An act of suspected vandalism to a Nelson Hydro substation caused a three-hour power outage and officials said the outcome could have been a lot worse.
In the early morning hours of Sunday, a Nelson Hydro press release issued on Wednesday morning stated that the act of vandalism took place at the City of Nelson utility’s Six Mile Substation on the North Shore.
Vandals allegedly tossed a steel tape measure into the 25,000-lovt electrical wires feeding a protective recloser. Being highly conductive the steel tape initiated a flash-over fault between wires and the resulting arc damaged the insulator bushings on the recloser.
The subsequent power outage caused approximately 2,900 customers to be without electricity for three hours.
“Firstly, actions like this are extremely dangerous,” the press release stated. “Although the culprits may have been at a distance from the fault arc, there is a high possibility of injury from flying debris (porcelain from broken insulators, molten metal from conductors and the tape measure, etc.) and the arc flash, that can cause severe burns and vision damage.”
In photos of the tape measure taken at the scene, the section from 17” to 79” of the tape is missing which is likely because it was vaporized in the arc.
Nelson Hydro staff are required to observe strict safety procedures and wear appropriate protective equipment when inside substations or working with high voltage.
“Individuals purposely causing equipment failure and flash-over events from outside the fence are creating, and exposing themselves to, extreme hazards that the design of the substation could not reasonably protect against,” the release states.
Other than the danger posed to the suspected vandals, Nelson Hydro said these kind of unnecessary outages are costly to the utility and annoying for customers.
“These actions reduce power reliability and may cause unsafe conditions for home and business owners which leads to increased power rates for customers,” the release states.
If anyone witnessed this event or has information about this incident, they are asked to call the Nelson RCMP at (250) 352-2156. Through the RCMP, Nelson Hydro is offering a reward to anyone supplying information to the RCMP that leads to the arrest of the vandals involved in this incident. Report anything that you feel may assist in their investigation. For anonymous tips, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Nelson Hydro is also sending out a reminder to report a power outage, electrical hazard, damage to Nelson Hydro equipment or for outage updates to call 1-877-324-9376.