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Power officials ask residents to report power problems

Article Date: 
24 August, 2012 (All day)

Morgan residents—especially those in East Canyon, Milton and Stoddard—are getting tired of power bumps, failures and surges.  They have complained to power officials, who are reviewing damage claims but are still unsure the cause of all the problems.
“The people in Milton have been hammered,” said Brandon Andersen, a Milton resident.  He said the area has experienced four electrical surges in the last 2.5 years.  “There is a problem in the area and it has not been addressed.”  
He has lost appliances to power surges, including four dishwashers.  “It is a pain for us.” 
In the middle of the mink pelting, resident Doug Brown lost a generator and compressor due to a power surge.  He had to invest thousands of dollars into new equipment just to finish out the season.
Roy Tatton, who lives on Deep Creek Road, has had blown circuit breakers, ruined surge protectors, and a damaged washing machine, dishwasher, and heat pump.  He showed the Morgan County Council a photo of blackened outlets.
“I’m not here to talk about a few interruptions,” said Tatton, who said he loses a couple of surge protectors every month.  “I’m here to talk about damage.”
Others claimed damaged air conditioners, televisions, and other electrical appliances.
Andersen said that letters from Rocky Mountain Power have claimed weather and osprey bird nests as the problem, but power quality is still suffering.  He said he got more action contacting the Utah Public Service Commission than he did contacting Rocky Mountain Power.
Bruce Sanders, a former county councilman, asked the current council to write a letter to the public service commission supporting Morgan residents in their efforts to get compensated for the damage they feel was caused by the power company, particularly during a July 11 power surge.
The council agreed to write such a letter.
However, Rocky Mountain Power representatives say they have actively been investigating the problem and are eager to fix it. 
Steve Rush, customer and community manager at Rocky Mountain Power, said that in rural Morgan County, power customers are generally farther away from substations and thus experience more power problems due to longer exposed lines. For example, power customers in Ogden are typically two to three miles away from a substation.  In Morgan, residents can be as far away as 11 miles.
Rush said that testing the end of the line near the East Canyon marina showed low power voltage.  They checked the capacity of the substation transformer, which was at 25 percent capacity.  The lines are at 50 percent capacity.  Shifting some power customers to the Mountain Green substation didn’t seem to help.  In short, capacity is fine in the area: lines and stations aren’t being overloaded.
“It gets frustrating trying to find some kind of cause and effect because we aren’t seeing any,” Rush said. “We drive the line, we walk the line, and we have uncovered a couple of things.  But it is a head-scratcher.  We are not able to define what the heck the problem is.”  
Power representatives have installed fault indicators to try to pinpoint where the problem is, and plan on installing more in the future.  They hold 12 hours of data. They have also put voltage regulators on lines to try to boost or drop down power voltage as needed.  Even a reconfiguration of the substation didn’t seem to help.
Rush said the best tool to improve power quality issues in Morgan County is residents calling in power issues as soon as they notice them.
“We have no idea without people calling in,” said Dan Bodily, operations manager with Rocky Mountain Power.  He said a group of East Canyon residents emailing in when they have power problems has helped.  “If anybody sees anything—a bird, a flash—I would love to hear it and investigate it.  I would love to fix something.”
Bodily asked Morgan residents to avoid the regular dispatch line and call or email him directly at (801) 629-4301 and dan.bodily@pacificorp.com.
“Don’t hesitate to call,” Rush said.  “It helps us troubleshoot.  We will not leave any stone unturned.  We want to find what the heck is causing all the trips.”  
Despite all Rocky Mountain has done to try to fix the problem, Rush still admitted some fault to recent damage.
“We know we have been a contributing factor to motors failing, and AC compressors,” he said.  He said he will pass the data that has recently been collected “internally” to those responsible for claims.  
“We have collected an unbelievable amount of data,” Rush said.
Although he didn’t guarantee a pay-out, he suggested that those who have submitted claims in the past re-submit them.  He warned that the power company would not be responsible for any damage created by the weather, particularly lightening strikes.  “We can’t guarantee perfect power,” he said.
In the meantime, plans for new substations in Croydon and Mountain Green have been shelved for at least two years due to the economy and lack of demand.  Other projects in West Point and Bountiful have met the same fate.  When the Croydon substation is online, it could help improve power quality in Morgan County, Rush said.  
He said development planned for the Ogden Valley could indirectly affect power issues in Morgan County.