|Posted on April 5, 2011 at 11:41 AM|
(Source: The Baltimore Sun, Maryland)By Liz F. Kay, The Baltimore Sun
March 25--State utility regulators voted Thursday to form a working group to hash out details of new rules setting standards to help ensure reliable service after customer complaints of lengthy power outages during both storms and fair weather.
"The overarching goal is to establish objective expectations for high-quality service," said Douglas Nazarian, chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission, during a hearing in Baltimore.
Utility officials cautioned that the regulations -- which include guidelines for tree trimming, repairing downed wires and customer service -- could cause customer bills to soar. But consumer advocates said that customers, including those who rely on electricity for business and to power medical equipment, needed better service.
Commissioners opened the regulatory matter after an investigation into outages endured by Pepco customers in winter and summer storms last year, particularly in Montgomery County. But commissioners and others who testified Thursday said that other utilities needed to improve service as well.
The work group was charged with developing standards to measure utility performance in all conditions. It was asked to consider how much it would cost utilities to implement the standards. The commissioners stipulated that the work group should not decide how the utilities could recoup those costs from ratepayers.
The group was also told to develop quality standards for customer communication, recommendations for operations and maintenance, and penalties for utilities not meeting the proposed requirements.
The General Assembly is debating an O'Malley administration proposal that would specify language for the regulations. For example, the bill would ensure that any penalties incurred by utilities could not be passed on to ratepayers through higher bills.
Chris Burton, BGE's senior vice president for gas and electric operations and planning, and other company officials told the commission that the utility supports "reasonable, balanced regulation" but cautioned that some provisions, including tree-trimming requirements, run the "risk of increasing costs without a corresponding increase of reliability."
Rawle Andrews Jr., senior state director of AARP Maryland, testified that the state's senior citizens, some of whom rely on power to refrigerate medication and to power life-saving machines, would benefit from statewide utility reliability standards. He said the standards should be different for good weather and during storms.
Burton said he believes the standards should be tailored to individual utilities because each contends with differences in geography, weather and population density.
The proposed language states that violations of the regulations would be subject to civil penalties. But Montgomery County Council Vice President Roger Berliner told the commissioners that utilities should get a lower rate of return on their investment, which is set by the PSC, if they don't meet reliability standards.
"This is what they are in the business of doing -- delivering power, of having good customer service. If they don't do this well, they should not earn their authorized rate of return," he said.
For the year that ended in February, customers submitted 277 complaints about Pepco's service reliability and 79 complaints about BGE, according to PSC staff.
The commission also voted to consider, in a separate rule-making procedure, a request from the parents of Deanna Green to guard against "contact voltage." Deanna, 14, was electrocuted in 2006 when she touched two fences that had become electrified at a Druid Hill Park ball field. The fences were touching an underground wire.
The proposed rule, based on rules already in place in New York, calls for regular sweeps to find electrified objects, as well as follow-up repairs and maintenance.
Deanna's mother, Nancy, said after her testimony that she felt the response from commissioners was positive. "We did not want them to delay this rule and further jeopardize the safety of pedestrians," she said.
|Posted on April 5, 2011 at 11:32 AM|
Death Exposes City's Decaying Wire System
by Shernay Williams
AFRO Staff Writer
As they embark on an endeavor to help thwart similar calamities, the family of Deanna Green – a 14-year-old who was electrocuted after touching a fence in Druid Hill Park in 2006 – is still searching for answers in their daughter’s demise. The father, Anthony “Bubba” Green said he is waiting for a judge to revive their case against the city.
The family reached a settlement with a private contractor that was found to have worked on the park’s electrical wiring near the time of Deana’s electrocution, but Baltimore City was dismissed from the case after claiming sovereign immunity in 2006.
Green says city officials withheld information that could have led to a more thorough investigation of his daughter’s death. “The city needs to pay for what has taken place, they ... misled us throughout the entire process,” he said.
During litigation, city officials denied accountability for the electrocution, claiming they were unaware of faulty electrical wiring in the park. They refused to hand over documentation of any work completed on the field, Green said.
Then came a breakthrough for the Greens in June 2008 – two years after Deanna's death –when, the day before her retirement, city solicitor Linda C. Barclay handed over work orders and invoices showing the Department of Public Works had contracted work for Druid Hill Park’s lighting system in 2003.
Subsequent documents revealed the city had contracted Douglas Electric and Lighting to patch up the park’s wires again in 2004, 2005 and just weeks before the accident.
Current city solicitor George Nielson says it’s the family’s “prerogative” to sue the city. “We think the judge was correct in dismissing the case. If they wish to bring the city back in, we will evaluate it but I don’t think we withheld information,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for information to be provided in increments. It’s nothing sinister about that.”
