City Light Using Steel Wire to Reduce Theft Risk

Your Seattle City Light is responding to the growing problem of dangerous copper thefts by changing the material it uses to ground pole transformers and substation risers throughout its service territory.

Your Seattle City Light is responding to the growing problem of dangerous copper thefts by changing the material it uses to ground pole transformers and substation risers throughout its service territory.

Instead of pure copper wire, City Light now uses copper clad steel wire. The new wire is hard to cut and has little value as scrap.

“Our goal in changing materials is to maintain the reliability of your electricity service and protect public safety,” Superintendent Jorge Carrasco said. “And for anyone out there who thinks stealing wire is an easy way to make a buck, think twice. It’s not worth dying for.”

City Light was recently victimized by thieves who cut grounding wires from about a dozen utility poles in the Maple Leaf neighborhood, likely to sell as scrap metal.

Such thieves risk electrocution should they attempt to cut an energized wire, as happened in Enumclaw this week. http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattle911/2011/08/01/sheriff%E2%80%99s-office-would-be-metal-thief-badly-burned-at-substation/

While City Light uses a multi-point grounding system to protect public safety should a single grounding wire break or be disconnected, losing multiple wires compromises public safety as well.

City Light repaired the damaged equipment in Maple Leaf immediately, using the new steel wire.

Copper thefts are a problem throughout the country.  The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that copper thefts cause $1 billion in losses for utilities each year.

Near record prices for scrap metal seem to be driving a new surge in activity and fatalities, according to the New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/us/08theft.html Scrap copper now sells for about $4 a pound compared to $1.25 a pound in 2009.

If you see anyone attempting to cut wire from a utility pole, call 9-1-1. If you notice a utility pole that’s been damaged, please call us at (206) 684-3000.