Nova Scotia Power (NSP) appears to be ignoring one the major causes of recent power outages; the lack of proper and regular maintenance of infrastructure serving parts of Richmond County.
Since the summer, the western part of Richmond County has experienced multiple and lengthy power outages, even during moderately windy and rainy weather.
According to NSP, three of those outages were due to inclement weather, starting with a lightning storm on August 1 which knocked out power for several hours in some parts of Richmond County; hours after power was restored to most of the county and the Town of Port Hawkesbury.
As expected, power was disrupted in early September after Hurricane Dorian walloped the Strait area. What was not expected was that, for some in Isle Madame, the lights would not come back on for more than a week.
While the area did experience a wind storm on October 17, whether it was strong enough to again disrupt power, is a point of contention. Yes other areas of the province did lose power temporarily, but this is the type of weather experienced regularly in Nova Scotia, and if it fails then, it will fail many times during a calendar year.
If there was regular tree clearing and limbing, it is conceivable high winds would not be causing as many outages as they seem to be.
Finally, on November 12, power service was once again disrupted for 2,400 customers in the Lower River, Evanston, Whiteside, Lennox Passage, and Isle Madame areas, for approximately five hours.
Since the temperature at the time was around 12 degrees Celsius, and the wind was moderate, it was safely assumed that this was not another power outage that could be pawned off on the weather.
NSP confirmed that an insulator failed on a power pole along Whiteside Road causing the pole to catch fire. This forced Power Line Technicians to work through the night to reframe the pole, by cutting off the top portion of the pole where it was burned, installing a new cross-arm, replacing the insulators, then re-installing the wire.
The thought of any crews having to do this – in stronger wind, under heavier precipitation, in much colder temperatures – arouses suspicion that any such emergency could be addressed during the winter when houses get cold quickly, despite NSP’s assurances to the contrary.
Although the power was restored at around 5:40 a.m., NSP confirmed that 438 customers in the Petit de Grat area again lost power because the line couldn’t supply the sudden surge in demand. Nova Scotia Power explained that there are times when home heating systems engage at the same time when power is restored.
Because NSP’s overnight crew had to go off-shift, a day crew took over and was able to bring the remaining customers back on-line; 329 customers around 11:30 a.m. and another 109 shortly after noon.
Despite this demonstrated stress on the system, NSP continues to deny there are shortcomings, pointing out that the insulator which failed recently was only 25 years old.
NSP also denied that maintenance of its infrastructure is also an ongoing problem, noting that trees have been trimmed along that line over the last couple of years, and that inspection, maintenance and tree-trimming will continue.
If that line has been maintained, then it must be other sections of line, other aspects of power infrastructure, that need more attention because power outages in moderate weather are too frequent for customers in this part of Richmond County.
For one thing, other parts of Richmond County have not experienced the number or length of recent outages as those surrounding Isle Madame.
The fact that neighbouring areas, like Port Hawkesbury – which regularly experiences harsh weather – also does not experience the same number of power outages, is further proof.
Places like Guysborough County, which receives similar weather to Richmond County, but has fewer outages, is another example.
But there might be a remedy to this ongoing problem.
When prolonged power outages became too frequent in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough a decade ago, councillors and the warden took NSP to task for its lack of attention. Since that time, the power company has committed to improving infrastructure and the municipal unit now deals with fewer prolonged outages.
Keeping that lesson in mind, perhaps it’s time elected representatives in Richmond County, municipal and provincial, take a cue from their counterparts across Chedabucto Bay and become the squeaky wheel.