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City Light Changing Streetlight Inspection, Maintenance

Superintendent Jorge Carrasco announced several changes today for Seattle City Light’s streetlight inspections and maintenance that are designed to enhance safety.

Superintendent Jorge Carrasco announced several changes today for Seattle City Light’s streetlight inspections and maintenance that are designed to enhance safety.

“Everything we do at Seattle City Light starts with safety in mind,” Carrasco said. “Our recent efforts around the detection of elevated voltage levels found with metal streetlight poles and equipment demonstrates just how seriously we take this matter.

“While it is impossible to eliminate all risk when working with electricity, we have identified several areas in our streetlight inspection and maintenance work where we can make important improvements,” Carrasco said. “Updating the standards for installation and inspection of new streetlights, enhancing routine testing and monitoring of existing lights, incorporating streetlights into our asset management inventory tracking program, and making plans for updating or replacing older equipment will reduce the risk of contact voltage for the public and our workers.”

You can watch Carrasco’s presentation to the City Council’s Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee here. And view his Power Point presentation Metal Streetlight Testing_02_16_11FINAL.

When new streetlights are installed, City Light will be responsible for inspecting and approving the equipment before it is energized.

The utility will establish a new set of streetlight standards including an outline of the approved designs for pedestrian lighting that developers will be able to use.

City Light will monitor the condition of all streetlights through its asset management program.  As part of that effort, the utility will finish an inventory and assessment of all streetlights to determine the condition of poles, wires, and the grounding and bonding for the equipment.

Whenever City Light crews perform any kind of maintenance on a streetlight, they will check for contact voltage and make any necessary repairs whenever voltage is found.

By the end of the year, City Light will develop a schedule for assessing the electrical grounding of older streetlights and upgrading those that do not meet current standards. The utility also will develop a replacement schedule for streetlight infrastructure.

“Our new pole inspection policy will produce results that exceed national standards and will help ensure greater safety of our streetlight system,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, Chair of the Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee.  “I commend the leadership at City Light for taking ownership to identify, test, and repair all of the problem poles.” 

In November, a dog was electrocuted when it stepped on a metal groundcover plate for a streetlight on Queen Anne Avenue. A pinched wire and improper installation by a private contractor who failed to connect the required grounding wires caused the plate to be energized. The utility also received several reports of other potentially energized streetlight poles or groundcovers.

Carrasco ordered inspections on the more than 37,000 metal streetlight poles, groundcover plates and associated facilities. City Light crews and contractors identified 56 instances with contact voltage of at least 30 volts, including the Queen Anne location. In every case power was immediately cut off and repairs were either made on the spot, or as soon as the necessary parts were available.

Among the causes for the elevated voltages were frayed or pinched wires, broken photocells that turn on the lights when it gets dark and deteriorated wires on older equipment.

Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States.  It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents.  City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.