Electrical substation attacked in Hamilton County
HAMILTON CO.—A substation for Southern Illinois Power Cooperative was disclosed yesterday (July 15) by authorities as having been deliberately damaged ten days earlier.
The SIPC substation is located in Hamilton County and affects power in Hamilton, Williamson, Franklin and Saline counties.
Authorities are calling the damage an “attack” and stating that it could have been “disastrous”: the substation, located in a rural part of the county, had a fence breached on that day, and attackers opened a valve on a large power transformer, causing oil to drain out. Fortunately for power users who would have been affected by problems at this substation, there were alarms (telemetry monitored) that went off and workers at the SIPC dispatch center were able to open circuit breakers remotely, preventing the transformer from overheating due to the lack of oil.
Had the transformer overheated, the possibility of explosion would have been almost definite.
When a crew arrived at the substation, oil was still draining; hundreds of gallons had already flowed into a spill dam. Crews then removed the transformer from service to ascertain any further damage. The transformer being out of operation, along with the miserably warm and humid weather, created a stress on the power grid in the four aforementioned counties. If the transformer had failed, officials reported, it could have cost $1.5 to $2 million in damage.
However, the transformer was returned to service four days later, July 9.
This wasn’t all that happened, however.
A separate “attack” was also noted this past Sunday, July 12, when power poles were destroyed. This attack occurred in Franklin County along Bessie Road and Log Cabin Road (east of Benton), where vandals used a chainsaw to cut the poles. Those fell close to the roadways, taking down high voltage lines with them. This caused power outages for customers on the Southern Illinois Power and SouthEastern Illinois Electric cooperatives. Each company has authorized $10,000 in rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Sunday’s attack.
Sheriff’s departments in both HamCo and Franklin Co. are asking the public for help in solving the cases; the numbers are 618-643-2511 in Hamilton; 618-435-8187 in Franklin. These attacks are very serious crimes and the feds are considering entering the investigations; such crimes are punishable by 5 to 20 years in prison depending on the level of damage occurring to the substation and power providing facilities.
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