Time for a better pole
by Latoya Burnham
In the height of dry season, with fires a prominent feature on the local landscape, the Barbados Light & Power is considering a more resistant and durable type of utility pole for future installations.
Corporate Communications Administrator, Jackie Marshall-Clarke made the disclosure to Barbados TODAY this afternoon, as a large crew continued to work near the power station in Content, St. Thomas to replace poles damaged by fire.
The four teams were working in tandem for most of this morning and into the afternoon to replace the poles damaged by cane and grass fires about two weeks ago. Marshall-Clarke said it was customary for a specialised team to conduct inspections of about 50 poles per month, as many as 600 or more per year for damage, decay or termite infestation.
Where such issues are found, they are then reported and placed on a roster for further action.
“Pole replacement is an important part of what we do. It is a routine part of our maintenance programme. You will find that during the dry season we tend to replace poles more frequently than at other times, mainly because of damage by the cane fires and grass fires that are prominent around this time.
“Our specialists go out and inspect to see if the pole was burnt or damaged and they report it. We are cognisant of the safety of both the public/our customers, and our employees. Now when fires are frequent we have to do a bit more replacements,” said the communications head.
One of the main issues with replacements now, she added, was the company’s hunt for poles that would be more resistant to some of the issues they are prone to, like fires, termites and decay.
“We are looking to have more resistant and durable poles. We are looking for poles with a specific material to especially prevent fires,” she said, adding that it was difficult to necessarily put a cost to the poles or their replacement.
The communications official also confirmed that there was a type of paste that used to be used by the company on the poles as a form of fire resistance, but she said over time it was found that the paste was causing the poles to dry out and resulting in rot.
“So that has been discontinued. We are also currently investigating another treatment that we hope can replace that and resist fires in the interim,” she said.
She further explained that what was happening currently in St. Thomas was the replacement of poles that would have suffered significant damage from recent fires.
“The teams would have been replacing four poles that would have been burnt. There would have been damage as well to the transmission lines and cables. One of the good things to note though was that even with these replacements, there was no outage in any areas. No customers would have been affected,” she stated.
On site in St. Thomas, engineer Robert Harewood explained that the sub-station serviced areas as far as Mile-And-A-Quarter, St. Peter; Sandy Lane and Holetown, St. James; Dukes, St. Thomas; and Warrens, St. Michael, so they considered it a major project to have the poles replaced as soon as possible.
He said the four teams on site were working together to replace poles while removing the existing connections.
“It is not easy to give you a cost to this. We take safety very seriously, both of our crews and the public. That’s why we are looking for poles that are durable… Now that hurricane season is approaching as well, we are looking more closely at making sure that our poles are able to withstand whatever weather comes and that is why the inspection is also very important. We want people to know that if they have concerns about any poles in their area that they can call us and report it,” Marshall-Clarke stated.