Jim's latest was a wonderful jog on my old memory. I do recall the biggest
"problem" back then being the PCB's found in power capactitors and not
necessarily what was in transformers. It started when a bank of them let go one
day and spilled its contents near where a TV news crew was doing a story.
Plus, the hazerdous material tech sent out to supervise the cleanup was very
sarcastic with the crew, not very PR minded. As you can imagine, that set off
tv news and print news "events" for the next 2 weeks! The summer of 1979 in
Detroit. I worked for the utility in question then, Detroit Edison (now DTE
To be honest with all of you, I had a Cantenna filled by the Salvage guys at
Detroit Edsion (about 1971) that remained with me for at least 15 yrs, right
behind my operating desk back then. I never felt threatened at all and am not
seeing any ill affects that I or my physicaian can tell. ;-) Obvioiusly, it
could be longer term, but I just never cared that much. When I got rid of it it
went to another ham.
I have no idea what was in that Cantenna but I assumed it was a high
probability that it was PCB, since the real PCB "awareness" never hit the
until late in the 70s. Like Jim says, unless its in high concentrations or
exposure it really isnt much of a health issue.
Never touched the liquid, never drank any. ;-) But, then again Mark, I'd
probably re-fill the Cantenna with something better known or just pitch it
73, Bob K8IA
in the shadow of the Superstition Mtns
In a message dated 6/6/04 4:57:12 PM US Mountain Standard Time,
Oil, or askarel? transformer oil, per se, isn't likely to be contaminated
with dioxins (the real problem). Oil has almost always been cheaper than the
PCBs, so if the utility had a choice, they'd probably fill with oil, being a
generally cost sensitive bunch. PCBs were used in places where the flammability
of oil is a problem (in buildings, in capacitors, etc.)
However, Bob is right.. if it's 30 years old, you really don't know. It
could have been filled from "that bucket over there in the corner that we
out of the transformer".
As a practical matter (flame war about to start), though, PCB contamination
is more of a logistical and legal problem than a health problem. The amount in
a dummy load isn't going to cause any real problems, especially if it's
sealed and not leaking. The problems that HAVE been reported with PCBs have
with chronic exposure, or in connection with very high concentrations of
dioxins (i.e. manufacturing waste dumps), not with ppb amounts that are an
omnipresent contaminant in all sorts of things.
The real problem is that once it's found, it triggers a huge regulatory
infrastructure designed to make sure that it's in the "trivially small" amount
category, not the "oh yeah, we used to clean out the tanks in the back parking
with solvent" category. The regulatory and remediation process isn't all
that expensive for a small amount IF you think in terms of decent size
(i.e. a few thousand dollars), and it might be covered by your insurance in
any case. It's cripplingly expensive if you think in terms of scrounging
insulating oil at hamfests.
It's enough of a problem that it is essentially impossible to buy
surplus/scrap electrical switchgear which is liquid insulated from the
southern California. They don't want the risk that it "might" be contaminated
that you will "mishandle" it, triggering their liability (since it's "on the
list" it triggers cradle to grave responsibility.. everyone who touched it
along it's life path is liable for cleanup: designed to prevent waste
from hiring "abc disposal" and claiming that it's abc's problem). Even worse,
they worry that you might take their (known clean) stuff and intermingle it
with something contaminated in your scrapyard, then you get tagged with it, and
because they can't establish traceability, they go back and hassle everyone
who supplied anything to your yard.
See: http://www.mscomputer.com for "Self Supporting Towers", "Wireless Weather
Stations", and lot's more. Call Toll Free, 1-800-333-9041 with any questions
and ask for Sherman, W2FLA.
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