Post navigation

Prev: (12/14/10) | Next: (12/14/10)

City finds three more dangerous light poles — 1 on Capitol Hill, 1 on First Hill, 1 in CD

The Thanksgiving day death of a dog electrocuted when it stepped on a metal plate near a streetlight in Queen Anne has lead to a process to inspect 20,000 metal utility poles and the discovery of three more electrified poles in the city — each on or nearby Capitol Hill.

UPDATE: More details from City Light, below.

Here are the locations and the details of the electrified poles that Seattle City Light found in their inspections so far:

  • 13th Ave E at East Aloha — 60 to 80 volts — Cause: Deteriorated wires
  • Boren at Marion — 90 to 105 volts — Cause: Unknown
  • 23rd and East Union — 60 to 80 volts — Cause: Unknown

Each of the lights has been shut down until repairs can be made, according to City Light.

While the exact cause of the escaped voltage is not known for two of the three locations, age appears to be a factor in each as old wiring was to blame on Aloha and the two metal poles involved in the First Hill and Central District locations were both 30 to 40 years old.

The voltage in each of the three locations was potentially dangerous. The Queen Anne dog death involved about 90 volts but even 30 or 40 volts can be lethal to small creatures — including humans.

Another pole with frayed wiring was also found in the High Point neighborhood prior to the discovery of the three latest problem poles.

Immediately following the Thanksgiving incident, a City Light representative told CHS the Queen Anne situation was a freak occurrence and an isolated event.

No word on how far along City Light is in its audit of Seattle’s 20,000 streetlight poles and 10,000 metal vault covers. The department says it plans to have the work completed by at least May but is looking at options to “expedite” the process. In the meantime, you might want to watch your step around our city’s aging infrastructure.

If you are concerned about a specific pole or vault cover, you can contact City Light at (206) 684-3000 or call 911 if the situation is urgent. UPDATE: More info on how to report, below.

Here’s the statement released by City Light documenting their latest status on the situation:

Last week Seattle Superintendent Jorge Carrasco briefed the media and the public on City Light’s plan to inspect 20,000 metal streetlight poles and 10,000 metal “hand holes” (small metal streetlight vault covers).  This update is intended to provide a progress report since that briefing. 

“So far, we have inspected 270 metal streetlight poles at High Point and GreenBridge developments and have found no additional contact voltage situations at these locations,” says Carrasco.  “We will move on to Holly Park and Rainier Vista tomorrow.  In addition, we have identified three other individual metal streetlight locations where there was voltage present.  These include 13th and East Aloha East, where there was 60 – 80 volts.  We found very deteriorated wire.  The original cables were installed in the 1920s.  Another location was at Boren and Marion, where there was 90 – 105 volts present.  This pole is 30 – 40 years old.  And, the final location was at 23rd and East Union with 60 – 80 volts from a  metal pole that is 30 – 40 years old. There was no indication of the cause of voltage release at the last two metal streetlight poles.  We have de-energized the lights until repairs can be made.”

City Light will continue its own inspection efforts and is evaluating options to expedite the original end date for inspection  completion in May.  City Light will routinely up-date the public on the progress being made with inspections.

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

22 thoughts on “City finds three more dangerous light poles — 1 on Capitol Hill, 1 on First Hill, 1 in CD” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing


    On January 16, 2004 Jodie Lane was electrocuted from stray voltage on the streets of New York City. The Jodie S. Lane Public Safety Foundation has since advocated for safer streets and accountability on the part of Consolidated Edison, the New York City Department of Transportation and the New York State Public Service Commission. This website was created to educate New Yorkers about this public safety issue.

    Description of a way to survey quickly for stray voltage:

  2. We were assured that this was an “isolated incident”. Now there are five. It’s getting hard to believe the city when they speak.

  3. “Each of the lights has been shut down until repairs can be made, according to City Light.”

    This is a bad, even if it is temporary, fix. Even if the voltage problem is temporarily remediated by shutting down the lights, Seattle CIty Light is creating a bigger public safety hazard: dark streets for people to trip on broken sidewalks (Aloha by the park is not the most even of places to walk) and dark streets for all sorts of nefarious characters to hide in the shadows: Great Solution City Light!

  4. Well, the info we have from City Light at this point is that there are 20k poles and 10k covers so, no, not every pole has a cover.

    What we don’t yet know is if each pole found to be leaking also involved a vault cover. Asking about that.

  5. Arc, don’t be ridiculous. Shutting off these three streetlights is a drop in the bucket, and once they’re made safe, they’ll be turned back on. Meanwhile, I’d bet that within a 3-block radius of each of these locations there are at least 10 lights that are malfunctioning that SCL has no idea about, and that will remain broken for months or years because no one cares enough to report them.

    If you really care about the safety of yourself and your neighbors, stop whining about SCL legitimately shutting off these lights and start recording and reporting lights that SCL has no idea are broken.

  6. Slightly off topic but since the issue was raised in the article, there are a number of increasingly bad potholes along Aloha, especially near 18th and along the hill down to 19th. I thought the city had fixed a number of holes in this area not very long ago, but either I’m mistaken or they missed a few.

  7. Can we get some safety clarification? Can one be electrocuted by touching the actual poles or only by stepping in a plate barefoot? I walk a lot with our baby and he loves to touch every pole and sign as we go. Please find out if possible. I’ll see if I can get/find clarification somewhere. Thanks.

  8. When is someone – Mayor,City Council, Press – going to hold these liars accountable for saying the death of the dog on Queen Anne was an isolated incident????? Media, do your job!

  9. You know, I bemusedly read through the comments on here, knowing I was going to be rolling my eyes at a number of them and talking to my computer screen because of a few. But Robert, your comment topped them all…

    If this issue is such a concern for you, why are you waiting for someone else to take action and do-something-about-it? Do your job as a concerned member of the community and demand more from SCL, the Mayor and/or City Council.

  10. The lineworkers union is skilled labor. Skilled labor can set it’s own wage. Since City Light’s line worker wages are slightly lower than most other local utilities, it would be foolish to cut them more.

    The rest of the city light employee pool is basically just a jobs program. If they think they can do better, they know where the door is.

    But back to the threat of the poles: you’re right. This is an incredibly dangerous situation I suggest that you hide under your bed until it is resolved. Don’t worry, we’ll be sure to tell you when it’s safe to come out.