Cuomo, who has long called for the plant’s shutdown, says the oil spill is just the latest problematic incident there.
“There have been over 40 extraordinary incidents, since 2011, 40 extraordinary incidents. We have had tritium leaks. We have had steam leaks. We have had a fire in a transformer. We’ve had turbine failures, pump failures, weld failures, high levels of radioactivity in groundwater,” Cuomo says. “So this plant is no stranger to dangerous situations.”
“There was no environmental consequence to this leak. There’s no evidence that it reached the Hudson River,” says Nappi. “As soon as we identified it, we notified the appropriate environmental authorities. And we took quick action to prevent any consequence.”
Seggos, meanwhile, described Sunday’s boat tour as illuminating.
“What we saw today was, it raised some serious questions about both the placement of the booms and the maintenance of the boom over the last couple of days. The booms were placed at the very far end of the canal system, downstream of the discharge point into the Hudson River. That raises a significant question as to if oil got into the water, at any rate, it would’ve gotten into the canal because of the location of the booms,” Seggos says. “One of the booms is actually ripped off as well.”
And he talks about the condition of a wall that separates the Hudson River from the canal where all the water is discharged from the plant.
“The wall was in pretty rough shape. Not only is it pretty deteriorated and rusted, but there are several sections of the wall where you have holes literally discharging water into the river,” Seggos says. “That would defeat the purpose of any boom system that you put in place.”
Entergy’s Nappi addresses what Seggos observed.
“DEC representatives have been on site periodically since Friday. The comment yesterday about the placement of the booms in our discharge canal was the first feedback we had received about that. Prior to that, all the feedback we had received was positive about what we were doing. If there’s concerns at the DEC, we’ll take that feedback and adjust appropriately,” Nappi says. “As far as the wall, the discharge canal wall, there’s no safety implication from any opening in that wall that may have been observed. Obviously, it’s a wall that’s on the Hudson River so it’s affected by weather, but here’s no degradation of the wall that would affect safety at all.”
The cooling mechanism that developed the oil leak has been shut down, and that turbine is operating with a secondary cooling mechanism until Entergy finds out what happened with the first one to cause the discharge of the oil. Indian Point Units 2 and 3 are in full operation.