BC Hydro is sounding the alarm after a stint of vandalism to at least four BC Hydro transformers in North Vancouver caused days of power outages and concerning safety risks.
At least four pad-mounted transformers have been vandalized since April in the Mt. Seymour area of the North Shore with what appears to have been some kind of saw and drill, BC Hydro confirmed to Black Press Media on Wednesday.
These kinds of transformer boxes are most commonly used within new neighbourhoods or developments where power lines are installed underground instead of through above-ground poles. They are often located along the pathway of a building or on a lawn.
Each box has equipment that helps transport electricity into homes and buildings, as well as mineral oil that keeps the machinery from overheating or sparking.
BC Hydro public safety lead Jonny Knowles said there is nothing worth stealing inside and breaking in only poses significant safety risks to the public.
“For someone to deliberately do this to a transformer box is beyond me,” he told Black Press Media in a phone interview. “I’ve been in the public safety department for just over six years and I have never come across someone doing this.”
Each box is built on a gravel base that serves as a protective barrier between the transformer and soil, Knowles explained, and are made to stop working, or “trip,” when there is not enough mineral oil to keep the area cool.
PHOTOS: For whatever reason, at least 4 @bchydro transformers have been vandalized since April on the North Shore, causing lengthy power outages and $150K in damages. Then there are all the safety risks: oil spills, a fire sparking or the transformer exploding. @BlackPressMedia pic.twitter.com/axkeNuhy9K— Ashley Wadhwani (@ashwadhwani) July 10, 2019
But there is a risk that the equipment doesn’t halt, and instead sparks a fire – or at worst an explosion – Knowles said, a concern that worsen during the drier summer months. If a substantial amount of the mineral oil leaks, the soil and nearby plants could be contaminated.
In each of the incidents, which happened on April 2 and 24, May 1 and July 2, the transformers did successfully trip, causing lengthy outages to nearby areas, including neighbourhoods, restaurants and grocery stores, Knowles said. In one instance, the power was cut for three days while BC Hydro crews worked to repair the box.
Roughly 1,000 litres of mineral oil leaked from another transformer, but the gravel base was able to stop it from seeping into the grass.
It cost roughly $150,000 to repair the four transformers, Knowles said. That doesn’t include loss of business nor restocking food that went bad at affected stores and restaurants.
Equipment is vandalized now and again, Knowles added, but these cases are particularly concerning because of “the danger they present to themselves, the public and BC Hydro employees.”
The Crown corporation suspects the cases of vandalism are all connected, and police are investigating the incidents. Black Press Media has reached out to Mounties for comment.