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Decaying Wires Cause Serious Hazards Throughout Baltimore

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.

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