Transformer failure, fire caused oil spill at Churchill Falls switchyard, says Nalcor

·1 min read

A transformer failure and fire at the Nalcor Energy Churchill Falls switchyard resulted in an oil spill Thursday night, says the provincial Crown corporation.

Oil inside the transformer, which holds 53,000 litres, was released in the area of the switchyard and the company's environment team accessed the site when it was safe to do so, Nalcor said in a media release Friday evening.

Nalcor said crews are assessing the volume that may have been released in the spill and are making a cleanup plan.

"The Churchill Falls team worked to contain the release where possible and is assessing the dispersion of the oil. The oil released, known as Voltesso, is an oil product used in transformers which is biodegradable but over a long time period," reads the release.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the corporation told CBC News, "Voltesso is inherently biodegradable as opposed to readily biodegradable like luminol. That means [it] will break down over time but timeline is indefinite. Readily biodegradable means it is able to biodegrade quickly and completely. So this product is not as environmental friendly."

The spokesperson said there's no indication the oil made its way into the Churchill River.

Workers deployed booms in the river, used to contain oil spill, as a precaution.

The company said a spill response team was activated and a helicopter patrol is underway to assess the oil's dispersion.

The spokesperson said not much more is known about the cause of the fire but an investigation is underway. She said updates will be provided when information becomes available.

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