FOX 8 DEFENDERS: Entergy investigates why leaky Kenner transformer wasn’t replaced within days

A dangerous situation unfolded in a Kenner neighborhood when two Entergy transformers exploded and caught fire. A liquid poured out of one of them for hours. When residents couldn’t get a response, they called the FOX 8 defenders, and we helped them get answers.
Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 10:03 PM CDT
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Kenner (WVUE) -Michele Procella stepped outside her Kenner home on a Sunday in September to take out the trash when she heard a loud boom.

“I wasn’t sure if it was fireworks, and then it sounded like a gunshot.. I looked down the street, and I could see the electric.. you know like fire.. then all this smoke, and I’m like what is this,” she said.

Within just a few minutes of a transformer down the street exploding, Procella said another one, on the same block, blew up right in front of her building.

“It was scary. It was really scary,” she said. Not knowing what could happen, Procella said she ran. “Then all this liquid just started pouring out,” she explained.

A clear liquid with a strong odor in her words, “rained down” for more than five hours. It covered Procella’s sister’s car. “It was pouring out. Her car wasn’t directly underneath it. It was parked at the end of the driveway,” Procella said. She explained so much of that liquid coated the vehicle, you couldn’t even see through the windows.”

This all happened on Sunday, September 12th. “We called Entergy twice that day. They said they would expedite it, and they did not,” Procella said. She says no one from Entergy came out, but the fire department responded. “They (fire dept.) just put this dirt on the sidewalk I guess so no one would slip,” she said.

The next day, she and her boyfriend reached out to Entergy a third time. Still, Procella says no one showed up.

But in October, Procella saw our FOX 8 Defenders report from Marrero where neighbors experienced a similar situation.

A clear liquid had been leaking out of the Entergy transformer in their backyard for months.

“The timeline shows that we started alerting them (Entergy) in May that something’s leaking, that somethings killing our grass. We don’t know if it’s poisonous,” homeowner Chris Skipper said.

But, they told us the problem continued for 106 days until the transformer exploded and caught fire. They reached out to the FOX 8 Defenders, and we asked questions.

A crew dug up their grass and sod, replaced it, and an Entergy contractor ultimately repaired their damaged fence and replaced the gate. Entergy told us the transformer spilled a mineral oil “used to insulate high-voltage electrical infrastructures.. stopping discharges and arcing.. any contact would be no worse than that of vegetable oil.”

And if a transformer is leaking, Entergy says company policy is it should be changed “within a matter of days..” The company is investigating when this was first reported, and why, if there was a leak, it was not changed in that timeframe.

Hoping we could help her get answers, Michele Procella called the Fox 8 Defenders. “We’re concerned we don’t know what’s in it. We don’t know what we’re breathing or what we’re being exposed to,” she said.

She also showed us how the area of dead grass has spread. “I think within a week or two it started progressing. It just kind of jumped the sidewalk, and it’s just progressing so it tells me it’s underground or something,” Procella said.

The day after our interview, Procella says Entergy crews showed up and replaced the transformer in front of her building. Entergy says it’s needed to power the homes in that area, and the other transformer down the street, while it has signs of aging, Entergy says it’s still in service and in good condition. Entergy’s environmental team also responded to address the spill and replace sod as needed.

Just like the Marrero case, Entergy confirms the Kenner transformer leaked non-PCB mineral oil. The company says it’s also opened an internal investigation into the Kenner transformer as well to determine why it wasn’t changed or investigated in a matter of days, which is company policy.

While the equipment has been replaced, neighbors on both sides of the river still worry about the lingering smell in the air.

At the time of this report airing, the grass that’s damaged in that area had *not been replaced. As far as what could have caused the leak, Entergy says it’s hard to pinpoint why the transformer was damaged, but possible causes include vegetation falling into the equipment during the storm.

If you’ve got a consumer issue you’d like us to look into, call the FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women or fill out our online complaint form.

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