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MD: More on “Smart Meter” Electric Fires

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Baltimore, MD:  The move­ment gath­ers out­side the Schae­fer Build­ing on August 28.  Hold­ing a sign decry­ing smart meters—the new “advanced” elec­tri­cal coun­ters util­i­ties around the coun­try are installing on people’s homes—is the last place George Karadi­mas expected to be dur­ing his retirement.  “I never knew any­thing about these things until March, April of this year,” the for­mer elec­tri­cal engi­neer and Elli­cott City res­i­dent says. “Then I hap­pened to get on an inter­net radio show about prob­lems peo­ple were hav­ing down in Texas, peo­ple who I hap­pened to per­son­ally know. So I lis­tened and I said ‘you’re off the wall.’ Then I stud­ied it and I started freak­ing out myself.”

Karadi­mas was among about two dozen anti-smart meter activists who packed a hastily-convened meet­ing of the Mary­land Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion August 28. The com­mis­sion, hav­ing read about smart meter electrical fires in Penn­syl­va­nia and PEPCO Energy Group’s deci­sion to sus­pend instal­la­tion of them, asked Mary­land util­i­ties for infor­ma­tion on their smart meter programs.  “This is a pre­lim­i­nary gath­er­ing,” PSC Chair­man Dou­glas Nazar­ian told the crowd in the 16th floor hear­ing room. “We’re not going to hear from other par­ties today.”

That dis­pleased the activists, one of whom, Har­ford County State Del­e­gate Glen Glass, issued a press release after­ward express­ing his dis­ap­point­ment. “The tes­ti­mony from BG&E and PEPCO con­firms that Smart Meters are dan­ger­ous, intru­sive, and have a ten­dency to break and over­heat,” Glass’s email said. “I call for a mora­to­rium to be placed on Smart Meter instal­la­tion due to these facts as well as reports that fires have been a result of these devices.”

The anti-smart-meter move­ment has been build­ing for sev­eral years, made up of peo­ple wor­ried about microwave radi­a­tion (“I’m chem­i­cally and electro-mechanically sen­si­tive,” one activist says) and the loss of pri­vacy inher­ent in the hourly read­ings the new meters will broad­cast back to the util­ity. The meters are meant to pave the way for per-hour changes in elec­tric­ity pric­ing and goad cus­tomers into reduc­ing their usage dur­ing higher-priced times of the day. That ele­ment of the plan—and the fact that it would shift the risk of higher energy prices from the util­ity (which was con­ceived in part to mit­i­gate that risk) to the cus­tomer base (which pays the util­ity to man­age that risk)—has been sel­dom crit­i­cized by the move­ment. The fires are a new thing.

Util­ity rep­re­sen­ta­tives told the com­mis­sion they had not expe­ri­enced any fires from the smart meter instal­la­tions yet, although BGE has installed 65,000 of the binder-sized devices, PEPCO about 186,000.  BGE has replaced five meters that sig­naled high tem­per­a­tures (just under the boil­ing point of water), but has had no fires and no fail­ures, says Michael Butts, BGE’s direc­tor of busi­ness trans­for­ma­tion. Three of the hot meters had “loose jaws,” he said—the con­nec­tors where the new meters meet the elec­tri­cal box on the house.

Nei­ther com­pany uses the brand of meters—Sensus—that burned in Penn­syl­va­nia and which are sub­ject to a whistle­blower law suit in Alabama.

PEPCO had 15 over­heaters, and no fires, Karen Lefkowitz, PEPCO’s vice pres­i­dent of busi­ness trans­for­ma­tion said. Most of the prob­lems there were at the con­nec­tion to the house. “It’s the exchange process that intro­duces some risk,” she told the commissioners.

The old meters are taken out “hot”—with the power still run­ning. Then the new meters are plugged in. The sock­ets in the houses, some of which may be decades old, do not always take kindly to such tam­per­ing. If the power going through them at the time of the swap is high, it may arc, pit­ting the wires and caus­ing a hot spot. If the arc­ing continues—or starts up later because of a loose connection—the new meters, which are mostly plas­tic, can burst into flames.

It’s rare, but it happens.

“I have an unbi­ased opin­ion. I’m for tech­nol­ogy. But the way this tech­nol­ogy has been imple­mented has caused a dis­as­ter,” Karadi­mas says.

