SPRINGFIELD — The Green Mountain Power substation in downtown Springfield where a 12-year-old Springfield boy was critically injured in May lacked warning signs on the gate where he entered.
But according to a report by a North Carolina consultant hired by GMP to evaluate the May 14 incident and the condition of the South Street substation, even if the warning signs had been properly in place, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the incident, since there were numerous warning signs on the chain link fence surrounding the substation.
“Although the placement of safety signs on the fence did not comply with the National Electrical Safety Code, it has been determined that one would be expected to see those signs when approaching the area of the fence where the boy gained entrance to the substation,” concluded the report.
“No fence design will prevent a determined person from entering a substation,” it added for emphasis.
The report, conducted by Johnny B. Dagenhart, vice president of Clapp Research Associates of Raleigh, N.C., noted two “deficiencies” of the National Electrical Safety Code. That code was adopted by the Vermont Public Service Board in 1983.
Ian Treadway, 12, spent more than a month in Boston hospitals recovering from his severe burns from the incident. According to the report, Treadway could have received the burns from either touching energized equipment or just coming too close to it.
In an earlier interview by the Rutland Herald with Treadway, he said he never touched the energized electrical equipment even as he was climbing a structure within the substation, which the report said supported “bus work” and transformer fuses for 46,000-volt circuitry.
Treadway said he got into the substation by wriggling between the two gates, not climbing over the fence, as the report stated. The report said there was a gap of approximately 4.5 inches between the two gates.
Treadway, a student at Riverside Middle School, is recovering from his burns and is back living with his family at their Merrill Street home a short distance from the substation.
Greg White, GMP vice president for field operations, said it was possible that the “arcing” burned Treadway if he came within 1.4 inches of the energized equipment.
White said that the day after the South Street substation incident, GMP launched a review of all its approximately 185 substations throughout the state and made some improvements, including at the South Street station.
In addition to the lack of warning signs directly on the gate, clearances on the substation’s lightning arresters were less than called for in the code. The bottom of the lightning arrester is supposed to be 8 feet 6 inches, but was only 7 feet. Also, the top of the lightning arrester was requested to be 9 feet 10 inches but was only 9 feet 2 inches.
“While these two requirements (signs and clearances) were not met, meeting these requirements likely would not have prevented the accident,” Dagenhart wrote.
White said GMP was making changes at the Springfield substation, including a video surveillance system. New warning signs went up immediately at the station after the incident, he said.
The report noted the substation is near a town park and that there are paths leading from the park and playground to the substation. Vehicle access is blocked by a locked gate off Merrill Street.
“We are re-signing all of our substations,” said White. In addition to video surveillance, there will be an alarm system that allows the company’s control center to immediate de-energize equipment, once an intruder is detected.
White said the electrical fault, which caused a lengthy power outage in a large area surrounding Springfield, did not cause any physical damage to the system. He said the company would be making sure the public understood the dangers of substations.
Dorothy Schnure, spokeswoman for Green Mountain Power, said the company and its consultant did not interview Treadway for its report, saying they did not want to further traumatize him.
“It’s huge to all of us that he’s going back to school,” she said, noting the company was focusing on preventing anything like this again.
Schnure said that in her 30-plus years with Green Mountain Power, nothing like this had ever happened before.
“The most important thing is that Ian’s doing well,” she said.
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