Shocking findings in Surrey and Delta

U.S. firm finds errant electricity in local streetlights.

  • Feb. 17, 2011 1:00 p.m.
Shocking findings in Surrey and Delta

A number of streetlights in Surrey and Delta carry unwanted charges of electricity that could harm humans or animals.

New Jersey firm Power Survey Company (PSC) drove through Surrey on its way to Vancouver to check power leaks in that city.

The firm was invited to Vancouver by an animal rights activist after a bull mastiff was shocked in Vancouver’s Woodland Park.

During about a half-hour scan in Surrey and Delta over the last weekend, the company found a number of electrically charged street lamps in Surrey and a couple in Delta.

“We found 14 to 15 findings in Surrey – structures that are unintentionally energized on the surface,” PSC president Tom Catanese told The Leader in an interview Wednesday.

While those structures could include a piece of energized concrete or a manhole cover, the majority of them were street lights.

“I don’t think we were on more than one or two streets in Surrey,” Catanese said. “I can’t imagine it was more than half an hour to an hour, tops.”

While most of the unwanted electricity found in Surrey and Delta was of a lower voltage than in Vancouver, Catanese said he found some in the “30-40-50” volt range in this area.

“Forty volts can kill you, and we may have stuff at that threshold,” he said. “We found some greatly more egregious stuff in Vancouver, but we spent a great deal more time there as well.”

On one street lamp in Vancouver, the company found more than 200 volts charging through the exterior of a lamp standard.

Vince Lalonde, Surrey’s general manager of engineering, was intrigued by the findings of Catanese and said he will be in contact with him.

“We’re more than interested to find out if there are areas that have this problem in Surrey,” Lalonde said. “The second thing is, if it is cost-effective technology (used by PSC), we would definitely consider using it.”

The number of power leaks in this region were much higher than in U.S. cities, many of which have laws requiring frequent checks in areas that have populations greater than 50,000.

While it’s mostly animals that get harmed by unintentionally charged street lamps, people have been hurt as well.

“There’s been a number of human fatalities,” Catanese said. “I had a call this morning from some parents from Baltimore who had lost their daughter just a couple of years back. In Florida, I know in the past couple of years, there were two kids killed walking through a puddle next to an energized street light with 100 volts on it.”

He also measured sites in Burnaby, Richmond and North Vancouver.

“They all had findings,” Catanese said, adding this region ranks among some of the top U.S. cities regarding the number of electrical faults. “In terms of findings per linear mile, it ranks among some of the more dangerous U.S. cities. In terms of voltage level, it’s about the highest we’ve ever seen.”

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson, also the chair of the Metro Vancouver Board, said publicly she wants the region to explore the prevalence of the problem and seek ways to fix it.

Jackson told The Leader she was surprised to hear of the two incidences in Delta, and has instructed staff to look into it.

Surrey North Delta Leader