Streetlight safety: More City Light inspections after Queen Anne dog death, High Point problem

We’re at the Seattle Municipal Tower downtown, where Seattle City Light superintendent Jorge Carrasco is leading a media briefing about streetlight safety, in the wake of both the Thanksgiving Day electrocution of a dog who walked onto an electrified plate by a Queen Anne light, and a High Point incident revealed last night. Though City Light’s account did not mention names, HP resident Wendy Hughes-Jelen identified herself in WSB comments as the person who called to report a streetlight that appeared to be having problems, after her Italian greyhound Sophia acted oddly around it. Carrasco says the pole she reported (on SW Raymond, near the one in our photo) was indeed found to have “voltage” on the pole – no one was injured, however. That has been repaired, and he says after immediate testing of a half-dozen poles nearby, crews also went out yesterday and tested all 170 streetlights in the High Point area to be sure there were no other problems; there weren’t, but the grounding system there will be evaluated, in case a “more robust” grounding system is needed, according to Carrasco. Other “similar” developments will be checked ASAP, he said – listing them later as Greenbridge in White Center, as well as two Seattle developments, Rainier Vista and New Holly. The problem that caused the voltage in the High Point pole, according to the superintendent, was a frayed wire. The pole carried 50 volts, said City Light staffers at the briefing, which Carrasco confirmed could have been a problem if a pet or child had touched it before it was fixed. The voltage involved in the Queen Anne dog’s death, they said, was 90.

Here’s what he mentioned regarding safety “going forward”: As of New Year’s Day, there’s a new grounding standard for all metal poles, and City Light will be accountable for all inspections from thereon out. “We operate the streetlight system – we need to be the ones making sure the streetlights are safe,” Carrasco said. (It was revealed in coverage of the Queen Anne dog incident that SDOT had some accountability for checking the lights.) He also discussed the decorative streetlights that are in place in some neighborhoods – saying it’s difficult for crews to keep track of the different grounding configurations. “We are going to reduce the number of options going forward,” Carrasco said, regarding those types of streetlamps, in order to reduce the chances of safety hazards. He also announced a plan to test all 20,000 existing metal-poled streetlights (the rest of the city’s system has wooden poles) for voltage between now and next May 1st, while noting that a just-completed inventory of streetlights has had crews visiting all of those poles fairly recently, with no problems detected at the time. “We had a human being in the past year touching every one of those poles, metal or wood, and no problems were reported,” he reiterated. (As part of the inventory process, a metal plate was attached to metal poles.)

If you see anything of concern with a streetlight or pole, Carrasco stressed, call City Light at 206-684-7056 (the number we mentioned last night); he says staff has been trained so that they will recognize signs of a problem requiring an immediate inspection. We are checking to see what hours that number is answered, and what to do if you see a potential problem after-hours. Bottom line, though, SCL says these problems are extremely rare, so – Carrasco insists – you do NOT need to be worried that every streetlight pole you see is a potential hazard.

11 Replies to "Streetlight safety: More City Light inspections after Queen Anne dog death, High Point problem"

  • Jim December 9, 2010 (11:48 am)

    “We had a human being in the past year touching every one of those poles, metal or wood, and no problems were reported,”

    Were they standing barefoot on the sidewalk on a rainy day?? That means nothing. If it was a city light tech, he probably had OSHA EH (electrical hazard) rated shoes on, giving him protection up to 14,000 volts… that doesn’t help the family dog any.

  • onceachef December 9, 2010 (12:18 pm)

    Had the electrocution been a child (and I’m not minimizing the loss of the dog) all hell would break loose. I’m sure it’s a daunting and expensive task (from a labor standpoint) to check and fix any problem poles, but a lawsuit, not to mention loss of life, would be a lot worse…the city’s got to do it.

  • Ken December 9, 2010 (12:46 pm)

    The light pole contractors that put in most if not all of the poles on 32nd ave in highpoint (the SDOT side of the street) had to be reinspected and badgered for nearly 7 months before the city would accept them and apply power.
    I believe the bulbs turned out to be expensive special order much like the “green” 500w halogens used in hard to reach places in the developer built homes.

