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Circuit failure at NYPA’s Massena operations causes explosion

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MASSENA — An explosion at the New York Power Authority’s St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project sent a fireball into the air Saturday afternoon.

NYPA Regional Manager Richard Turner said a “catastrophic failure” involving a circuit breaker at a switch yard caused the fire shortly after 2 p.m. Saturday. There were no injuries resulting from the explosion, Mr. Turner said.

“Some of the oil in the breaker ignited when the explosion occurred,” he said.

NYPA immediately contacted the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The circuit breaker did not seep oil into the river, Mr. Turner said. There was some release of oil on land that has since been contained.

“There’s been no release in the St. Lawrence River we’re aware of,” he said.

Mr. Turner said the breaker was a “total loss.” It failed in the proper way, he said.

“When the breaker fails, this is the mode it fails in,” he said.

NYPA officials are still trying to determine a cause for the failure. Saturday’s high winds may have played a role, Mr. Turner said.

Representatives from the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation who had expressed concerns about the explosion will tour the facility today, Mr. Turner said.

NYPA had issued no statements about the explosion on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. But shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday, an email, purported to be sent by “Rick Turner,” alleged details about the explosion. Several media representatives were included on the email, which was sent to “undisclosed recipients.”

The address the email was sent from was “Rickturnershouldbefired@gmail.com.”

“On March 2nd, an oil filled circuit breaker exploded, sending burning oil in a mile radius. No one was injured,” the email states.

The email claims oil did enter the river, an allegation NYPA strongly denies.

“RM Rick Turner is to blame for this oil entering the St. Lawrence River,” the email states.

The message then links to what appears to be a one-minute-long surveillance video of the power project. Almost halfway through, a ball of smoke and fire is seen shooting up into the air within close proximity to the water. It can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=0X3YGx5SGhg&feature=youtu.be.

The email also provides Mr. Turner’s contact information, including his cellphone, office phone and email, and directs readers to contact him.

Mr. Turner, responding to the message Wednesday night, said the email purporting to be from “Rick Turner” was not from him.

“That would be very odd, for Rick Turner who is regional manager to send out an email,” he said.

He said he has no idea where the email originated from, and declined to speculate on the sender’s intentions.

“I couldn’t begin to even guess. I have no idea whatsoever,” Mr. Turner said. “We’ve got great employees. Everything is solid there.”

Mr. Turner was hired by NYPA in 1981, and has held his current position since 2006.

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