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Seattle City Light finds 56 streetlights with voltage issues

Street light near condos in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle.
Paula Wissel
Street light near condos in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle.

Seattle City Light has identified 56 streetlights in the Seattle area that could give off potentially dangerous voltage.  That’s the final tally from an inspection of nearly 37,000 metal streetlights for voltage issues.

The utility began looking into the problem after a dog was electrocuted on Thanksgiving.  It died after it stepped on an energized groundcover plate next to a metal streetlight on Queen Anne Hill.  

Each day of the inspection, the utility company released locations of faulty streetlights that may lead to the problem called "contact voltage" with more than 30 volts of electricity.  (The metal plate that killed the dog was emitting 90 volts.)  The potentially dangerous streetlights span the service area from Tukwila to Lake Forest Park.  Here's a sampling with repair status comments from Powerlines, the utility's news site:

  • 12882 Shorecrest Dr SW, Burien, 50 volts, a faulty lamp fixture was discovered, power was cut off, repairs pending
  • 12854 Shorewood Dr SW, Burien, 31 volts, deteriorated wiring was repaired
  • A streetlight near 26th Avenue W and W Dravus Street, 120 volts, pinched wire on lamp head and pole, repaired
  • A streetlight near Montavista Place W and W McGraw Street, 68 volts, a faulty lamp head was removed and power cut off, repairs pending
  • A streetlight near 50th Avenue NE and NE 65th Street, 60 volts, bad wiring, power cut off, repairs pending
  • A streetlight near Aurora Avenue N and West Green Lake Way N, 91 volts, bad wiring, power cut off, repairs pending

Suzanne Hartman, spokewoman for Seattle City Light, told KPLU reporter Paula Wissel earlier this month that 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.

Seattle City Light hired two contractors, Davey Resources Group and Power Survey Co., to conduct the testing.  Hartman told Seattle Times reporter Susan Gilmore that the utility will follow up the inspection with random spot checks before it presents its findings to the Seattle City Council on Feb. 2: 

"There is some analysis we want to do to see if there is any pattern of why the voltages were elevated, and we want to come up with an ongoing testing plan, as well as an assessment of the grounding mechanisms for all of the lights," Hartman said.

City Light expects repairs to the streetlights to cost about $1.3 million.