Copper wire stolen from West Penn Power substation in Lower Burrell

 

The West Penn Power Shaffers Corner substation at the corner of Bair and Puckety Church roads in Lower Burrell was the site of recent copper ground wire theft, as seen on Friday, April 10, 2015.

Officials say such thefts endanger the lives of the thieves and the electricians who subsequently work at the site.After Thursday night’s storm, a West Penn crew was inspecting the Shaffers Corner substation at Baird and Puckety Church roads, down the hill from Burrell High School, when they saw that the grounding wires weren’t there.

They came upon a hole cut in the security fence.Copper ground wire is used to protect employees working at the high-voltage substations that are dangerous enough to need high security fences around them. This is the second time that copper wire has been stolen from the substation, said Lower Burrell Police Lt. Robert Galvanek.Last September, someone stole about $12,000 worth of copper. This time, they took various lengths of copper wire, 2 feet to 12 feet, he said.

“This is very dangerous”
West Penn Power spokesman Todd Meyers.

“It’s one thing for an employee to make the ground wire discovery by the light of day,” he said. “It’s quite another for them to encounter this at night when their focus is only on getting the power back on for customers. ”

THEFTS IN FRAZER, TOO

Meyers said copper wire has been stolen in Frazer.Twice since December, thieves took grounding wire from the company’s power substation serving the Pittsburgh Mills mall.“This is dangerous and ridiculous,” said Frazer police Chief Terry Kuhns.On Dec. 2, police investigated about a $4,000 wire theft at the substation off Butler-Logan Road.Someone stole about $1,000 in wire on March 23, Kuhns said.Both thefts were reported after regular maintenance inspections.Meyers said the price of scrap copper is about half the $4 it was about four years ago.

Even so, substation copper thefts continue. The company is urging scrap yards to abide by the law requiring them to record purchases of $100 or more of metal. West Penn Power is also starting to replace stolen copper grounding wire with a less expensive, copper-clad steel wire, Meyers said.“We’re doing what we need to do to make this less attractive to thieves,” Meyers said. “The public can help, too,” he said. “If you see someone at the substations, call your local police on 911.”

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 orcbiedka@tribweb.com.