Pepco identifies 31 contact voltage risks In downtown Bethesda

Old Georgetown downed traffic  lights (file photo)Pepco on Tuesday released results of a “contact voltage” survey that shows nearly 30 downtown Bethesda street lights were energized because of faulty or damaged wiring.

The Contact Voltage Survey report is required of Pepco in downtown Bethesda, downtown Silver Spring and the Rockville Courthouse District, three high-density areas that rely on underground electrical systems.

In surveys last October 22 and October 23 using a truck-mounted voltage detector, Pepco found a total of 99 structures in the three areas with voltage of more than 1 volt, which the law deems a risk. Of the 31 structures deemed to be a risk in downtown Bethesda, almost each was a county-maintained street light.

A street light at 7301 Waverly St. was determined to have 16.2 volts of surface electricity. Others were determined to have 27 and 29 volts. In each case, Ppeco tagged the location, cut off power to the light and had Montgomery County contractors come in and repair damaged or open wiring inside the pole to clear the contact voltage.

Power companies in Maryland are required to survey and clear contact voltage in structures such as light poles, manhole covers and fencing because of the Deanna Camille Green Rule.

Green died in 2006 after reaching out to a park fence to stretch during a softball game. The fence was live, energized by a faulty underground cable, which shot 270 volts of electricity though the 14-year-old’s body.

Pepco validated any contact voltage risks found with a truck-mounted scanner with a handheld scanner, then cut power and placed safety cones around any at-risk structures.

Pepco also tested fences around substations and found risks in street signs, traffic lights a mail box and a fire hydrant. Many of those structures were found to have more than one volt because of close proximity to over-energized street lights.

You can read the official report through the Maryland Public Service Commission’s website here.


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