Repairs To Chouteau GRDA Plant May Take A Year Due To Extent Of Fire

Saturday, July 2nd 2016, 6:55 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

It could take a year -- possibly longer -- to fix some of the damage done to the GRDA Chouteau plant after a fire burned for hours overnight.

Fire and thick black smoke consumed the plant Friday night.

"I think we had 13 fire departments out here responding,” GRDA spokesperson Justin Alberty said.

The fire sent half a dozen employees scrambling for safety.

“I'm sure it was a loud, smoky mess for a little bit, you know,” he said.

Alberty said lightning is to blame. After disabling a pump that helps cool one of the plant's two turbines, the turbine kept spinning, overheated and started the fire.

Investigators still are working to determine exactly where the lightning struck, but employees inside at the time were standing about 60 feet from where the fire started.

“You go from being just a business, an electric generator, to being kind of a family in a crisis like that,” Alberty said.

Some damage to the outside of the plant is obvious. We asked Alberty to describe what it's like inside.

“A lot of equipment obviously that's burned up, things like that,” he said. “Damage, smoke damage, insulation on some of the piping that's fallen down, things like that"

A generator connected to the turbine is expected to be useless for at least a year, but Alberty says all employees will keep their jobs.

He says customers should not expect any power outages during that time.

Alberty says this is the first time in more than 30 years this has happened to the plant, and it may take some time to figure out just how much money the bolt of lightning will cost them.