Power Plant Leaks Lube Oil


Lubricating oil seeped out of a power plant in Cambridge, Mass., early Sunday morning, forming a sheen on the Charles River and leading to a partial shut down of the plant.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the incident occurred about 2 a.m. when the Mirant Kendall plant shut down one of its turbine units to do some repairs. Government agencies responding to the incident included MassDEP, the EPA Boston regional office, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Cambridge Fire Department.

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The high pressure water side was left operating, which caused water to then get through the seal, and into the unit which contains the oil and oil pump house, MassDEP spokesman Ed Coletta told Lube Report. That caused that unit to spill out onto the floor of the pump house, so they had an oil-water mixture that spilled onto the floor and leaked out of the pump house into a nearby catch basin. The oil and water mixture actually got out into the Broad Canal, which is right off of the Charles River.

Coletta explained that the mixture reached the canal in a location near the power plants intake for cooling water. So it drew the oil back into the system, and at least a couple of the units were still operating, he said. Eventually those units discharged the warmed oil and water into the Charles River itself and caused quite a large sheen. And so, obviously they shut down that part of the facility and called in help to get booms in place both on the Broad Canal and along the Charles River. A company called Clean Harbors was brought in to clean up as much of the sheen, while Boston Line and Town handled set up of the booms.

Since yesterday through into today theyve been trying to clean out the generating units, pumps – and then with containment in place, booms in place – theyve been operating one pump, and one generator at 50 percent, until they start seeing some oil, Coletta said yesterday. They have been operating, off and on, one or all of the units to see how much oil is still in there, and have it pump out so they could clean it up once it gets out of the system.

According to Coletta, officials are still calculating the quantity of oil involved in the spell and dont yet have an estimate.

He said the oil sheen has had no discernible impact on wildlife in the area. The river is not used as a drinking water source.

Coletta said Mirant Kendall has closed down the electricity generating portion of plant for the time being. He noted that as a peak plant that only runs when there is a high demand, it is not operating all the time. The other portion of the plant provides steam to Cambridge and Boston, and continues to operate.

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