Thursday, March 20, 2008

Any Stray Voltage Protection for Roosevelt Island Pedestrians and Pets? I Prefer Not To Be Electrocuted.

Truveo Video link of WCBS story on stray voltage

Stray electrical voltage coming from sidewalks is a very serious problem that has caused injury to pedestrians and their pets as well as one tragic death in 2004 when Jody Lane, a young women walking her dogs was electrocuted on an East Village street. Another example from a February 2007 NY Times article:
A small dog being walked along a downtown sidewalk yesterday was apparently electrocuted moments after crossing an icy manhole cover, according to a veterinarian who examined the animal after a dog-walker brought him in.
...If the cause of Bob’s death is determined to be electrocution, his death would be the latest in a string of episodes in which pet owners or their pets were harmed by stray voltage in metal plates or other objects on the city’s streets and sidewalks.
I raise this issue because the March 20 Roosevelt Island 24 Hour Public Safety Incident Report indicates that sparks were coming out of an electric box by 425 Main Street. The report states:
... Hazardous Condition-electric box by 425 Main St. sparkling due to rain, power was shut-off.
What type of follow-up and remediation is being done by Con Ed and RIOC to insure that tragic injuries or deaths to people and their pets do not result from stray voltage here on Roosevelt Island?

The NY Times City Room blog reviewed this problem last January prior to City Council Hearing on the matter and published this message regarding Con Ed's response to the stray voltage problem.
My name is Roger Lane, the father of Jodie Lane who was electrocuted by ConEd on 1/16/2004.
ConEd is using the media and carefully parsed information to provide a favorable picture in anticipation of next week’s council meeting.
I thought you should see data less parsed.
Stray Voltage [SV] detections by calendar year [data provided by ConEd to Roger Lane]:
• ConEd found 5,455 SV in 2007
• ConEd found 3,331 SV in 2006
• ConEd found 2,508 SV in 2005
• ConEd found 2,344 SV in 2004
That’s a 233% increase over 4 years and 13,638 locations with dangerous voltage.
Reported shock events declined from 378 in 2006 to 295 in 2007 [data provided by ConEd to PSC]. 295 is 6 shocks every week, hardly safe!
It is reported that ConEd has 15 mobile stray voltage trucks working all year. The reality is they own 15 trucks but they are used less than half the time.
ConEd plans 1 manual and 8 mobile test cycles for 2008. They say this will eliminate 90% of the stray Voltage. In the last 4 years ConEd did 4 manual test cycles and 7 mobile test cycles for a total of 11 cycles. If ConEd were right about a 90% reduction in stray voltage with 8 test cycles they should have already solved this issue considering 11 have already been performed…, yet each test cycle continues to find about 1100 stray voltages.
ConEd needs to do more than 9 scans in 2008. The cost of 24 test cycles is estimated at $12M…that’s $3.75 per year per ConEd customer…
Why is ConEd skimping on the safety of New Yorkers?
According to the NY Post:
Less electricity is leaking from Con Ed-managed light poles and electric switching boxes, the utility said yesterday.
Con Ed counted 295 reports of stray electric shocks last year, down from 378 in 2006 - a 22 percent reduction.
Since the company stepped up its search for electrically charged light poles, street boxes and other equipment in 2004, the number of shock incidents has declined by 49 percent, the company says.
"All the shock numbers are going down," said Alfonso Quiroz, a Con Ed spokesman.
Con Ed says it has spent $100 million on its effort to eradicate stray voltage.
A company-designed fleet of 15 high-tech stray-voltage detector vehicles cruise city streets year round, using electronic sensors to seek out shock points on manhole covers, light poles, service boxes and other structures.
Do any of these stray-voltage detector vehicles ever make their way to Roosevelt Island or do we have to wait until someone gets hurt? I am particularly sensitive to this issue because several years ago I was walking down the south side of 50th street towards 2nd avenue following the clean up from a snow storm and received quite a shocking jolt as I stepped on a manhole cover. It was a very unpleasant experience that I remember to this day. I still avoid that manhole cover when walking down 50th street.

UPDATE: - 3/25 - RIOC advises that this was not a stray voltage incident but occurred:
within the confines of the Southown construction site of
building 5 & 6. A 4 foot by 4 foot guard shack was being supplied with
power for lighting via an old construction extension cord from the
building. The cord was laying in water and shorted out.
More here.