The News (New Glasgow)

‘It’s a significan­t physical danger’

NSP introducin­g non-copper wire to help combat increasing thefts from substation­s

- IAN FAIRCLOUGH SALTWIRE ifaircloug­ @iancfaircl­ough

Thieves are still risking their lives by stealing from electrical substation­s, and Nova Scotia Power is responding by increasing security measures and switching from copper to a different material.

There have been 11 thefts in six weeks in Nova Scotia. Police suspect 10 are connected, as they took place from Halifax and along the Highway 101 and Highway 103 corridors.

The other incident was in Pictou County.

The Bridgewate­r and Halifax police services have had thefts in their areas, but most occurred in areas policed by the Mounties.

RCMP spokespers­on Cpl. Chris Marshall said several calls involved reports of a black pickup truck, so police are working on the assumption that the same person, or people, has been involved.

Besides the substation infrastruc­ture, vehicles at the sites have also been broken into.

“Whenever you break into a substation you're always taking a risk because a lot of electricit­y runs through those lines,” Marshall said.

“Ultimately, there's an ongoing effect on the system; it's not just the copper, it's the cost of repair, as well.”

In February, a would-be thief in Stellarton died while trying to steal from a substation.

Matt Drover, Nova Scotia Power's senior director of energy delivery, said stealing copper from substation­s is not a good idea.

“It's a significan­t physical danger. ... It definitely creates a risk to the people taking it of electrocut­ion,” he said.

“There is over 25,000 volts in the substation­s, and people are taking their own lives in their hands when they're stealing that copper.”

Drover said the danger isn't just from the copper. Anything within the substation site could become energized with power at any point if there is a fault in the system.

“All the equipment is energized, and even getting close to it could cause physical harm, as well.”

Drover said Nova Scotia Power is taking several measures to combat the thefts, not just to protect the company's property but for the safety of people. Fencing around sites is being upgraded to make it harder for people to break in, as are the security systems and video surveillan­ce that are monitored off-site.

“We're also replacing our copper wire with material that provides the same electrical characteri­stics but it's not actually copper and has no financial value.”

He said all those measures should reduce people breaking into substation­s.

Thefts from the sites bring great costs to the company, Drover said.

“Each individual incident is different, depending on what is taken, but in general it's a few thousand dollars per incident to make the repairs, and it's disruptive to customers.”

The safety impact is still the company's primary concern, he said, not just for the thieves but for first responders who could be called to the area.

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