Cable Outages Can Jeopardize System Reliability Contractors Must Call & Wait for “Mark Outs” Before Digging
Uniondale, NY – April 25, 2007 – Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) CEO/President Richard M. Kessel warned today that contractors working near LIPA’s underground transmission and distribution lines must call and wait for appropriate “utility mark outs” before they begin digging. Striking an underground cable can jeopardize the reliability of LIPA’s electric system while endangering the safety of those operating excavating equipment, he said.
Mr. Kessel’s call for contractors to follow the prescribed “mark out” procedures comes after a private contractor excavating near a construction site in North New Hyde Park struck two of LIPA’s major underground transmission cables. One of the cables damaged in North New Hyde Park also happens to be the western portion of the same cable
damaged on April 5th by a private contractor doing work on Shore Road in Port Washington.
“Having two major underground transmission cables damaged in less than a month, and one cable damaged in two locations, by two different contractors who failed to either call or wait for the appropriate underground utility mark outs is not only negligent, but it puts peoples lives in jeopardy,” said Mr. Kessel. “When we lose two transmission lines we lose some element of reliability on our transmission system, which can threaten the public’s welfare and safety. And equipment operators are at risk of being injured or killed by breaking through the protective covering and contacting a live electric cable carrying hundreds of megawatts of power.
Monday’s incident in North New Hyde Park resulted in two of LIPA’s underground transmission lines being damaged. Each cable is capable of carrying some 228 megawatts (MSW) of electricity. One cable was torn open and approximately 30,000 gallons of dielectric cooling fluid leaked from the gash in the cable’s protective cover. The second cable was nicked, but its protective cover was not breeched. Both cables are out of service, which limits LIPA’s ability to transport bulk quantities of power to portions of Northwest Nassau County, and wheel power to ConEd via a link to that system near the Nassau/Queens border, should any other transmission cables problems develop.
“We’re OK for the moment,” said Mr. Kessel, “because demand is not as high as it would be during the summer. But, if a heat spell pushes up demand to summer levels in the next several weeks, while the cables are being repaired, we could have a reliability issue because of limited transmission capacity to Northwest Nassau.
“It’s imperative that contractors contact the One Call Center, which is supported by all utilities and municipalities in the New York City/Long Island area, for an underground utility. The mark out will show them exactly where underground electric, telephone, and cable television cables, as well as gas and water mains are located before they begin to dig,” said Mr. Kessel. “Since a failure to do so can result in a catastrophic loss of electric service under certain circumstances, or even be fatal to construction personnel, there should be significant civil penalties levied against contractors that fail to follow the One Call requirements.
“In addition going after the contractors to recover our repair costs,” said Mr. Kessel, “there seems to be a need to put more teeth in the One Call procedure by adding some civil penalties to help prevent underground electric cables, and other vital services, from being damaged to begin with.”
On April 5th, a contractor failed to wait for a mark out on Shore Road in Port Washington and proceeded to drill into one of LIPA’s two transmission cables located in that area. Some 18,000 gallons of dielectric coolant leaked from the breeched cable, and that portion of the cable, an eastern section of the same cable breeched in New Hyde
Park yesterday, is still under repair.
In both incidents, the contractors failed to stop work when they uncovered the yellow plastic warning tape that is buried about two feet above LIPA’s underground lines as an additional alert to the presence of electric cables.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation monitored the response to the April 5th cable puncture, and is currently monitoring the response and dielectric fluid retrieval at the North New Hyde Park location.
The New York City/Long Island One Call Center, which is jointly supported by 126 utilities and municipalities in New York City/Long Island region, can be reached at 800-272-4480. For additional information on how the One Call procedure works go to www.nycli1calldsi.com
LIPA, a non-profit municipal electric utility, owns the retail electric Transmission and Distribution System on Long Island and provides electric service to more than 1.1 million customers in Nassau and Suffolk counties and the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens. LIPA is the 3rd largest municipal electric utility in the nation in terms of customers served and the 6th largest in terms of electricity delivered. In 2006, LIPA outperformed all other overhead electric utilities in New York State in all three major reliability categories. LIPA does not provide natural gas service or own any on-island generating assets. More information about LIPA can be found online at: www.lipower.org
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