Tuesday, August 05, 2008


As predicted, the power did come on and off. Sunday night, the power company decided to start working on the outside lines at 9:58 pm, cutting off the last two minutes of Generation Kill, and then decided 10:30 pm to 1:00 am would be a good time to chain-saw the branches off of the fallen tree. The electricity didn't come back on until after 2:00, but that was not a problem, because no one in the neighborhood could sleep during the chain-sawing anyway.

But, funny thing . . . remember that transformer that got knocked down by the tree and was dangling by its guide wires? Well, the nocturnal chain-saw crew apparently didn't see it because it also got cut down along with the branches, and was left laying out on the road underneath a bunch of sawed-off tree limbs.

The worst part is that it seems to have cracked or something when it fell, and transformer oil ran out and across the street. As previously noted, transformer oil often contains PCBs, and even transformers marked "No PCBs" can contain up to 50 ppm of the toxic chemicals. You can see the oil-stained pavement on the lower right of the picture.

The transformer oils left a nice little trail of stained pavement, making it easy to trace its path.

From the pile of branches, the trail crosses the road, and runs along the gutter toward, but fortunately not yet reaching, a stormwater drain. The stormwater drain discharges to Spring Valley Creek, the small, perennial stream across the street from my house. Spring Valley Creek feeds Tanyard Creek, which flows to Peachtree Creek, which empties into the Chattahoochee.

If the oil doesn't reach the storm drain soon, then the next rain will surely wash the oil down into the creek. Once in a stream, PCBs and transformer oils tend to stick to the sediments on the bottom, and can persist for many, many years.

On Monday, I called the power company and reported the spill. The person answering sounded very concerned and appreciative of my notification, and said he would be sending a HAZMAT team out within a few hours. I then went next door and notified my neighbor, who lives at the corner where the transformer fell, and warned her of the release, and told her she was in no danger but that it would be a good idea to avoid any contact with the stained pavement. Having fulfilled my civic responsibility, I then went to the Zen Center for my usual Monday night service.

When I got back home hours later, the transformer was still on the ground and there was no sign that the HAZMAT team or anyone else had been by.

Update (8:45 pm): Coming home from work Tuesday night, I saw that the transformer had been picked up some time during the day and a bunch of pine needles were lain where the transformer had fallen. There was some absorbent on the ground (looked like kitty litter) where the oily trail had approached the storm drain, but most of the large patch of stained pavement (pictured at the top of this post) was still on the ground. A token attempt, in my opinion, at cleanup.

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