Will it be trick or treat for LIPA power pipeline project?

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Bortech contractors working on the LIPA pipeline late last month before work stopped. The utility now says the project will be completed by November.

Bortech, the contractor hired by the Long Island Power Authority to to run power cables between Southold and the Island is back at work this week.

LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said the cleanup of a bentonite clay spill into the harbor near Southold has been completed and went smoothly. The spill occurred when a drilling rig broke August 24, just as workers were close to finishing a 24-hour process pulling pipes through a tunnel dug out by Bortech. The clay bentonite in the tubing was used to remove silt and other substances that could otherwise become a threat to electrical cables.

While bentonite is not toxic, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation required that it be vacuumed, placed in containers and trucked from the area. Now Bortech is working at freeing the broken drill rig part that became stuck in hardened clay underwater. Once that process is completed, Bortech will determine whether piping has to be pulled back to the Shelter Island side and re-threaded through the tunnel, or there’s a way to fix the existing drilling rig, or attach a new one at the point of the breakdown.

If piping has to be pulled back to Shelter Island, there would be road closings here, but it’s too soon to know when or if that would be necessary.

There’s little else to report about the project at this point, Mr. Gross said. It’s still too soon to determine if the original $9 million project will cost more, and if so, whether Bortech or LIPA ratepayers would have to pick up the excess cost.

The project that began last April and was initially to have been completed by Memorial Day is now being promised by or about Halloween.