For Immediate Release
July 28, 2005
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"Find It, Fix It" Electrical Safety Task Force Announces Promising Results
Calls on businesses and citizens to help keep city streets safe
The Joint Task Force on Electrical Safety today presented Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and NSTAR Chairman, President and CEO Thomas J. May with the findings and recommendations of their final report, which included the results of a sweeping inspection of the electrical system in Boston. Mayor Menino and Mr. May appointed the Task Force in March to examine the issue of electrical safety in Boston after incidents of stray voltage were reported over the winter.
"This report highlights that there are many factors which create stray voltage conditions and to keep our streets safe, we must all be vigilant," Mayor Menino said. "From the City, to the electric company, to construction workers, to private businesses and residents---anyone who works with or uses electricity can play a positive role in helping to keep Boston's beautiful streets safe."
With a mandate of "Find It, Fix It," the Task Force set forth a comprehensive plan to enhance electrical safety through ongoing inspections, improved communication between NSTAR and the City, stricter enforcement of existing Dig Safe laws, and various outreach initiatives geared to educate property managers, contractors, and the general public about how stray voltage can be detected and prevented.
"Electrical safety has always been NSTAR's highest priority," said NSTAR's Thomas May. "But this Task Force has identified some key ways in which our company, the City and the public can better work together so that where there is an issue, we find it and fix it."
The Joint Task Force is comprised of members representing the Animal Rescue League of Boston, Guide Dog Users, Inc., Walk Boston, Cosentini Construction, the Utility Workers Union of America, as well as representatives of the City and NSTAR. Through numerous Task Force and subcommittee meetings the team examined the various factors and conditions that have led to stray voltage incidents. Based on that knowledge, the Task Force put forth a series of more than 15 recommendations to address the issue.
Over the last four months, both the City and NSTAR conducted targeted inspections of the areas and equipment that are most vulnerable to stray voltage. City officials from numerous responsible agencies inspected 93,000 city-owned streetlights, pull-box covers and controllers; 6,500 traffic poles and boxes; and 1,359 fire boxes. City inspectors detected stray voltage at 62 of these locations, all of which were promptly repaired and made safe. Likewise, NSTAR inspected more than 11,000 NSTAR-owned streetlights, manhole covers, and other pieces of equipment. Stray voltage was detected at three of these locations, each of which was promptly repaired and made safe. This comprehensive inspection is virtually complete, with a small percentage of testing scheduled to be completed in September.
In March, the Joint Task Force began a multi-pronged investigation into electrical safety issues to determine the causes of stray voltage and where possible, prevent its occurrence. The investigation found stray voltage occurs largely due to harsh winter weather, corrosion caused by road salt, and accidental or intended third party damage.
"The safety of our streets and sidewalks is important not only for people, but for pets and other animals as well," said Task Force member Nicholas Gilman, Chief Operating Officer of the Animal Rescue League of Boston. "The Task Force's recommendations are far reaching and outline a proactive strategy that will significantly improve electrical safety in Boston."
The Task Force examined existing electrical operations and maintenance practices, reviewed industry research and made the following recommendations:
Find It – Fix It · Initial Inspections and Testing – The City of Boston and NSTAR will continue their baseline assessment and inspection of electrical infrastructure; · Recurring Testing – Inspections by the City and NSTAR of all electrical infrastructure will continue on a rolling three-year basis; · Temporary Repairs – Establish standards for the City and NSTAR to secure damaged infrastructure until permanent repairs are completed; · Historical Records Review – Review previous historical records to determine potential hazard areas, and develop a database to track equipment in the future.
See It – Report It · Public Awareness – Reach out to contractors, large facility managers, and private citizens to educate about the signs of stray voltage and the importance of reporting suspected cases; · Dig Safe Outreach – Conduct expanded outreach to participants in the Dig Safe program to improve compliance; · Outreach to Private Owners – Conduct regular outreach to private property managers to encourage regular inspections of privately-owned equipment that may impact public areas.
Enforcement and Monitoring · Dig Safe Rewards and Penalties – Establish a revised reward and penalty structure for self-reporting and the failure to report violations; · Road Salt Alternatives –Consider alternatives to road salt on sidewalks; · Non-Conductive Streetlight Covers -- Conversion of metal streetlight covers to non-conductive material; · Technology Enhancements – Explore new technologies and preventive work practices to mitigate possible electrical safety issues; · Task Force Monitoring – Reconvene leaders from NSTAR and the City every six months to review the status of implementation efforts.
The Joint Task Force was made up of the following individuals: James W. Hunt, III, Chief of Environment and Energy Services, Boston Joseph R. Nolan, Jr., NSTAR Senior Vice President of Customer & Corporate Relations Paul G. Afonso, Chairman of the Mass. Department of Telecommunications and Energy Philip Andreas, NSTAR Vice President, Electrical Operations Joseph Casazza, Commissioner of Public Works Department, Boston Gary P. Sullivan, President of UWUA Local 369 Alice Dampman, Guide Dog Users, Inc. Michael Galvin; Chief of Basic City Services, Boston Nicholas Gilman; C.O.O., Animal Rescue League of Boston William J. Good, III, Acting Commissioner of Inspectional Services Department, Boston Wendy Landman, Executive Director of Walk Boston Dick Lieber, Cosentini Construction
The complete Report of the Joint Task Force on Electrical Safety can be viewed and downloaded from the Task Force Website at www.cityofboston.gov/electrical safety.