Stray Voltage Surges Through Cities Across The Country

10:11 PM, May 10, 2011   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- The city is a dynamic environment. Lots of construction going on. Lots of hands in the electrical system.

And, as you're about to learn, lots of opportunities for a dangerous problem lurking out of view to reach the surface.

We ventured out across DC with the New Jersey-based Power Survey Company the sparks we saw are nothing new. PSC has tested 57 cities across the county and found more than 60,000 problems with manhole covers, fences, light poles even sidewalks.

"It's not a problem that's specific to Washington DC," says PSC head Tom Catamese. "It's a problem we've seen across the nation."

Catamese says worn and frayed wires from an aging infrastructure you cannot see, surge with powerful electricity that can be fatal.

In a city like DC, you could walk past dozens of these trouble spots each day. One wrong lean, and you could end up with a current running through your body.

"That's my baby ... " says Nancy Arrington-Green as she talks about her daughter Deanna.

"She did normally what anybody, you know, what you would do when you play softball, You stretch," says Deanna's father, Anthony Green.

It was the second inning, and, 14-year-old Deanna Green was ready to take her place at bat. Deanna leaned on the fence of a Baltimore park then fell to the ground.

Nancy cries as she remembers her daughter's last moments.

"I just didn't know what was happening."

The Green's hope that more cities will use mobile scanners to survey the streets in search of stray voltage.

"You can charge your cell phone off this thing here. Run your hair dryer."

Or even a light bulb.

In all the PSC crew found close to 90 locations where voltage was present outside the structure. We forwarded their results to the District's Department of Transportation.

"If it's an issue at all in the city, it's an isolated one," says DDOT spokesman John Lisle. "We believe our system is safe. And, any time that a situation we uncover or is brought to our attention shows that there may be unsafe conditions, we take steps to rectify that."

Deanna's spirit is what pushes her parents to make everyone aware of a silent killer that lurks on city streets.

"It has to be addressed immediately or you're going to have more fatalities as you did with our daughter, Deanna, " says Anthony Green.

Pepco and city officials say no one has been shocked or lost their lives in DC due to stray voltage.

Both the utility and DDOT are reviewing the list of locations to determine whether repairs need to be made.

Deanna Green's parents are pushing Maryland's public service commission to adopt a rule that would require mobile crews to routinely check for stray voltage in the state.

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