Jose Anderson, the Greens’ advising attorney, told the AFRO: “The city had one job—keep electricity away from where people can touch it and be killed by it.” Anderson’s daughter was Deanna’s best friend.
“It’s sad we have people running the city who don’t care about the people,” Mr. Green contended. “But we are going to do whatever we have to do to make the city understand that we were treated unfairly.”
Questions remain as to why the city seemingly forgot to repair the lethal electrical wiring and lighting system in the park where Deanna was killed.
According to a memo issued by the former director of Recreation and Parks two months after the death, the city had planned to overhaul the entire underground wiring in Druid Hill Park – which legal documents show was installed in the 1960s. A printed schedule indicated repairs would be complete by January 2007.
It is unclear if repairs were completed or even initiated at the park.
A representative for Recreation and Parks declined to comment after calls from the AFRO, citing ongoing litigation with the Greens.
Following a city council meeting, Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, who represents Druid Hill Park’s district, said she hadn’t recently visited the area where Deanna died, so she didn’t know whether wiring had been repaired. “It’s a heartbreaking situation,” she said, adding that the family deserves an apology or a field dedicated in Deanna’s honor.
This week, mayor’s spokesman Ian Brennan said he wasn’t sure if the city routinely scans parks and city streets for dangerous wiring that could prompt electrocutions, but said the Department of Transportation recently purchased equipment to conduct checks.
He directed the AFRO to Transportation spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes, who confirmed the city agency had purchased hand-held devices to check for contact voltage – electricity transmitted through public domains that are usually the result of eroding underground wires like those that killed Deanna.
In an e-mail, Barnes said Transportation “was in the process of contracting out this service.”
She added that BGE technicians scan the city for contact voltage on a bi-annual basis, but officials from the gas and electric company told the AFRO in a recent interview that they only conduct checks once a year – and they merely examine the light poles and man hole covers they own.
Brennan said Power Survey Company, a utility locator firm summoned by the Greens’ to inspect Baltimore’s public surfaces for contact voltage, withheld information they found from the city.
He said city officials received a list of 50 public areas around the declared “hot spots” for the stray electricity a month after Power Survey administered the checks. The majority were BGE managed, he added.
However, in a previous interview, Power Survey founder Tom Catanese said he had found close to 400 problem areas around the city.
“When the city finally got the list, we called BGE in short order and issued repairs,” Brennan said. “If you know of a problem and you don’t tell the city, it’s not going to help us fix it.”
Meanwhile, now five years after their daughter’s tragic death, the Green’s say they are “at peace” with their loss, but will continue to fight for safer streets and more answers in their case. “We don’t have Deanna, but we have her legacy and we will continue it,” said Mr. Green.
|Posted on April 5, 2011 at 11:25 AM|
Demands greater protection against reoccurrences everywhere
by Shernay Williams
AFRO Staff Writer
Flanked by her husband, Anthony “Bubba” Green, Nancy Green sat behind a long, narrow table before several members of the Maryland Public Service Commission, telling the gruesome story of how her daughter Deanna was killed by stray electricity.
“Deanna didn’t touch a live wire or an electrical box,” she said, fighting back tears.
“We live every day without Deanna because she simply touched a fence ... Every day I wonder what did I not do to protect my daughter.”
Her 14-year-old was electrocuted and killed when she leaned on two fences after a softball game in Druid Hill Park May 2006. Roughly 270 volts of stray electricity, called contact voltage, surged through her body.
An eighth-grade picture of Deanna in a dark denim jacket sat on the table in front of her parents during her mom’s speech.
The Greens said they had come to humanize a set of regulations they’ve proposed to the commission that would mandate each utility company in Maryland survey public roadways, parks and playgrounds for contact voltage and immediately eradicate it. The lethal voltage occurs when aging or damaged underground electrical wires energize public surfaces.
A BGE spokesman said the company currently scans only half of the light poles and manhole covers they operate every year.
Deemed the “Deanna Camille Green Rule,” the Greens’ plan would require utility businesses to conduct at least two thorough scans a year in Maryland’s major cities to mitigate contact voltage. If the commission enacts the rules, utility businesses would use mobile detections or scanner trucks that instantly recognize public surfaces with high voltage counts as they drive.
Baltimore City transportation officials told the AFRO that they purchased hand-held devices to detect the stray electricity, a buy the Greens call ineffective and more expensive than mobile scanners as they require workers to manually inspect surfaces.
Under their plan, companies would also track and submit extensive records to the public service commission detailing their scans, including the location of energized surfaces, any injuries caused and the length of time it took to make repairs.
Companies could face rate adjustments of 75 basis points on annual earnings if they fail to employ tests.
Similar regulations were enforced in New York State after a young woman died from contact voltage in 2004.
