Tesei presses Eversource for answers
GREENWICH — First Selectman Peter Tesei is calling for a “full accounting” from Eversource Energy after thousands endured several hours without power on two separate occassions during this week’s heat wave.
Tesei said he has not been told the cause of the power outages, the first of which hit at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Discussions with the utility have been ongoing, Tesei said, but he encouraged residents affected by the power failures to contact the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority so a complaint file can be created.
Tesei said he is hoping to get answers from Eversource about the reasons for the extended outages within the next two business weeks.
“It’s important for us to know what is the cause and if it’s because of (electricity) distribution, what further steps are they going to take,” Tesei said on Thursday after a Board of Selectmen meeting. “They will tell you they’ve made some improvements to distribution but we want to see it.”
More than 11,000 customers in Greenwich lost power Tuesday night. Electricity was not fully restored until after midnight. Underground lines near the Prospect Street substation suffered damage prior to the outages, but Eversource officials do not know what caused the damage.
On Wednesday, a downed line on Old Mill Road caused outages for thousands along the western Greenwich border with New York.
“We’re still making repairs to some parts of the system in Greenwich,” Eversource Spokesman Mitch Gross said on Thursday. “Once we complete them, we’ll look into what damaged the underground cables and caused the line to come down on Old Mill Road.”
Greenwich police were kept busy during the outages.
“When power goes out, and traffic lights are out, our officers go to the intersection,” said police spokesman Lt. John Slusarz.
The Police Department was also deluged by calls regarding burglar alarms tripped by the loss of power.
According to Tesei, the town customer service representative “fielded numerous phone calls (Wednesday) with people expressing frustration with the lack of reliability.”
Tesei suggested people contact PURA at email@example.com or 1-800-382-4586.
He said he has filed an official complaint with PURA on behalf of the town.
“My complaint was about the reliability of the distribution system and wanting to see some reporting as to all of their various incidents, because there were multiple ones,” Tesei said. “There were wires down on Old Mill Road, well what brought the wires down? There were fires in underground manholes on Bruce Park Drive. What was the nature of that?”
Gross said the smoke people saw from the manholes on Bruce Park Drive were due to the underground line problem.
“We have been communicating non-stop with Mr. Tesei and understand his need for answers,” Gross said. “Once causes are determined, we will be meeting as soon as possible with him as well as the town’s emergency management team to review each of the issues and our findings.”
Additionally, Tesei said it gave him concern that Eversource brought in generators to help restore service to commercial businesses in Western Greenwich, such as Bimbo Bakeries, because it indicates the power company expects failures to happen again. Tesei said he wasn’t criticizing Eversource for bringing in the generators, and called it a “smart thing to do,” but said to him it means there is an ongoing problem.
“We need to know what is the problem, why are we having the problem and what are they going to do to provide a sustainable solution,” Tesei said. “That’s the discussion we have to have.”
Gross said the businesses require “extremely large amounts of power to function,” far above what typical businesses or homes use.
“The generators were made available to keep them up and running, while reducing demand on the system while we made repairs,” Gross said. “We are committed to doing what is needed to make sure what happened Tuesday and Wednesday does not become a regular problem.”
The outages came at a time when Eversource is seeking to build a new substation in town on Railroad Avenue. It would become the sixth one in Greenwich along with the existing substations in the Mianus area, Prospect Street, North Greenwich, Byram and Cos Cob.
The new substation would connect to the Cos Cob station. Eversource has argued it is necessary to handle the demand for electricity in Greenwich and create more reliability for the system.
The town has challenged the Connecticut Siting Council’s ruling that the substation can go forward. Discussions between the town and the utility over the substation are ongoing.
“We really want to be able to understand if in fact this is a generation issue, which is what their (substation) project is about versus a distribution issue, which is what we have contended needs attention as well,” Tesei said on Thursday. “That’s all the circuitry and switches. People have said that you had a lot of people coming back on line after Labor Day and the system was juiced up and the heat’s up so that’s likely the cause. Maybe. I’m not in a position to doubt them but I’m also in a position to say I’m not convinced. I want a fuller accounting of this so we understand what the electrical infrastructure condition is.”
Robert Marchant contributed to this story.