National Grid replacing three miles of underground cable

Posted at: 04/25/2013 4:55 PM
Updated at: 04/25/2013 5:41 PM
By: Abigail Bleck

ALBANY--National Grid has assigned six out-of-town utility crews to a massive improvement project Albany.  They are dedicated solely to the downtown area to address the recent manhole cover explosions that have plagued the Pearl Street corridor since last fall.

"Unfortunately a lot of cities in the country, and around the world, run into this issue and there are a lot of factors that play into that," explains National Grid spokesman, Patrick Stella.

National Grid is blaming the manhole explosions and underground fires on eroding sub-street cables.  Drain water degrades the wiring over time and triggers sparks that ignite the naturally occurring sewer gases that build up in the underground vaults.

"Sometimes that makes a man hole cover pop up, sometimes you see a smoking manhole."

Albany's electric system is between 70 and 80 years old but the entire network isn't failing.

"We've done these inspections and we really wanted to make sure what we replaced needed to be replaced.  We didn't wan to replace cables based on age alone."

In addition to replacing three miles of underground cable, National Grid is also pilot testing a new type of manhole cover in Downtown Albany.  It's the first time they are being used in the greater Capital Region area. 

"Some of the manhole covers have extra ventilation, more slots, to relieve pressure so it doesn't build up as much underground," adds Stella.

Albany's mayor, Jerry Jennings, says he is requiring that National Grid share proof of all the tests the utility is conducting and paperwork proving the work has been complete.