Con Ed continues oil spill clean-up

Con Ed substation in Manhattan (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Con Edison and environmental contractors have continued a clean up effort this week after insulating oil leaked into the East River when a transformer in a Brooklyn substation failed last Sunday.

Spokesperson Allan Drury told Town & Village that the utility has removed 560 gallons of the oil from the water, and Con Edison is also removing soil from the substation that has soaked up oil from the spill.

Since heavy rain is forecast for this weekend, Con Edison will also be securing the impacted area around the transformer so there is no additional saturation that could cause more oil to seep into the river.

Con Edison is working to remove the damaged transformer and expects to replace it with a new unit by next week.

The Coast Guard issued speed restrictions for commercial vessels during the week to assist the process and recreational vessels are banned while the clean-up is ongoing.

The utility also noted that the oil, which is commonly used for electrical equipment, can impact fish and wildlife if there are heavy concentrations in the water. However, samples collected showed only low levels of the oil, ranging from six to eight parts per million, which poses minimal hazard to the public, Con Edison said.

The utility said that the transformer contained about 37,000 gallons of the insulating oil and about 6,400 gallons were recovered from the damaged equipment. The rest of the oil was released into the soil as well as into the river. Con Ed noted that the amount of oil recovered from the river is difficult to calculate but an estimation would be made when the clean-up is complete.

The company has used 4,000 feet of absorbent pads to contain and collect the oil from the river and has been working with the US Coast Guard, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and other city, state and federal agencies to monitor the situation.

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