The Greens have received letters of support from at least three legislators including Congressman John P. Sarbanes, Baltimore County Del. Adrienne A. Jones, and Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, D-14. U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski has publically testified in support of the proposal and Princeton University professor Cornel West also sent a letter of encouragement.
The five public service commissioners listened intently to the family’s tearful plea for enactment of their proposal. “I pray that no other family will have to go through this as you have,” Commissioner Harold D. Williams told the couple, adding that he would do everything in his power to pass the regulation.
Commission Chair Douglas R. M. Nazarian concurred. “I have two daughters that play sports. Regardless of how this proceeds today, we are committed to addressing this problem,” he said.
They advised the Greens to disassociate their plan from another proposal that calls for increased utility reliability during storms.
“It’s been five long suffering years,” Nancy Green said. “But any delay in the vote for the Deanna Green Rule or its implementation would only put others at risk.”
A commission official told the AFRO it will take at least six weeks for the office to rule on the proposal.
|Posted on March 24, 2011 at 11:00 AM|
BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Some Baltimore parents are turning their grief into action, trying to change Maryland laws to prevent the kind of tragedy that killed their young daughter five years ago at Druid Hill Park.
Derek Valcourt has more on what her parents say needs to be done about it.
It was stray electrical voltage that killed their daughter in a ballpark at Druid Hill. Now they’re asking the state to implement tough new stray voltage laws in their daughter’s name.
Deanna Green was just 14 and getting ready to go to bat when she touched a metal fence at a ballfield at Druid Hill Park.
A decaying underground electrical wire made contact with one of the fence posts sending 227 volts of electricity through her body.
“To have your daughter fall into your arms and slip away at a softball game with just electrical current running through a fence, that’s the thing we just can’t got through our heads,” said Nancy Arrington-Green.
What happened to Green is not an isolated problem.
|Posted on February 25, 2011 at 3:45 AM|
A New Jersey power company told the NBC 10 I-Team it has identified more than 40 contact voltage locations in Providence that could potentially kill people and pets.
Contact voltage or stray voltage is voltage on an object that should not be energized. It may include lamp posts, manholes, gratings, junction boxes as well as sidewalks and adjacent buildings.
Power Survey Co. is contracted by New York City, Buffalo, N.Y. and other urban areas to detect potentially deadly voltage sites.
"The problems will pop up all over the place. We do repeated testing in cities around the country. Some cities we do 12 times a year. In some cases we find hundreds of new problems," said Thomas Catanese of Power Survey Co.
David Kalokitis, chief technical officer of Power Survey Co., said a pole located at Elmwood Avenue and Westfield Street gave off 113 volts. The voltage can be deadly to pets and people.
NBC 10's Jim Taricani: "Let me ask you this. It's the summer and someone's standing here barefoot and it was wet. They put their hand on that."
Kalokitis: "Bad news. Wet feet, you got the conductivity there because of the moisture. You put your hand on that, you got the contact to the ground, that's when you get shocked. One hundred thirteen volts, that's line voltage, the same as a wall socket in your house."
At the lower end of Atwells Avenue, another test shows a light pole spewing voltage into the ground.
"Eighty-three volts right there in the ground. This is what makes this dangerous. There's wet ground here. This is something a dog could step on...they see volts across the body and that's when they get a shock," Kalokitis said.
Kalokitis said the shock is enough to kill a dog.
On Jan. 27, a Labrador retriever puppy named Luna was apparently electrocuted when it walked over a manhole cover on Angell Street in Providence.
Following the puppy's death, animal rights advocates said they want something done about stray voltage.
"I just have a vision of that dog dying, as you know I had to figure out the cause of it. Whether it was systemic and whether it was a threat to other people and other animals," said Roz Rustigian, a board member of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
"I feel very strongly that National Grid needs to take responsibility," said Karin Morse of the Providence Animal Rescue League. "(It) needs to do a survey and respond to any situation where there's any higher level of voltage."
Another test on a handrail on Hope Street, not far from where the puppy was electrocuted, showed more stray voltage.
Catanese: "What you're seeing is what would pass through a person's body or animal's body if they were to come in contact with that hand rail."
Taricani: "Now, would that kill an animal?"
Catanese: "Absolutely. Absolutely. It would kill a person."
Catanese said his company, Power Survey Co., came to Rhode Island last year and met with the Public Utilities Commission. The company drove a PUC official around and pointed out the potentially deadly stray voltage spots in Providence. Catanese said the PUC wasn't interested.
"We are prepared to investigate any issues surrounding utility safety and reliability reported to us by utilities and the general public," said Tom Kogut, a PUC spokesman.
