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Mysterious noise prompts Potsdam to shut down troubled hydro plant


POTSDAM — The village’s West Dam Hydro Plant ran for several days, but attempts to ramp up production were stymied by a mysterious grinding noise, and the plant once again is idle.

Officials had hoped the plant would be producing power last month, but first a faulty vibration sensor had to be replaced, then officials had to wait for accumulated ice to melt before running the generators at full speed.

The recent warm weather melted the ice and allowed the plant to run for several days. But another problem was soon discovered.

“When we push the plant harder, we tend to get some vibration in there and we’re not sure what it is,” Village Administrator David H. Fenton said.

That concern is not related to the problem with the vibration sensor discovered last month, and officials are still not sure what is causing the noise.

The flow to one of the turbines will be halted today and the water drained from one section of the plant to allow a closer look at the parts.

“We just didn’t like what we heard when we cranked it up,” Mr. Fenton said. “It’s better to fix something like that now than have it cause a major problem later.”

It is suspected that grit and debris from the river infiltrated the system while the turbines were idle. The problems are suspected to involve the bushings, parts of which guide and lubricate the turbine shafts.

The plant’s operation has long been delayed. It is five years behind schedule and $1.3 million over budget.

When everything is running smoothly, the plant is expected to generate 900 kilowatts of electricity and bring in $200,000 to $250,000 annually.

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