Power line fire fears


LINEMEN are scrambling to replace up to 30 kilometres of faulty power lines on the Mornington Peninsula amid fears they could cause bushfires.

This follows claims that sparks from faulty lines have this year caused three or four fires in Main Ridge and Red Hill.

Nepean MP Martin Dixon fears the power lines will not be replaced before they cause more fires.

“Stringing it out is not good enough,” he said. “Under the current plan they will not be replaced for years.”

The official fire ban season started yesterday, Monday, and it is understood United Energy’s power line replacement plan will not be completed until 2020.

Concerns focus on the failure of “wrapped” or “twisted” power lines, also known as ABC power lines (aerial bundled cable).

Red Hill residents have also called on United Energy to “immediately” remove faulty or fire-prone power lines along Main Creek Rd.

In a letter to the power company John Saunders and Peter Hercules said there was “evidence that the ABC power lines are faulty and explode periodically causing fires”.

They said there was a bushfire on the afternoon of 9 November “as a consequence of a failure of your power lines in Main Creek Rd”.

It is believed fires have been caused by lines short-circuiting, with residents reporting loud explosions before fires started beneath them power lines.

“Fortunately, the CFA was able to put the fire out, and no serious damage occurred,” their letter stated.

“We are concerned that the continued use of these types of power lines, or your company’s failure to maintain existing power lines, exposes the residents of nearby areas to an unreasonable, and now, foreseeable risk of bushfire.”

United Energy did not respond to queries from The News by deadline.

The residents say they will hold the company responsible for fire damage and have asked United Energy to “maintain and preserve all records in relation to the acquisition and purchase of such power lines, and in respect of any fires that might occur as a result of the failure of such power lines”.

Their concerns are compounded by the time being taken to replace old power cables.  

Many of the ageing cables are estimated to be up to 30 years old. It is believed only a fraction of the work will be done by the end of this bushfire season with the remainder being done on a priority basis by 2020.

Mr Dixon said the power lines needed to be replaced as soon as possible. “The fault has been recognised so they should be replaced before the fire season. If the current plan [prevents] them being replaced then the plan should be changed.”

Mr Dixon said the Red Hill and Main Ridge power lines came from a “faulty batch that had not lasted as long as they were expected to and had already caused fires” – even though extra insulation was supposed to improve their fire safety capabilities.

The insulation appeared to be perishing quickly and breaking away and exposing the wires, which he described as “a recipe for disaster”, he said.

Mr Dixon said Main Ridge CFA “recognised the issue as serious and that it needed to be fixed straight away”.

He said he would get a full briefing from United Energy on Monday next week. “We will find out if we can quicken the replacement process or, if not, I will be taking it up with the Energy and Resources Minister [Lily D’Ambrosio] and or the Ombudsman.”

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 1 December 2015


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