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NYPA sues Melville barge company over damaged power cable

This Glenwood Landing site is the center of

This Glenwood Landing site is the center of operations for agencies working to seal a leak of cable coolant fluid under the Long Island Sound. NYPA says a ship's anchor damaged the cable. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

The New York Power Authority has filed suit against a Melville shipping company to recoup "substantial costs" because it claims that one of the firm's oil tankers damaged a vital power cable as it anchored in the Long Island Sound.

NYPA, which owns and operates the 693-megawatt Long Island Sound Transmission Cable under contract to LIPA, estimated the damage is in excess of $30 million. The state power authority has hired an environmental firm and has divers working to locate and seal the leak of cable coolant fluid before more extensive permanent repairs can begin.

Bouchard Transportation Co., a Melville-based oil-barging company established in 1918, operates the tug-and-barge vessel that allegedly damaged the cable, NYPA charged.

Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for Bouchard, said, "Out of respect for the legal process, it would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time."

NYPA filed the suit in federal court in Manhattan on Friday to recoup "extensive costs NYPA is incurring as a result of damage to the marine section" of the cable.

For now, the costs to fix the cable are being paid for by Long Island ratepayers. The Long Island Power Authority as the primary user of the cable is responsible for repairs and maintenance, according to PSEG Long Island, which operates the grid.

The cable became inoperable on Jan 6. NYPA charged the damage happened when the Bouchard vessel, operating as a tug and tanker near the entrance to Hempstead Harbor, "deployed its anchor and anchor chain, damaging the cable and resulting in a leak of cable fluid."

The cable had been leaking about 5 gallons of the nontoxic fluid an hour, but that has been substantially reduced. NYPA is working with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Coast Guard to contain the leak.

"There is no indication that the fluid reached the shoreline or impacted wildlife," NYPA said.

Hundreds of feet of buried cable are being cleared by underwater jet plows so it can be raised onto barges for repair. Now that the leak has been identified, permanent repairs will begin, taking several months "at a minimum," NYPA said.

"The costs associated with the cleanup of the leaked fluid and the repair of the cable are substantial and a direct result of Bouchard's negligence," NYPA said in a statement, noting that the cable's location is clearly marked on navigational charts.

The 23-mile cable connects Long Island to the upstate grid.

Four separate lines make up the cable, one of them a backup that was put into service Jan. 16.

NYPA has said temporary loss of the cable won't affect electric service on Long Island, which the agency said has "sufficient supplies of power from [other] on-island and off-island sources."

The cable connects the Long Island grid at East Garden City to a Con Edison electric station in Sprain Brook, Westchester County. According to material on the Long Island Power Authority website, the underwater portion of the cable is built of "self-contained dielectric fluid-filled cables that operate under high pressure."


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