News: Playbook execution yields clean slate at Sam Rayburn hydropower plant
Story by Randy Cephus
JASPER, Texas - It is not every day that one has to execute disaster plans, but it’s sure nice to have one when the need arises.
Just ask the Fort Worth District’s superintendent of power plants, Tom Webb. His team responded to the insulating transformer oil spill that discharged April 28 in the river channel downstream of the Sam Rayburn Power Plant.
Webb, the son of a former hydropower operator, attributes the quick and decisive action by his staff as the key to avoiding a potentially serious incident at Sam Rayburn Lake.
Although the spill was not considered hazardous, the Sam Rayburn team made the containment and cleanup its top priority and worked diligently over the next few days to complete the cleanup action.
“Once we knew that we had a spill on our hands, we quickly executed our Spill Prevention Control Countermeasure Plan,” said Webb. “It was approximately 10:30 a.m. when I was notified, and by 11:30 a.m., we had our first boom out.”
According to Webb, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District, in compliance with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and other agencies, completed the cleanup of the non-hazardous release on May 13.
“No oil was introduced into the lake and we have not observed any aquatic or other environmental impacts,” said Sam Rayburn Lake Manager Bart Dearborn.
“Additionally, due to the quick response there has been no lasting impact to the project’s natural resources and the site has been fully remediated,” said Dearborn. “Recreation access to the area has been restored.”
By all indications, 100 gallons of oil or less were discharged into the channel. The maximum amount of oil that could have leaked was originally estimated at 200 gallons. Once the leak was detected the team acted quickly to contain the remaining transformer oil.
“This equates to about two barrels of oil,” said Webb, as he simulated the size of a 50-gallon oil drum with his hands.
“The transformer failure makes the #2 Hydro-Electric Generator unavailable for service, and will require a replacement,” said Webb. "This reduces the amount of available power generation of the plant to a maximum of 26 Megawatts.”