Car Strikes Transformer Causing Evacuation

By: Venton D. Blandin
By: Venton D. Blandin

August 18, 2005

There was a big scare in Charlottesville today as several businesses were evacuated near Ridge Street after an accident involving hazardous materials.

Early Thursday morning, traffic flowed just like any other day, until around 8 a.m.

"A vehicle struck the transformer, [and] hit it pretty good. [It] knocked it of its bearing there," said Maurice Jones, with the City of Charlottesville.

A 50 foot radius of the accident site was roped off. Charlottesville firefighters responded to assess the situation. Their immediate response was crucial due to the car hitting a transformer with a chemical mix inside.

"The transformer working in its normal operation generates heat, and the coolant is a mineral oil and an anti-freeze solution that's inside it, and that just keeps it cool, keeps it from over-heating," Britt Grimm, Deputy Chief of the Charlottesville Fire Department.

The capacity of the mineral oil and anti-freeze inside the transformer totaled almost 300 gallons, but only 60 leaked out. Still, following policies of Dominion Power, neighboring businesses were told to evacuate.

With the transformer now knocked off its base by the car, there was a chance for the chemical mixture to run-off into the drains affecting water consumption.

"Fortunately, we were able to stop [it] before it relaly made its way through the drainage system and into the waterways," said Jones.

As for how the car's driver and passenger were affected, they were not injured.

Charlottesville Police say the driver, who struck the transformer which is now being replaced, has been charged with reckless driving.

Greyhound Bus Lines, Music Research Center, and a local law office were just some of the businesses that were affected by the evacuation.

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