Skip to Content

‘Few answers:’ Madison mayor pushes ATC for more details on July substation fire

MADISON (WKOW) — Madison’s mayor sent a letter to American Transmission Company’s CEO asking follow up questions to the findings of an investigation released by the company Wednesday.

In her letter, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway took ATC’s chief executive, Mike Rowe, to task for failing to provide her office with the company’s full report.

“On August 5, I met with Greg Levesque, ATC’s Director of Environmental and Local Relations, to ask detailed questions about the cause of the explosion, but received few answers,” Rhodes-Conway said, adding that Levesque had told the mayor at that meeting that the company’s report would be available within the next week.

“It has been almost two months now and neither the city nor the county have been given the final report related to this troubling incident. This morning, Mr. Levesque refused to turn over the report to my office, indicating that the press release released this week by ATC was sufficient.”

According to ATC, a component inside the Blount Street substation’s transformer failed, “generating combustible gases and resulting in a fire,” said Jim Vespalec, ATC director of asset planning and engineering.

The component was designed to regulate voltage and had been inspected, according to the company, three times in the week leading up to the explosion. The last inspection was conducted two days before the July 19 fire.

ATC said the component had been scheduled to be replaced July 22, three days after the fire.

The fire began shortly before 8:00 a.m. and a few minutes later triggered a second blaze at the East Campus substation. The two are linked via underground cables.

Both substations are owned by Madison Gas & Electric, but some of the equipment, including the failed component, is ATC’s responsibility.

The two fires cut power to much of Madison’s downtown and near east side on one of the hottest days of the year. Government offices, including the State Capitol, and some in Milwaukee, closed, and officials scrambled to open cooling shelters.

“Many questions remain unanswered,” Rhodes-Conway said. “What were the indicators of a significant problem with the transformer? Why didn’t ATC take a troubled transformer so close to the downtown and to a gas station out of service immediately? What decisions were made by ATC employees and supervisors that contributed to the disaster?”

A full copy of the mayor’s letter is available below.

JT Cestkowski

Social Media Content Producer/Desk Editor

Skip to content