Utility Told to Prepare D.C. Manhole Strategy

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Pepco Told to Prepare D.C. Manhole Strategy

By Petula Dvorak Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, June 17, 2000; Page B02

The D.C. Public Service Commission ordered Potomac Electric Power Co. yesterday to develop a comprehensive plan to diminish the District's problems with flying manhole covers and to report all underground incidents.

After Pepco revealed 52 incidents -- including smoke, flames and blasts -- were not reported last year because they did not disrupt power, the commission ordered the company to compile annual reports detailing such incidents.

The commission also directed a full evaluation of Pepco's underground facilities and said Pepco had submitted an inadequate report on how the utility planned to keep a lid on explosions.

"The Commission finds that Pepco's May 24 . . . report is woefully inadequate and falls far short of what has been and still is required, in view of continuing incidents, including the fire and explosions in Pepco's underground facilities." The order gives Pepco a July 21 deadline to file a new report.

Pepco said it already has agreed to the commission's demands and has begun taking action.

"We're in pretty full agreement on everything," said Pepco spokesman Bob Dobkin.

After a District task force recommended last week that Pepco report all manhole incidents, the utility began revising its procedures, company officials said.

In March, Pepco agreed to inspect 5,000 manholes each year after incidents downtown and in Georgetown. But when additional explosions occurred, Pepco responded to an order from the commission to "increase significantly the number of manhole inspections" and announced that it would plan 10,000 annual inspections.

But the commission demanded more of Pepco yesterday.

Starting in July, the utility is required to submit detailed monthly reports on manhole inspections, including the number and types of cables found, physical deterioration of cables, the number of problems, corrective action taken and the overall condition inside.

The commission also directed its chief engineer to arrange a study of the "integrity, condition, and age of Pepco's electric underground facilities" and to determine whether Pepco should replace all low-voltage cables more than 20 years old.

An overhaul of the District's underground wiring is not unreasonable, said commission Chairman Edward M. Meyers, who noted that Chicago is setting into motion such a plan at a cost of more than $1 billion. During a radio interview this week, Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said that if the District were to launch a wholesale overhaul of underground systems, federal money should help maintain the facilities the federal government uses.

It's something that Herbert Harris Jr., chairman of the Consumer Utility Board, repeatedly has sought. "It's only fair that our federal partners help us on this," Harris said.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), June 17, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