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More bad light poles in Seattle

More problems have been discovered with Seattle City Light poles and sidewalk plates
Gary Davis
More problems have been discovered with Seattle City Light poles and sidewalk plates

Seattle’s ongoing inspection of streetlights has turned up more dangerous structures.  But city officials insist the potential harm to people and pets is minimal.

Seattle City Light began testing all 30 thousand metal lights and sidewalk covers after a dog was electrocuted on Queen Anne Hill in November.  The metal plate the dog stepped on was emitting 90 volts of electricity.  Frayed wires were the problem.  

The latest round of inspections in West Seattle and the International district have turned up problems similar to the one on Queen Anne—dangerous levels of electricity being emitted from light poles and covers. Suzanne Hartman, with Seattle City Light, says people shouldn’t be alarmed.

“In each case we sent a crew out and they de-energized the pole immediately. I think the good thing to remember here is that we are proactively doing the testing and we’re finding these and no additional injuries have occurred to a pet or to a human,” Hartman said.

Hartman says the city is about halfway through with its inspection.  She says,  by industry standards, the number of problems found is actually fairly low. It's less than one per thousand) 

In the case of the electrocuted dog, not only were there frayed wires, but the grounding system didn’t work either.  Once all the streetlight wiring is checked out, Mayor Mike McGinn has pledged to look into the grounding systems on all the lights as well.  It could take up to 10 years.

The Mayor says the city may also limit the type of decorative street lights allowed.  Such lights are often installed in neighborhoods to make them more pedestrian friendly, but the Mayor says it’s resulted in a lack of standardization and makes it harder for the city to maintain them.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.