By Amber Rodriguez
When people hear about Western’s maintenance crews working to get service back up, they often assume it means electricity was restored. However, in many places Western’s electricity is used to pump water that is crucial to farming. During the early morning hours on June 11, Sierra Nevada crews were called when two transformers failed, causing power loss at the O’Neill Pumping-Generating Plant near Santa Nella, California. When the transformers failed, it also caused about 30 gallons of oil to spill, contaminating the substation soil.
On June 11 at about 2:30 a.m., while the O’Neill plant was conveying water into the Delta Mendota Canal, a phase-to-phase fault that was fed from the Pacific Gas and Electric system occurred, causing an outage at the substation and halting the plant’s ability to transfer water. Because water demands cannot easily be varied at this time of the year without dire impact to crops, San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority quickly called Western for help.
Operations identified the O’Neill Substation failure and notified Western who began making a repair plan. Crews were instantly dispatched to identify and correct the problem. At the same time, an environmental remediation contractor was called to clean up the oil spill. The crews replaced the failed transformers and communicated with Operations when the line was ready to be reenergized. Project Manager Louis Thompson who helped with the repair said, “Through hard work, which continued well into the early morning hours, by the employees in SN and Desert Southwest including maintenance crews, protection personnel, on-site inspector, operations and environment, the spare instrument transformers were installed and tested, and the environmental contamination was mitigated.”
Crews appreciated for hard work
The drought conditions in California have caused water challenges for SLDMWA so getting O’Neill back in service was essential. SLDMWA’s Assistant Executive Director Frances Mizuno thanked crews for their hard work and dedication, “I wanted to send you a note of sincere appreciation for the response to replace the damaged potential transformers at the O’Neill Pump/Generating Plan. The effort put out by [Craft Supervisory Maintenance Manager Steve] Tuggle, [Dispatcher Dutch “Van”] Stickels and their respective crews was exceptional. What could have very well been a long extended outage turned out to be only an 18-hour outage due to the work hard and dedicated effort by [Western] staff. As you know of the extreme water supply challenges we are facing this year with very little flexibility in our system to meet water supply demands, it was critical to have O’Neill in service.”
SN Regional Manager Subhash Paluru also expressed his appreciation and pride, “I sincerely thank the Maintenance and Operations leadership and our crews who jumped into action to resolve this issue quickly. Ensuring the bulk electric system is reliable is what we do, and we do it very well.”
Representatives from NRC environmental cleanup company drain the oil from one of the three damaged transformers, June 11. In the background they are wiping down contaminated equipment. Photo by Louis Thompson
This transformer was damaged during a fault at Reclamation’s O’Neill Substation, June 11, near Santa Nella, California. Photo by Louis Thompson