Jolt to the system 

It looks like residents of Gold Bridge won’t get any help paying for damages from a power disturbance that fried their electronics back in November.

BC Hydro recently completed a lengthy internal investigation into a power disturbance that occurred on November 15, and have found that, while the company isn’t sure of the cause, it is not at fault.

Gillian Riddell, spokesperson for BC Hydro, said they process about 1,000 claims per year, some of which arise from irregularities in the supply of electricity. She said most of these damage claims are caused by things that are beyond BC Hydro’s control, like a tree falling on a power line, or a lightening strike causing a surge in voltage.

“Claims resulting from these types of incidents are normally refused,” Riddell said in an emailed response.

  “The customer’s home or tenant insurance may cover such incidents; some policies may pay the replacement cost for damaged items.”

A letter from BC Hydro to Russ Oakley, chair of the Squamish Lilooett Regional District (SLRD), regarding his personal claim states the company is not "responsible or liable for any loss, injury, damage or expense caused by or resulting from any interruption, termination, failure or defect in the supply of electricity, whether caused by the negligence of BC Hydro, its servants or agents..."

Oakley said other residents received similar letters in response to their claims, and the news isn’t going over well.

  “They’re disappointed, particularly with the fact that BC Hydro has been unable to determine the cause,” said Oakley. “That kind of leaves us vulnerable.”

Oakley estimates that the incident also caused tens of thousands of dollars in damages to electrical equipment – both private and public, pointing out that the SLRD’s trash compactor and computer equipment was ruined.

And he is concerned that if they cannot determine the source of the problem, it could happen again.

At an SLRD board meeting last Monday, board members decided to send BC Hydro another letter asking it to reconsider the decision and to hire a third party to investigate the incident.

“They obviously had some problem and they couldn’t figure it out, so perhaps somebody else can,” said Oakley

“It seems to me that if they can’t find what the problem was, they can’t fix it, and if they can’t fix it, then the least they can do is compensate us for it.”

Riddell said the Gold Bridge incident was investigated thoroughly by representatives of the British Columbia Transmission Corporation and BC Hydro engineers, but the organizations could only determine that a short circuit occurred along the transmission and distribution lines.

She said that customers could have the report reviewed by an independent consultant “at their election,” and recommended using surge protectors, which may help with lower intensity disturbances, but not higher voltages. She added that in some countries, customers unplug electronics to prevent damage by a disruption in power supply.

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