Sammy with his owner Lisa
  • Sammys Big Heart blog
  • Sammy with his owner Lisa
Remember the brouhaha that occurred when a German shorthair pointer was killed by an electric pole on Thanksgiving Day in Queen Anne? An isolated case of elevated voltage due to faulty grounding, Seattle City Light called it at that point. Then it turned out that the incident wasn't really all that isolated after all.

More complaints of elevated voltage started pouring in—15 over a seven-day period to be exact—and subsequent investigations into the city's inventory of more than 37,000 metal streetlight poles, groundcover plates, and associated facilities revealed 56 instances of elevated voltage of 30 volts or higher (industry standards ask you to keep away from anything that's 50 volts or higher, but City Light has set the bar at 30. The dog in Queen Anne died from 90). Additionally the city found 158 instances of contact voltage in equipment that was giving out less than 30 volts.

Corrections—which cost the city $479,000 in contractors and repair crew—were swiftly made, and today, Seattle City Light announced that it was stepping up streetlight inspections, including making voltage checks mandatory during all routine work. City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco said at a meeting of the Seattle City Council's Energy, Technology, and Civil Rights Committee today that his agency had updated all standards for grounding and installing streetlights.

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When new streetlights get installed, City Light will be responsible for inspecting and approving the equipment before it is energized. It will also establish a new set of streetlight design guidelines that developers will have to adhere to.

City Light is also doing an inventory that will be finished by year-end—this will help it to begin a longer-term plan for updating outdated underground systems for all streetlights. Carrasco cautioned however that all the equipment was electromechanical. "Things fail just like everything else," he said. "Equipment deteriorates. That's just the risk we all face."

I don't know about you, but I'll probably sleep a tiny bit better knowing that there are actual people out there making sure I don't get fried by the next streetlamp I touch. And for that we have Sammy the German shorthair pointer to thank.

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