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More Dangerous Power Poles Found on Seattle Streets

Seattle, WA – Three more potentially dangerous power poles have been found in Seattle, three weeks after a dog was electrocuted when it stepped on a metal plate by a lamp post on Queen Anne.

The three poles are on Capitol Hill, First Hill and the Central District; one at 13th Avenue and East Aloha Street that carried 60 to 80 volts; one on Boren Avenue and Madison Street with 90 to 105 volts; and the third at 23rd Avenue and East Union Street that emitted 60 to 80 volts.

Anything above 50 volts is considered dangerous, according to Seattle City Light spokeswoman Suzanne Hartman. The metal plate on Queen Anne carried 90 volts.

Power to all three poles has been turned off while City Light crews try to find out why poles were emitting what City Light calls contact voltage, contact with energized metal like a light pole.

Hartman said the Capitol Hill area is one of City Light’s oldest service areas, and the poles where the problems were found were 30 to 40 years old.

The newest cases were discovered after the city said it was hiring contractors to help examine the light poles. One of the potential contractors went up to Capitol Hill and the surrounding area and found 10 poles with potential problems. City Light crews examined the poles and found three emitting contact voltage.

Hartman said no residents reported problems, and no one was injured.

After a second incident in which frayed wires were found in a High Point light pole last week, City Light said it would inspect all 20,000 metal streetlights and 10,000 metal street covers.

City Light went out and inspected all 170 streetlights in the High Point area to make sure there weren’t other problems, and found none.

Linesman Jim Ketelsen, a 30-year City Light veteran, was at High Point to test the faulty pole there. His voltage detector immediately went off. A volt meter told him that the pole was giving off 50 volts, a potentially dangerous level.

Work crews found frayed, exposed wires in the lamppost and made repairs.

On Wednesday, crews checked streetlight poles in the Holly Park neighborhood and found no problems. The lines crews came equipped with voltage detectors, fat green pens with yellow tips that beep if they come in contact with any voltage. 

Hartman said City Light asked utilities around the country about their experiences with contact voltage issues and was told that typically one in 337 streetlights could have problems. Based on that average, City Light could have as many as 60 poles with similar problems.

On Tuesday, crews checked all the poles in the Greenbridge neighborhood, which has lights similar to those at High Point, and found no problems. City Light hopes to have all the inspections completed by May, if not sooner, Hartman said. “We don’t want people to think the situation is unsafe,” said Hartman. “If people notice a streetlight is on during the day or flickering at night or if they walk by a metal pole and feel a tingling, report this immediately.

Story via SeattleTimesNWSource.com

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