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Conowingo Power vandalism prompts $1,000 reward offer


In the last six months, vandals have struck five Conowingo Power Co. facilities in northeastern Harford, causing thousands of dollars in damage and temporary outages of electrical services.

The vandals also pose a threat to the environment: The damaged equipment contains mineral oil that could contaminate soil and ground water if it leaks.

To prevent further damage, the Harford County Crime Solvers group is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the vandals.

People with information on the incidents should call the Crime Solvers hot line at 877-STOP. Callers don't have to give their names or appear in court.

DeWayne D. Curry, spokesman for the Harford Sheriff's Office, said investigators have suspects in at least one of the cases.

Police are not certain if the incidents are related and hope the reward helps the leads investigators are working on, Curry said.

"The reward is an extra incentive," Curry said.

"But the realization that [callers] won't have to appear in court, I feel, is a bigger drawing factor."

The incidents include:

* Dec. 27: A regulator in the 1700 block of Castleton Road was damaged.

* Jan. 16: A transformer in the 800 block of Priestford Road was damaged.

* Feb. 16: The Castleton Road regulator was damaged again.

* May 3: A regulator in the 3400 block of Mill Green Road was damaged.

* May 17: A substation at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Route 623 was damaged.

The incidents mark the first time Conowingo has experienced such a string of vandalism, although utility officials said its elec

trical equipment is occasionally damaged.

Spokesmen for Conowingo and the Sheriff's Office declined to say how the equipment was damaged, fearing copy-cat incidents.

John Denver, spokesman for Conowingo, said the company is still calculating the amount of money spent to repair and replace damaged equipment. He declined to estimate the damage.

"It's been many thousands of dollars in equipment and many more in manpower," Denver said.

The first four incidents -- involving transformers and regulators -- caused temporary disruptions of electrical services to the company's 3,500 customers in northeastern Harford, he said.

The power company had to take the substation out of operation for repairs, but was able to maintain electrical services, Denver said.

In the first four incidents, the county's hazardous materials unit was notified because of the mineral oil that leaked from the damaged equipment, Denver said.

The unit responded to two of the incidents, but the company handled the clean-up in each case.

A total of about 50 gallons of the highly refined oil, used to cool and insulate the electrical equipment, leaked from the damaged regulators and transformers.

Company officials worry about potential environmental damage the oil could cause, Denver said.

A substation contains up to 1,000 gallons of oil.

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