Madison's mayor demands answers from ATC on what caused substation fire

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)-- Madison’s mayor is demanding answers from the American Transmission Company about what caused the substation fire last summer.

In a letter to the CEO of ATC, Mike Rowe, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway asked for a final report on the cause of the substation fire in the city’s downtown that knocked out power for thousands on July 19.

This comes after ATC issued a released Wednesday blaming the fire on a vague “mechanical failure” in a transformer at the substation on Blount Street, which is owned by Madison Gas & Electric.

That sparked a second fire at a substation near the University of Wisconsin-Madison, prompting evacuations.

ATC Anne Spaltholz says that typically, a transformer automatically goes offline without a fire if equipment malfunctions.

In the letter Thursday, Rhodes-Conway said ATC’s Director of Environmental and Local Relations, Greg Levesque, refused to turn over a final report to the mayor’s office. The mayor says he instead said that the Wednesday press release was “sufficient.”

“It has been almost two months now and neither the city nor the county have been given the final report related to this troubling incident,” the mayor said in the letter.

The mayor further asked the following questions:

”What were the indicators of a significant problem with the transformer? Why didn’t ATC take a troubled transformer so close to the downtown and to a gas station out of service immediately? What decisions were made by ATC employees and supervisors that contributed to the disaster? Have any employees or supervisors been held responsible for incident? What new rules and procedures have been put in place so that such an incident never happens again? The public deserves to see the full investigative report without further delay.”

No one was hurt from the substation fire. At its peak, more than 13,000 people were without power.

In its Wednesday release, ATC said failures like the one at the substation are rare, and that the company is conducting internal reviews and consulting industry peers to find out if any improvement can be made.

ATC is also working with the Wisconsin DNR and the city to dispose of chemicals left near the site of the substation fire.

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