"National Grid inspects and tests its facilities for stray voltage levels. The risk of exposure through every day activities is very low. We encourage customers to call us if they have concerns about stray voltage," according to a statement from National Grid.
|Posted on February 15, 2011 at 2:25 AM|
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A WJZ investigation is revealing decaying wires are causing serious hazards throughout Baltimore neighborhoods, hazards so serious they can shock or even kill people as they walk down the street.
Vic Carter reports under the streets of Baltimore, electricity flows through miles and miles of wires but wear and tear create dangerous currents that can kill you.
The problem is aging, decaying wires under sidewalks, near light poles, manhole covers and anywhere the current flows. Under certain conditions, they turn into high-voltage hazards, like the shock that killed a 14-year-old Baltimore girl.
Deanna Greene was electrocuted at a Druid Hill Park ballfield when she simply touched a metal fence. A decaying underground wire made contact with the fence post, sending 227 volts of electricity through her body.
“It can happen to anybody at any time,” said her father, Anthony Greene.
Deanna’s parents are afraid someone else could die the same way. They contacted a company that identifies stray electrical currents in places people go every day.
“Things we did as kids, you know, jumping in mud puddles, touching fences, climbing poles—it’s very dangerous now,” Greene said.
WJZ spent hours riding through the streets of Baltimore with experts testing for hot spots. The investigation documented countless manhole covers, street lamps, curbs and sidewalks pulsing with potentially dangerous electricity.
A street light at the corner of Retreat Street and Woodbrook Avenue in West Baltimore triggered the alarm. Anything over 50 volts could kill.
“I see there’s 99.1 volts on there. That’s quite a lot of voltage; that’s almost full line voltage,” said Dave Kalokitis, Power Survey Company. “If there were a puddle for someone to step in, that would be very, very dangerous. If there were snow on the ground, it would be very, very dangerous. You’ve got one foot on something grounded—maybe your feet are wet or something like that—you touch this…that’s when you really get into trouble.” WJZ found potentially lethal voltage coursing through a light pole on West Fayette Street near North Hanover Street. A measurement of 242 volts was taken coming off that pole. That’s equivalent to the amount of energy it takes to run your home air conditioning system.
Another danger is the light pole on South Charles Street between Pratt and Conway: 101 volts. There’s more high voltage near the pole on Pennsylvania Avenue at Robert Street, right across the street from the Upton Boxing Center. That’s 100 volts and there are also exposed wires.
Time and again, cases of stray voltage have been found throughout the city. Since the investigation began, many problems have been identified and repaired, but many more remain.
Deanna’s parents want something positive to come from their daughter’s death.
“They’re gambling with the safety of the public,” said her mother, Nancy Greene. “She was given to us for a purpose and we believe that we are fulfilling her purpose.”
BGE and Baltimore City are responsible for maintaining wiring through the city, including sites where the investigation revealed stray voltage. WJZ’s investigation continues on that later this week.
|Posted on December 8, 2010 at 1:15 AM|
A local teen was electrocuted after touching a fence at an area ball park. Now her father is on a crusade to make sure that never happens again. Kelly McPherson has more.
Stray voltage is what you call it when an object–like a pole or a fence–becomes electrified because of nearby wires. It can be deadly.
A former Baltimore Colt and his wife are on a mission to find stray voltage.
“This is what killed my daughter,” said Anthony Green.
Four years ago, the Green’s 14-year-old daughter, Deanna, died after touching a baseball field fence in Druid Hill Park. It had sunk into the ground to touch an exposed wire; 227 volts electrocuted her.
“I don’t want it to happen and that’s why Bub and I are so intent on having the city address the issues,” said Deanna’s mom, Nancy Green.
They’ve found a New Jersey company that can detect objects that become electrified.
“There’s nothing visible but there is electric field radiating off of them so this truck will sense that. Sort of like a radio receiver would sense radio signals,” said Power Survey Company owner Tom Catanese.
A sound will indicate high voltage so that objects can be checked out. If you touch a wire from the energized pole to a grounded metal manhole cover, you can see the electricity. Putting a hand on those objects wouldn’t necessarily electrocute someone. The conidions would have to be just right–like simultaneously touching a grounded metal fence.
“You can’t roll teh dice on it because we’re living proof that it can happen,” Green said.
The truck regularly checks other major cities, too.
In New York, “we typically find about 800 problems,” Catanese said.
So far, the company says it’s found between 300 and 400 in Baltimore.
The Greens are taking that list to City Hall in the name of their daughter.
“She may not be here with us, but she’s working today and as long as we have breath, we’ll fight to have this addressed,” said Nancy Green.
The mayor’s office could not comment Tuesday night because the city could potentially be brought back into a lawsuit filed by the Greens.
Some repairs to electrical work has been done in city parks since Deanna’s death.