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Albany, N.Y., solves mystery of exploding manhole covers

UPI News Service, 06/28/2013 

An Albany, N.Y., manhole cover popped due to a faulty electrical cable that cut off power to the city hockey arena and silenced a radio station, officials say.

For the sixth time in a couple of months, a manhole cover lifted off several inches in either a poof of smoke or worse, a fire, in the downtown area of New York's capital.

The latest manhole cover erupted Thursday on the downtown in front of the Times Union Center, cutting off electricity to the hockey arena and TALK-1300 AM, a radio station that broadcasts inside.

Patrick Stella, a National Grid spokesman, said the manhole cover most likely sprang a few inches into the air after a main electrical cable underground failed. As the faulty cable smoldered, gases built up and air pressure eventually pushed the heavy lid into the air, Stella told the Albany Times Union.

Albany city officials said they have threatened to report National Grid to state regulators to get the utility to provide a complete report on each manhole cover incident.

National Grid said it was working to solve the problem and has added extra crews downtown, but the real answer is replacing miles of underground wiring. National Grid puts the cost of cable upgrades across upstate New York at $76 million, the Times Union said.

Meanwhile, National Grid said it was experimenting with about 100 newer manhole covers that have grates and vents to allow accumulating gases to escape before they burst or ignite, National Grid said.

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