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For second time in two weeks, Saugus power plant knocked offline by a raccoon

Raccoon shuts off the lights at Saugus plant

Normally lit Saugus plant in the dark after power is shut off Monday night.

A Saugus facility that generates electricity by burning trash automatically stopped making power Monday night when a raccoon met its end by climbing onto some high-voltage equipment.

The plant continued to burn trash - the ashes from which are dumped nearby - but the steam generated by the process was vented into the air, rather than used to power generators, according to a memo from the Wheelabrator plant:

At approximately 11:20 pm on 5/7/18 the Wheelabrator Saugus facility was electrically tripped offline as a result of a raccoon climbing onto equipment in the high voltage electrical switchyard. Both units were immediately taken offline to mitigate, as quickly as possible any noise issues.

The system trip happened automatically as part of the equipment protection system causing emergency steam release vents to open to safely take steam pressure off the boilers. There was no damage as a result of the trip, and facility was able restore power to the system. Facility management made the decision to delay startup of the facility until daylight hours to eliminate any potential inconvenience.

During the startup period the steam being generated was vented to atmosphere until the turbine generator is brought back online. At that point the facility returned to normal service.

In response to the incident on 4/24/18 the facility engaged our vector control service to increase bait traps near the switchyard in an attempt to capture small animals. The facility also engaged the SPCA to assist with any captured animals. Further preventive measures are being evaluated and will be implemented as appropriate.

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Comments

You build a plant powered on trash and expect raccoons to stay out?!?

Next you're gonna tell me that the plant that gets its power from upstream-swimming salmon is being overrun by bears. Bears!

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The bewildering parts about this to me are:

  1. A critter is able to take out a massive electricity generation plant two times in as many weeks.
  2. I don't recall this happening in the past - why now? Did the facility guard-cat die?
  3. There is no back-up power supply (like from the grid) in case of emergency to at least keep the aviation warning lights lit on the smoke stack (is the FAA aware of this?) .
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1. You act like this is a bad thing.
2. You ask too many questions
3. All is proceeding as we have foreseen.

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Heh heh heh. Goooooooooooood.

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Do we know it hasn't happened in the past? It could be this is just the first time we've heard about it (in part because of increased vigilance of the anti-ash folks).

As for 3, um, yeah, batteries might be in order.

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I recall my power either flickering our actually going out at least twice in the past two decades due to fried squirrels, so yeah, it does happen.

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In fact, all veteran electrical linesmen carry a burned squirrel carcass in their truck. If a line outage cannot be explained, they toss the squirrel on the ground nearby and claim it was the cause.

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Within the distribution part of the network, yeah, wildlife getting fried in the system is understandable as a cause of power distribution at your house or something. An entire 37 MW per day power generating station being brought down by a 10-20 pound raccoon seems a bit surprising. Did the same contractor who designed the Death Star exhaust port also put together the high voltage section of this plant?

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shocky raccoon

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rocket racoon

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Shocky Racoon
Went up with a boom
Only to darken Saugus
The Turkeys checked out
Only to shout
We'll get you next
Stupid humans

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I'm really surprised that Massachusetts would allow this plant to dump toxic ash in the marsh next door. It's pretty clear there are some serious environmental consequences. Why doesn't the state have a better plan to control this issue?

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Information regarding the Baker Administration's recent decision to extend the plant's landfill permit, despite the damage being done to Rumney Marsh (which was determined to be of critical environmental importance) and the objections of the local community/government:

https://www.reverejournal.com/2018/04/21/disappointed-with-wheelabrator-...

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Thank you for including this. I haven't seen this before and it's really pretty stunning.

"According to Wheelabrator’s own data, 80 percent of the trash it burns can be composted or recycled. The Commonwealth should be enforcing its zero waste regulation, not expanding an unlined landfill with another 500,000 tons of toxic ash"

“What a sad day it is when MassDEP, and the Baker administration ignore an outcry from so many people, political leaders, and environmental specialists advocating to stop an expansion of the ash landfill to protect abutting neighborhoods, and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern,”

So tell me again why we like Charlie Baker so much??

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They have been around nearly 40 years. Why is this suddenly a Charlie Baker Issue?

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Because the state just extended their dumping permit, which was supposed to have expired under an earlier agreement.

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Facility management made the decision to delay startup of the facility until daylight hours to eliminate any potential inconvenience.

So "potential inconvenience" is the new euphemism for "overtime pay"?

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Uh, I just figured it meant the inconvenience of having no lights, hence waiting until sun-up.

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Adorable!
(Until approximately 11:19 pm on 5/7/18 )

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Many years ago, during a rain storm, a transformer on the street, blew. (Then) New England Power sent two crews to repair the damage. They said a squirrel was found inside the transformer.

How it got in there, is anyone's guess.

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