Maura In The News

Dogged Nstar uncovers more `hot spots' in Hub
By Jon Chesto | Boston Herald
Friday, April 16, 2004

Nstar reported finding two dozen Boston ``hot spots'' electrified by leaky power lines but no widespread problems during a massive inspection prompted by several zappings of dogs and at least one owner last winter.

John Toner, a Mission Hill pet owner whose dog, Blue, may never be the same, scoffed at the paucity of problems turned up by Nstar.

``Were they out in the rain when they were doing the testing?'' Toner asked. ``That could easily have doubled or tripled the number right there.''

Toner, who got a nasty surprise while walking Blue near their Mission Hill home in December, said he doubts the problems in Boston are limited to just the 24 hot spots Nstar said it found along city streets and in lighting and other fixtures around the city.

Nstar said it has checked 24,000 manholes and about 100,000 nearby structures in the Boston area so far. The company found 30 hotspots in all, including six in suburban areas.

Nstar officials vowed to keep looking until all 38,000 manholes are inspected in its 81-community service area by June.

Spokeswoman Christina McKenna said Nstar officials plan to check the system thoroughly and quickly and not wait for inclement weather when power leaks could be easier to find.

``What we found should reassure citizens of Boston that their electrical system is in good working order,'' McKenna said.

Nstar, in its report to the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy, said it fixed all 30 of the problems it found.

A dozen hotspots were found in electric equipment under its control and 18 - 17 in Boston - involved equipment that the company does not own. In many cases, streetlight bases were ``hot.''

Nstar blamed unreported damage by contractors for many of the hot spots it found. But Nstar also said it found a limited number of incidents where a power cable remained switched on even after Nstar had removed a streetlight.

Nstar also listed a series of reforms, including annual inspections for Nstar-owned streetlights, new voltage tests that workers who enter manholes must make and a new response system to handle calls about hot spots.

Boston City Councilor Maura Hennigan said the city needs to conduct a similar review of its own electric system and lights, mandate new manhole inspection procedures and put protective covers in light-pole bases.

``We have never had a person who has died yet, but I think that's just lucky,'' Hennigan said. ``Let's not wait until somebody does die.''

City Councilor Michael Ross said contractors who accidentally damage power lines and try to hide it should be hit by hefty penalties.

``I hope we can send a message to make sure that something like this never happens again,'' he said.

Toner said he worries that Blue may never fully recover. ``He walks with a limp and he tires very easily,'' he said. ``I used to walk him for about an hour. Now, after 15 minutes he's all done.''

? Copyright by the Boston Herald and Herald Interactive Advertising Systems, Inc.

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