WNYT.com

National Grid steps up underground inspections in downtown Albany

Posted at: 04/11/2013 5:23 PM
Updated at: 04/11/2013 5:32 PM
By: Abigail Bleck

ALBANY--At 9am, when much of Albany was headed to work Thursday, National Grid was already at work, testing cables below the street along the Pearl Street corridor.

"It's an old city, so everything in the ground is probably very old," explains Albany Mayor, Jerry Jennings.

Since September, Mayor Jennings has been after the utility to inspect the city's underground wiring after three separate downtown manhole explosions that sent flames in the air and outed power to residents and businesses for hours.  It occurred twice in September and once at the end of March. 

"If people were there, someone could have been seriously injured or killed those covers.  They weigh 300 lbs a piece, minimum," adds Jennings.

A National Grid spokesman confirmed the company is stepping up regular inspections because of the potentially deadly incidents.  Crews, at the request of the city, are conducting tests and replacing parts where necessary. 

According to Jennings, National Grid has also agreed to share their results with city officials, "I told them I want a copy of every call they got in the city.  I want them communicating with us so they can identify problem areas before we have major problems."

But at least one Pearl Street business owner, the area plagued by the explosions, worries that patch jobs might not be enough and a complete overhaul is likely necessary. 

"That's really not the crux of the problem--it's aging infrastructure in the city.  That's gonna take money to repair that," says Paul Crabbe of Truman Jewelers.

Both Troy and Glens Falls have also experienced man hole explosions in recent months.