Volume 75, Number 21 | October 12 - 18, 2005

Pedestrians are shocked by a lamppost on Avenue A

By Daniel Wallace

Exposed wires in the base of a lamppost at 72 Avenue A near Sixth St. shocked pedestrians and a Sanitation worker with stray voltage on Sat., Oct. 8, during a heavy downpour. There were no serious injuries.

Joy Faber, a Con Edison spokesperson, said the lamppost belongs to the Department of Transportation.

“We received a call from the Fire Department at 8 p.m. Saturday night, saying people on the sidewalk were getting shocked,” Faber said. “The lamppost belongs to the D.O.T.; but we sent out a crew.”

The Con Edison crew arrived on Sunday and repaired the damaged cable.

“Within less than 24 hours we were able to make repairs,” Faber said.

Keith Mellis of the city Department of Sanitation said the worker was servicing a waste basket when he received the electric shock.

“He was picking up a discarded umbrella that was leaning against the lamppost,” said Mellis. “When he touched the umbrella, he was shocked.”

Mellis said the worker was taken to the hospital, treated and released immediately. Although his arm was numb he sustained no serious injuries.

Although the condition was resolved it has reawakened fears of community residents. New York City is powered by thousands of megawatts of electricity pulsing daily beneath the streets. (One megawatt, according to Faber, is enough to power 1,000 homes).

But occasionally electricity leaks out through exposed wires, or stray voltage spills into the streets, turning manhole covers, lampposts, pavement and junction boxes into deadly hazards.

In January 2004 Jodie Lane, a resident of the East Village, died near the corner of 11th St. and First Ave. when electrocuted by a Con Edison junction box while walking her dogs. After Lane’s death, Con Ed checked all its utilities and lampposts in the city for stray voltage. Yet, since then there have still been instances of dogs and people being zapped on sidewalks.

Con Edison said the downpour on Saturday likely increased the conductivity of the lamppost’s stray voltage. Pure water itself is a poor conductor. But small amounts of impurities like salt, acid and solvents, materials in abundance in a city, turn water into a highly efficient conductor.

And substances that generally stop the flow of electricity, like dry wood, turn into conductors when saturated with water. When wet, skin’s conductivity increases, too, Faber said.

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