    They still work erratically, sometimes on sometimes out in the middle of the night and they supply much less light than the old style lights with large gaps between lighted areas.

    They are probably not dangerous, but the design and construction phase of the utilities in the highpoint area vary depending on which contractor was in charge of what area.

  • Ken December 9, 2010 (12:50 pm)

    Also note: City inspectors are in the highpoint area today noting trees that are in danger of violating clearance rules for electric overhead lines. The SHA developed parts of Highpoint have all underground utilities.

    Looks like the city will remove or prune trees that are growing in dangerous places at no cost to the homeowner.

  • Beth December 9, 2010 (1:57 pm)

    GOOD FOR THE CITY! This response should happen without question.

  • Digidoll December 9, 2010 (2:42 pm)

    Holy cow! I didn’t hear abt the dog electrocution death. My dog got shocked in Bellevue a couple of years back… he was peeing on a street tree with Xmas lights on it, and apparently he made a connection with the power. He yelped and the lights shorted out. Funny at the time. Not so funny anymore.

  • Wendy Hughes-Jelen December 9, 2010 (4:32 pm)

    All utilities in High Point are underground, not just on SHA blocks. There should not be any branch issues anywhere east of 32nd/Lanham.
    The poles are not the issue, the base of the pole, either the bolts or the plate beneath, is what my friend’s dog touched on Sunday night. I don’t think my dog ever touched it, she just knew to steer clear.

  • Dale R December 9, 2010 (5:04 pm)

    Google “electrocution pole”. Humans in other cities have been fried while walking near metal poles during rainy weather. In one Arizona city that opposes pedestrianism, grounding is so poor that emergency service radios don’t work correctly near intersections.

    I don’t believe you can test a pole for safety by measuring voltage at a given time or touching every pole like on Monk. If a metal pole isn’t grounded and a current from any source is induced in the pole, it can suddenly and without warning become “hot”.

  • Ken December 9, 2010 (5:15 pm)

    Highpoint is the neighborhood, not just the redeveloped parts of the original Highpoint “projects”

    Only the SHA redeveloped area is underground utilities, however since it is 400 acres I understand those who live in the new building might think everything is underground.

    Since I understand electricity (and had pdf maps of the underground plan), and watched many of the poles being erected and miswired by non english speaking laborers before the inspectors came by and tore it out and wrote them up, I know how possible and even likely it is that poor wiring practices could result in a bad ground and a few out of the hundreds escape the inspectors.

    Dozens of the underground utility vaults were buried with no drainage, mostly comcast and telco and had to be dug out and repoured before the vendors could connect necessary wiring. Some of the original contractors were fired entirely and the next lowest bidder called in. Fiber conduits the did not line up and telco vaults nearly ten feet from where they were supposed to be had to be redone just on my block.

  • Wendy Hughes-Jelen December 9, 2010 (6:09 pm)

    Yes Ken I was referring to the 120 acre redeveloped area only. Seems a lot of people still don’t want to be considered to be living in High Point when they are between 35th and 32nd since everyone thinks of the redeveloped area when High Point is mentioned. Since the light that had the issue here is of a different type than those outside of the redeveloped area – and that the other redeveloped areas of NewHolly, Rainier Vista, and Greenbridge in White Center are getting immediate inspections because the lights are the same type in all 4 communities.

    Branch trimming doesn’t happen as often as it should on residential streets, much of the time it is the homeowner who has not maintained their own trees to keep them away from the lines. It seems the city has never had enough people to address this particular issue.

  • Wendy Hughes-Jelen December 9, 2010 (6:20 pm)

    I guess I was trying to differentiate between the SHA and non-SHA parts of the redeveloped High Point, not the Old and New parts of High Poont. Only half of the High Point redeveloped area is SHA rental units, the rest is single family residences, townhomes, or condos occupied by homeowners. Everyone brings their own set of lenses to the party.

Sorry, comment time is over.

WP-Backgrounds by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann