Fire breaks out at S&WB's main power plant during turbine testing

A circuit breaker blew as crews tested a key power generator at the S&WB power plant Wednesday afternoon.

NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Fire Department says the cause of a fire at Sewerage and Water Board's main power plant on Wednesday was determined to be electrical. 

Firefighters were dispatched to the power plant after a spike in voltage caused a circuit breaker to catch fire.

The fire broke out just before noon, at the S&WB Carrollton Power Plant in the 8800 block of S. Claiborne Avenue.

According to Paul Rainwater with the S&WB’s emergency interim management team, testing Turbine No. 4 caused the explosion at the plant.

“In the process of testing Turbine 4 just before 11:00 a.m., we had a spike in voltage which caused equipment failure and fire on electrical equipment related to a circuit breaker," Rainwater said. 

MORE: Key S&WB power turbine was supposed to be fixed 5 years ago

Rainwater said that the explosion will not impact the city's water, sewer or drainage systems.

"Turbine 4 itself was not damaged, but the circuit breakers related to that high voltage is what was damaged," Rainwater said. 

No one was injured in the fire, according to NOFD.

Turbine No. 4, a 1920's-vintage, steam-powered turbine, hasn't operated at full power since Hurricane Katrina and was taken offline completely in 2012. In the five years since then, S&WB has promised that it would be repaired soon, only to encounter several problems. Outgoing Superintendent Joe Becker estimated in an email the price tag for repairs has topped $24 million. 

Fire officials said facility electricians and maintenance personnel are working with the NOFD to determine with triggered the electrical fire.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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