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Homeowners seek reimbursement SOUTHWEST Mount Airy * Woodbine * Taylorsville * Winfield Damage attributed to power surge


A group of homeowners who lost more than just electricity during a power surge incident June 5 don't want Potomac Edison Power Co. to forget about the night the lights went out in the Mount Airy countryside.

Damage suffered by individual homeowners range from none to $4,000, said Mount Airy resident Jack Aellen.

He is spearheading a citizen effort to get Potomac Edison to reimburse homeowners for expenses resulting from the power surge.

"It is time for [the company] to take more responsibility for these events," Mr. Aellen said at a recent meeting of the Countryside Electric Consumers, the homeowners affected by the power surge.

From microwave ovens to satellite dishes to garage door openers, much equipment was damaged June 5 when a falling tree brought a 34.5-kilovolt transmission line into contact with a 12-kilovolt distribution line.

The contact created a power surge that blasted over distribution lines into a number of homes serviced by the Woodfield feeder -- one of seven feeders to the Mount Airy substation.

Mr. Aellen estimated that one-third of about 400 homes that lost power between 9:30 p.m. June 5 and 3:46 a.m. June 6 may have sustained some damage. He said he does not have an exact tally of damages or the number of homes affected by the power surge.

At the meeting, Mr. Aellen urged every homeowner who incurred damages to send copies of his or her expenses and write a letter to Frank Fulton of the Consumer Assistance and Public Affairs division of the Public Service Commission at 231 E. Baltimore St., Baltimore, 21202.

"Potomac Edison will not admit that they are wrong," said Mr. Aellen. "The way to handle them is to talk to Frank Fulton and let him fix it."

After the outage, Potomac Edison said the company would not pay claims because the surge was beyond its control and no company negligence was involved.

The utility, which serves Frederick County and parts of Carroll and Montgomery counties, suggested that individuals should file claims with their homeowners' insurance companies.

Mr. Aellen said that many homeowners did turn in their claims but were unhappy that Potomac Edison did not take responsibility for the incident or reimburse the deductibles of $250 or more that they had to pay toward their claims.

"The insurance companies have their own ax to grind," he added.

The power surge was not preceded by high winds, and the storm thattook place that night happened about two hours after the power surge, according to Mr. Aellen.

"It was a still, windless night," he said.

Dane Robinson, damage claim representative for Potomac Edison, said Wednesday that 86 people have inquired about reimbursement for damages from the June 5 surge. He said the company Potomac Edison has not changed its position on paying claims.

Frequent power interruptions and prevention of damage from future incidents are primary concerns of Mr. Aellen, who has done research on surge protection that can be installed on 12-kilovolt lines.

He said he plans to represent the Countryside Electric Consumers with testimony at Potomac Edison's rate increase hearing Nov. 24 at Winchester Hall in Frederick.

The next meeting of the Countryside Electric Consumers will be on Nov. 19. For information, call Mr. Aellen at (301) 831-5889.

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