After massive blackout, Council seeks answers

The NSTAR blackout in March.

Saying that changes need to be made to the way power transformers are maintained and inspected, the City Council scheduled a hearing for Friday in the wake of the massive Back Bay blackout earlier this year.

Councilor Stephen Murphy, who requested the hearing, expected to question NStar officials about ways to improve preventative maintenance, frequency of inspections and the emergency response to transformer malfunctions.

A massive transformer failure at a substation on Scotia Street cut power to about 21,000 homes and businesses in March. Some people went without power for days while some businesses lost customers and eateries lost their inventory.

At issue, Murphy said, is how officials can verify the information and records of maintenance checks by power companies. Substations are inspected by NStar, which then submits reports to the state, according to the Herald.

“There is nothing to verify (it),” Murphy said. “No one inspects these facilities besides their own people.”

Murphy said he wanted to discuss “verifiable independent inspections” of the transformers so city and state officials do not have to take the power company’s own word.

Several councilors, he said, are moving forward and examining new and better ways to hold energy providers accountable for such incidents.

Despite demands by city officials that NStar pay for losses and the police response because of the outage, NStar officials said shortly after the blackout that they weren’t liable for losses.

“There was huge costs to us and every business and resident whose food spoiled,” Murphy said. “There were people from fixed income homes who had to throw out food because the power went out on their refrigerators.”

Preventing blackouts?

While the hearing was called to look at ways to prevent future blackouts, it was too late to prevent all of them.

A request for the hearing was filed in late March after the massive blackout earlier that month.
But a failure at the same substation May 8 created another blackout for about 12,000 homes and businesses. However the most recent one lasted about an hour, compared to days for the March blackout.


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