BC Hydro has provided its explanation of a 2011 incident at Rio Tinto Alcan’s Kemano powerhouse which lead to charges of destruction of fish and alteration of fish habitat being filed against the aluminum manufacturer.
The Kemano powerhouse produces power for Rio Tinto’s Kitimat smelter and the company’s transmission system and that of BC Hydro’s are connected.
It was BC Hydro who asked Rio Tinto Alcan to ramp down its Kemano operations after a “hot spot” occurred on one of the crown corporation’s transmission lines.
“A “hot spot” is essentially a bad connection on the line that heats up and is in danger of melting the connection. If it fails, it can potentially cause catastrophic damage to the transmission line and surrounding area and result in a longer outage to repair,” said BC Hydro in a prepared statement.
“If the line had tripped suddenly, a large number of customers would have been without power. As such, a fix was required as soon as possible.”
In an earlier statement, Rio Tinto Alcan official Colleen Nyce said the ramp down took place at the request of BC Hydro so it could do an emergency repair.
Ramp down means a reduction of water flow from the Kemano power station, she explained, adding that the company would generally only reduce water flow if it didn’t affect aluminum production in the smelter.
BC Hydro purchases surplus power not used in the smelter operation, said Nyce, adding that the surplus is often used to power BC Hydro’s transmission lines from Kitimat to Smithers and sometimes out to Vanderhoof.
The charges come under the Federal Fisheries Act and Rio Tinto Alcan has so far made one court appearance.