Sunday, November 20, 2011

Exploding Manholes



(Thanks to Tam for the first line)


Dave H said...

That looks like the copy from my last Morse code test. Except back then I could still tell what it said. I used to be good at appreviations but 'THR and NDG have me stumped.

Tam said...

The story link leads to local station WTHR's questioning article on the nature of the explosions. :)

John A said...

My first reaction was "Didn't Mythbusters just do this?"

Then I read the article. Not the same thing at all, does sound suspicious enough to warrant investigation, especially with other explosions having occurred.

Shermlock Shomes said...

I can only hope a few blow during the Super Bowl to entertain my sense of irony.*

*Instead of spending money on city infrastructure and mass transit, the local politicians prefer to write checks to the owners of the Colts and the Pacers. It would be nice if, after the Super Bowl, they leave a ten spot on the dresser for us taxpayers.

Roberta X said...

Dave, "NDG" is the emphatic expansion of "NG," old ham slang for "no good."

IPL (owned, last time I looked, by cheapskate AEP) is a private company. They appear to have decided to never replace transformers downtown until they fail -- which they do, dramatically, as loads increase.

The fire is transformer oil (among other things). If it's an old transformer, it may be high in PCBs, which are not as bad as you might think but not great. Burn them in the right range of temperatures and you get may get dioxins (not nice at all) and PCFs, which are toxic. Ooosie!

Nice work, AEP.

Utilities in downtown Indy are a bit of a mess. Mostly underground, complicated by live steam supplied to much of the downtown area (also by IPL) and the very old brick combined sanitary and storm sewers.

Nathan said...


They just spent several weeks working underground on North Street between Meridian and Illinois where, as maintenance folks I know on both sides of North Street told me, apparently there were several old transformers that were ready to blow.

Failure to do good maintenance for years at a time makes for expensive repair tags. I can vouch for it; the committee that runs the building to which I refer on the South side of North Street took a desultory attitude toward PM for nearly sixty years, and we just dropped nearly $300K as a result. And that's just for the things that have to be fixed NOW.

Nathan said...

BTW, were you aware that the city has placed an open-ended moratorium for any cuts through or tunnelling under the Heritage Trail? If you need something that a utility needs to cross the trail to get to you, you're SOL, because they can't get a permit. I'm told this includes places where they already have access and would only have to pull new pipe or wire or fibre.

Stupid Heritage Trail.

Standard Mischief said...

kinda reminds me of DC from a few years ago. They finally just went around and cut holes in all the manhole covers to prevent any more tourists from dying in Georgetown.

I wonder if a transformer exploding and burning is a convenient disposal method for PCB toxic waste?

Dave H said...

Tam, Roberta: Thanks. I have it now.

I know what you mean about AEP. I've been in the utility business for 30-mumble years (we make meters), 18 of which were in Columbus. We hired AEP's castoffs.

It's scary how many companies' preventive maintenance schedules say "Cross your fingers again today."

Stretch said...

Molemen prep?

og said...

On my third day at Inland Steel, I was walking down Coke Plant Road and saw three guys standing on a scaffold torching off the end of a large bar sticking out of a machine.

The sparks from the torch fell down and into the edge of a manhole.

Apparently fumes from the napthalene that was being distilled on the other side of the fence had collected in the manhole, and made for an impressive projectile weapon. The manhole cover went over the scaffold and the flame shot up around twenty feet. The workers on the scaffold were nonplussed, as if this happended all the time. Later, I found out, it did.

Tam said...


"I can only hope a few blow during the Super Bowl to entertain my sense of irony."

In a perfect world, an explosively-propelled manhole cover would clean a tourist right off a zipline in "Super Bowl Village".

Nathan said...

Not to be a pest, but IPL is owned by AES, not AEP.

Anonymous said...

Can't edit until tonight, sorry. They're still cheapskates.

Anonymous said...

Can't edit until tonight, sorry. They're still cheapskates.

Old Grouch said...

the city has placed an open-ended moratorium for any cuts through or tunnelling under the Heritage Trail

For many years, the city would repave a street only to have the Gas Co. (typically) come through 6 months later and trench/spot-patch it. After repeated tries to get the utilities to coordinate their line replacements with scheduled street resurfacing, the council passed a draconian ordinance requiring total replacement if the surface was disturbed within x years. For some reason, that solved the problem.

Then there was the case a few years back when IPL dug up a steam line on Market St., then tried to get away with replacing the bricks they removed with a concrete patch.

So I'd assume the HT moratorium relates to the trail's "artistic" paving + past bad experience with the utilities.