Story via citypaper.com

 

MD: Smart Meter Electrical Fires

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Baltimore, MD: Regulators in two states are investigating allegations of dangerously overheating electric meters after Peco Energy Co. this month suspended installation of the devices when two of its customers’ houses caught fire.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission staff has asked Peco for results of its investigation into the failure rates of the advanced “smart meters” that the utility began installing in March. Peco says 15 of the 186,000 digital devices it installed have overheated, including several that exploded into electrical fires.

The Maryland Public Service Commission, prompted by reports of the electrical fires in Pennsylvania, held a hearing Tuesday in Baltimore to explore what Maryland utilities are doing to monitor their smart-meter installations.

Story via philly.com

 

Arc Flash in MD Injures Two Workers

February 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Baltimore, MD –  Two Baltimore  construction workers were burned in an underground explosion and electrical fire while working in a manhole.  They both sustained first and second degree burns.  One was taken to a trauma center and the other to a burn center.    The cause of the arc flash is under investigation.

Legal Battle in NJ Brews From 2006 Electrical Accident That Killed Teen Girl

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND — Millville native Anthony “Bubba” Green, the 1981 Baltimore Colts defensive tackle, is in a heated battle with the City of Baltimore involving information that was allegedly kept from him about the 2006 death of his daughter.

On May 5, 2006, Deanna Green, 14, and her mother were participating in a church softball tournament in Druid Park Hill, Md. 

Deanna was stretching her muscles before her turn to bat while balancing on one hand. 

When she placed her other hand on a chain-link fence, she was electrocuted with 270 volts of current, according to an online memorial website about Deanna. 

She was rushed to a hospital, but died later that night.

There had been problems with the underground wiring and a piece of the fence was touching the wire that had been shorting out the field lights, according to Jose Anderson, advising attorney to the Green family.  

Shortly after the accident, the city held a press conference, claiming immunity from the case. 

Director of Parks and Recreation Connie A. Brown told the family and press that the city did not know anything was wrong with the lights and that they hadn’t worked on the field since 2003.

“We took them at their word,” Anderson said. 

Before a case was made, the lawyers representing the Greens sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) form to the city about the work that had been done on the field. 

The city refused to issue a full report, stating that it included attorney work product, information prepared by an attorney to a public document that is anticipated to be used in a lawsuit. 

This gives the city the right to withhold public documents. 

All the city provided was a two-page summary suggesting the field was in bad condition. 

It also included a letter stating the city had developed a “corrective plan” to repair the electrical problem in the field. 

Except for the limited summary, the city turned over nothing else, Anderson said.

The case went to court twice and the city managed to get itself dismissed from the case.

That looked like the end, but what happened next changed everything. 

According to Green, in 2008, Chief Solicitor for the City of Baltimore Linda C. Barclay provided the family with public documents that said the city contracted Douglas Electric and Lighting to “provide labor and material to make repairs to underground cables feeding exterior pole lights,” in the field in 2003. 

Barclay sent this information to the family the day before she retired. 

The Greens received this information after the city was granted immunity. 

The family took the electrical company that the city allegedly hired to repair the lights to court. 

The two parties never went to a trail and the electric company lost the summary judgment, because the information Green provided was enough evidence to reach a settlement. 

After the electrical company lost the summary, the company provided work orders and bills to the family stating that the city contracted the company to work on the Druid Park Hill electrical system not only in 2003, but also in 2004, 2005, and April 2006, a month prior to Deanna’s death. 

This was discovered earlier this year.

“Had the city said in their press conference that the investigation was not complete, then so be it,” Anderson said. “They did not and we were misled. That was the problem. The city never said anything about working on the fence. They fought us all the way.”

Green says the city has lied to him and his family and wishes the city would take accountability for the faulty electric lines and the accident. 

“We didn’t want lawsuits,” Green said. “We just wanted answers. All we talked about were answers. They talked about lawsuits. We’re tired of fighting them, but we feel there is a conspiracy here and the city needs to be held accountable.”

The Greens are now in the process of bringing the city back into the case, stating the city lied to them and has not taken responsibility. 

No reports from the city have been turned over to the Greens regarding work on the field.

Anderson is perplexed. His daughter was Deanna’s best friend.

“How far can they go with this? Eventually, they will have to turn over this information stating they worked on the field prior to her death,” Anderson said. “If someone loses their daughter, how could you not tell them how much contact you had at that location.”

To this day, the field has not been repaired, according to Anderson.

“We don’t want her death to be in vain without something positive coming from it,” said Nancy Green, Deanna’s mother, who was at the softball game when her daughter was electrocuted.

 “We want to fix the problem as opposed to letting it continue.”

Neither the mayor nor current director of parks and recreation have responded to efforts made by The News to contact them.