CLEVELAND -- More than 125 steel poles had potentially hazardous electrical currents running through them, Cleveland Public Power found during a citywide sweep following a Channel 3 News investigation.
The city tested all 3,600 steel poles it owns for contact voltage, which is often caused by a wire touching a metal surface. It leads to streetlights, manholes, fire hydrants and junction boxes being energized.
Inspectors found 127 poles with contact voltage. Most of the energized poles were located in two west side neighborhoods - Cudell-Edgewater and Detroit-Shoreway. Almost three-quarters of them had to be repaired.
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The Investigator Tom Meyer exposed the problems of contact voltage last May when he invited a New Jersey company to test street poles in Cleveland and Akron. The testing found anywhere between seven volts and 454 volts on light polls and sidewalks in downtown locations.
"A seven volt finding on a street light would cause that street light to be coned off (in New York City) and monitored by a person until a repairman could arrive to fix it, so that it would not be left alone," said Dave Kalokitis, chief technology officer of Power Survey Company. "That would be fixed immediately."
Cleveland recently launched a new city wide testing program as a result of the investigation. Cleveland Public Power purchased 20 hand-held probes to do the testing.
"We're trying to protect our citizens," said James Ferguson, chief of the city's street lighting bureau. "We live in the city. These are our relatives, our friends, our co-workers. So we want to make them safe."
Problem poles were fixed on the spot. Most poles tested at seven volts, but may have been a lot hotter. Experts look at the lower voltage as a drip that could turn into a flood.
"It's likely coming from a 120 volt source, so while its measuring seven volts today, it might have been 120 volts yesterday or 120 volts tomorrow," said Kalokitis.
Although Cleveland may not have the high-tech gear used by private companies like Power Survey, the city believes the hand-held monitors are still reliable. Cleveland will test their light poles every four months, and make repairs as needed.
What about Cleveland suburbs? Not one does any regular testing. They only respond to complaints or suspected problems.
In surrounding areas, only Grafton in Lorain County does routine testing, similar to the kind of testing Cleveland now does.