After construction mishap, CL&P says underground equipment is stable

Construction work on Sound Shore Drive in Cos Cob has had an major unintended consequence resulting in concerns about keeping service from Connecticut Light & Power from being interrupted.

According to First Selectman Peter Tesei, during work on a force main replacement on Strickland Road at Sound Shore Drive on Tuesday afternoon, the contractor came into contact with one of CL&P’s duct bank vaults. These are areas underground designed to hold much of the cabling that provides power for the town. No injuries were suffered, but the accident did “destabilize” the bank vault, necessitating the utility to send in engineering crews to fix it.

“This is a serious issue for the utility and for the town,” Mr. Tesei said. “I’ve asked if this were to collapse would it shut down the power to the entire town down and they told me no, but that it would affect significant portions. They are now in the process of trying to determine how they reboot the feed… This is going to take some time to address.”

On Friday, Mitch Gross, a spokesman for CL&P, told the Post that the utility believes that the duct bank vault is stable and that no service is going to be disrupted. He said that CL&P had been at the scene on Friday morning with the contractor and the town’s Department of Public Works.

“Our engineers have gotten a look at it and they don’t believe there has been any damage to it at this time,” Mr. Gross said. “We’re going to be monitoring this to make sure that it’s 100% stable and we will be working with the town and the contractor on it.”

Mr. Gross said there would be regular monitoring of the site for as long as needed.

“We have a plan in place and we will take care of any issues,” Mr. Gross said.

The bill for any repairs in this case would not be sent to the town. Instead it is expected to be covered by insurance taken out by the contractor, Joken Development, working on the main replacement

The force main work is one of the town’s major ongoing sewer projects and Mr. Tesei said that an incident like this underscored concerns about possibly moving power lines underground. Due to heavy damage from recent storms causing power to be out of service for large portions of town for several days, there has been a growing cry from residents for power lines to be put underground as they are already in select areas. However, CL&P has insisted that would be too expensive a process to do and Mr. Tesei has said there would be real challenges to obstacles this.

“There’s so much infrastructure underground currently that it presents a challenge in where you place it,” Mr. Tesei said. “There’s standards in which you have to keep it a certain feet distance from other utilities and you also have issues with water infiltration and we are a very rocky town. It’s often difficult to blast through it without doing damage to infrastructure.”

There is a committee working on the feasibility of further undergrounding of lines that will report to Mr. Tesei.

More information will be available in the July 18 edition of the Post

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