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More faulty hydro plant parts found in Potsdam

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POTSDAM — More faulty parts have been found in Potsdam’s troubled West Dam Hydro Plant, and it is possible the turbine shafts themselves have fallen out of alignment in the three years they have remained idle.

The underwater bushings, which guide the turbine shaft, were improperly designed, according to Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis, and accumulated grit and debris too easily.

What’s more, the shafts themselves may be misaligned. The village soon will bring in experts to examine whether this is the case.

If they are misaligned, it is unknown how long or how much it will take to repair them, Mr. Yurgartis said.

“We may actually be within specifications and not have to do anything, but if it is misaligned I don’t know what it will take,” he said.

He said he believes the parts were installed correctly, but they have remained inactive for about three years and could have shifted since then.

The bushings were provided by Canadian Turbines, the company that failed to fulfill its contract with the village and ceased to exist when Potsdam pursued legal action. Many of the parts the company provided were faulty, and others never arrived.

The company has been blamed for many of the delays that pushed the opening of the plant years past its expected 2009 completion date.

The bushings can be modified without being replaced. They have been sent to Northern Machining in Norfolk and should be finished soon.

Village leaders had hoped the plant would be fully operational last month, but the plant continued to shut itself down in early tests because it was shaking too much. One of the vibration sensors was found to be faulty and improperly placed, but even after it was replaced the plant still shook to the point of shutdown. A grinding noise also could be heard during later tests.

Further inspection found the problem with the bushings, and the possible problem with the turbine shafts.

When completed, the plant will generate up to 900 kilowatts of power.

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