About two dozen residents attended the New Windsor Town Council meeting Wednesday night to air their concerns and frustrations about power outages they say they’ve been experiencing regularly.
In front of a representative from Potomac Edison First Energy Company, multiple locals addressed their issues with having power outages not just here and there but on a daily basis.
David Kline, representing Potomac Edison, let the residents know that the utility acknowledges the problem and is looking for solutions.
“So the problems that you’re seeing aren’t new to me, I’ve seen those other places before," Kline said. "So, we are aware that there is a problem here. We understand that and we’re trying to work on it. The problem with the problem is there’s not just one thing that’s wrong and we’re not sure of everything.”
Kline listed four possible causes for the outages: faulty equipment, weather, animals and accidents.
Some of the reasons did not suffice for the crowd at Wednesday’s meeting because, according to them, animals and trees are everywhere and other towns don’t have the outages at the same frequency they have been experiencing. The point about animals especially didn’t add up for two residents who claimed their power usually goes out in the morning and it “can’t be the same squirrel" running across the power line.
Kline broke down what happens during these momentary outages.
The way the system is supposed to work, according to Kline, is that a tree rubbing against a line is determined to be a fault and the circuit is broken for a couple of seconds while it tries to reset itself and turn the power back on. This will occur a few times because “most faults are temporary,” but after a few times, if the fault doesn’t clear, the power will remain off. Kline referred to these temporary outages as “blips.”
“So the situation today is anywhere on [the lines] throughout, however many miles that is, if something touches the line or if there’s a fault, it’s going to end up throwing everybody off back at the substation," Kline said. "If you do have an outage like that, then we have to call out a truck and they have to come, they have to patrol the line and try to figure out where the fault occurred, what happened, and they’ll reset it and bring as many customers back on as possible. Then, if a tree is on the line, then they’ll remove the tree and so forth, and fix it.”
On Oct. 31 an insulator failed, causing a pole to catch fire and the top of the pole to burn off, in turn locking out the entire circuit and cutting power for about 1,300 customers, according to Kline. Potomac Edison was able to restore power to more than 500 of those customers “fairly quickly" and the rest were out until they could replace the pole.
When asked if Potomac Edison recorded the outages, Kline said they did. But when he denied the claim that outages were occurring on a daily basis, residents erupted with claims of daily outages, sometimes multiple times a day.
Councilman Ed Smith also chimed in with his own grievances about the power outages in town.
“So, anecdotally, let me tell you a little bit of what I’ve experienced," he said. “So I’ve actually been dealing with this for about 10 years with the blips. My electricity has gone off pretty much every single day for those 10 years.”
Smith said Potomac Edison had placed a monitor on his house that was only supposed to be there a week, searching for faults, but after more than a month with the monitor in place Smith called the company to press them on the problem.
“It wasn’t until sometime later that I spoke to one of your field people who finally admitted that the problem seems to be at the circuit itself. It’s the oldest circuit, from my understanding, the oldest circuit on the grid for Potomac Edison. It has been problematic," Smith said. "Potomac Edison is aware of that, when I called Potomac Edison and asked about that they told me, and this was some years ago, that that circuit was on the schedule to be replaced and the substation was on the schedule to be replaced, and it still doesn’t seem to have happened.”
According to Kline, as a requirement of the Maryland Public Service Commission, Potomac Edison must work on what are called “the worst performing circuits,” which he says doesn’t apply to the circuit Smith was referring to because after some work was done on it, it was deemed “no longer the worst performing circuit.”
Kline could not give a definite projection of when the circuit would be worked on further.
Kline urged those who still have reoccurring issues to report them, adding that they could contact him directly or through Mayor Neal Roop.
“If you report where it’s happening and what time that’s helpful, too — maybe it has to do with temperature changes as it warms up in the morning, but it’s helpful. I’m trying to isolate where the problem is," Kline said.
Roop also made a follow-up post on Facebook letting people know to how to reach Kline and what information to inform Potomac Edison. The post said:
“First, they are investigating the specific issues that were brought to his attention last night. In order to isolate the issues, it would be very helpful if you would email Dave at email@example.com when you experience a momentary interruption.”
Roop’s post also said to provide date, time, address and weather conditions (ice, snow, wind, calm, etc.) when submitting notification of issues.
“If they can isolate the exact locations and conditions where these incidents occur it will be very helpful in fixing the problem,” the post continued.