Cleanup Work Continues After Transformer Oil Leaks into Drain


On Tuesday morning, high winds knocked down a utility pole on the 1300 block of Woodland Drive, causing a power outage for part of the city for several hours.

That's just the start of the story.

The pole landed on the roadway. This caused dielectric fluids to escape the transformer and leak into a storm drain and down the Wood Outlet Drain toward the Saline River.

DTE contracted T&T Marine Salvage and Pros Environmental Services crews to contain and clean the oil.

According to DTE Regional Affairs Manager Molly Coy, the fluids were captured downstream by oil-absorbent blooms, an absorbent weir and a vac truck.

Spokesperson Amanda Fischer said the leak was contained, and the fluid did not enter the Saline River. The work was expected to be completed by the end of the week. Fischer said the equipment that leaked has been replaced.

Washtenaw Chief Deputy Water Resources Commissioner Harry Sheehan inspected the site Friday and said the experienced crews were handling the situation well. He estimated that 80 gallons of the fluid leaked.

Several residents near the work in the Wildwood subdivision were somewhat rattled by the work and the lack of related information. City officials were unaware of the situation as of Thursday morning. Officials from the county's Water Resource Department were also unaware.  Calls to several EGLE departments were unreturned.

Information from DTE began to circulate by Thursday afternoon before more concrete information was shared Friday. The information shared Friday was essentially the same that circulated in the neighborhood Wednesday.

According to Sheehan, the kind of transformer oil that leaked was of the "non-PCB" variety. The petroleum-based mineral oils are less hazardous than PCB oil. Still, the mineral oil can be flammable and toxic to aquatic species. It's also toxic in soil and water.

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