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Power problems: O’Regans couple frustrated by nearly 170 outages in the past four years

Sylinda and Keith Ryan are frustrated by frequent power losses to their home and to the home of his elderly parents in the O’Regans area of Codroy Valley.
Sylinda and Keith Ryan are frustrated by frequent power losses to their home and to the home of his elderly parents in the O’Regans area of Codroy Valley. - Rosalyn Roy

In 2013, Keith and Sylinda Ryan moved home to the community of O’Regans in the Codroy Valley region.

By August 2015, the couple had experienced power interruptions so frequently that they started keeping a journal to track the outages.

“I don’t remember exactly when it started,” says Keith.

Prior to the massive outage that hit areas of the west coast on the Feb. 9, 2019 weekend, they had recorded 169 incidents, including 14 in 2019.

The couple has been in touch with Newfoundland Power repeatedly, and in early September 2016, representatives from the company’s Stephenville office visited the Ryan’s home. By then the Ryan’s had recorded 62 outages in a span of only 13 months.

“From my understanding, they said it was a problem at the substation over in Tompkins,” recalls Keith.

Sylinda says her impression of that visit was that the office representatives seemed mostly interested in whether or not the Ryan’s were seeking compensation for damages.

“Our biggest concern is our appliances, because the power goes off and on that much it’s unreal,” says Sylinda.

So far the couple hasn’t had to repair or replace their appliances, but say they are acquainted with others who haven’t been so fortunate.

“I know one guy did call Stephenville and they wouldn’t compensate him,” says Keith.

In January 2019 the power tripped so frequently in such a short time that the couple had to turn off the main breaker to their house just so they could get some uninterrupted sleep.

The couple gave the representatives copies of their log, and later followed up with a visit to Stephenville where they were handed a three-page list of reasons for each outage. The causes cited ranged from switching and load balancing problems to non-human problems such as lightning strikes, squirrels and even salt spray.

“The biggest thing she said for us was that there were squirrels in the trees,” recalls Sylinda.

The couple is understanding when it comes to the area’s sometimes high winds wreaking havoc with the system, but say there have been plenty of outages on calm, sunny days too.

“We lived in Victoria for 14 years and I don’t know if the power went out five times while we were there,” notes Sylinda.

Keith is openly frustrated that three years after he sat down with Newfoundland Power representatives, the frequency of outages hasn’t really subsided.

“Since 2016 they’ve been aware of it, so either you know what the problem is and won’t fix it or you know what the problem is and you don’t know how to fix it, but they’ve had more than enough time, so what’s their excuse?” he asks.

They’ve been trying to get answers and a resolution without much satisfaction. They no longer have faith that the situation will improve. In order to maintain heat in the winter months and help protect their electronics, Keith and Sylinda spent around $2,000 to purchase and install a generator.

“It’s at a point where they’re not going to do anything, they haven’t done anything, so what’s the point of me calling?” Keith said.

Much of the couple’s worry and stress also revolves around Keith’s elderly parents living next door.

“Even if it’s just my household and my parents it’s still unacceptable,” says Keith.

“We’re just fed up,” says Sylinda, flipping through her journal of power outages. “To me it’s ridiculous. All this?”

Michele Coughlan of Newfoundland Power responded to The Gulf News inquiries via email.

In the statement, Coughlan noted only 42 instances of power interruptions to Codroy Valley customers in 2018, only seven of which were traced to the company’s infrastructure.

Coughlan also said the company plans to continue to clear vegetation close to power lines this year, and install equipment that will make it easier for crews to tackle repairs.

The full response The Gulf News received from Newfoundland Power while inquiring into the Ryan’s concerns:

“Newfoundland Power is committed to providing our customers with safe, reliable electricity service. Although our power lines are built to national standards to withstand most types of adverse weather conditions, several of our power lines are located in areas that are exposed to some of the most extreme weather and winds in the province, in fact in the country. Despite this, our customers overall receive a level of reliability that is among the best in the country.

The power line that serves our customers in the Codroy Valley and surrounding areas experience above average winds in terms of speed and frequency. In 2018, there were 42 days where sustained wind speeds exceeded 100 km/hr in this area; 7 of those days saw winds in excess of 140 km/hr and 2 days had winds greater than 175 km/hr – these can certainly be described as hurricane force winds.

Customers can experience momentary outages, particularly during high wind conditions, when trees come in contact with the power lines or the lines hit one another. These momentary outages are the result of the automatic, normal functioning of the protection equipment on the power lines in response to these issues and prevent more prolonged outages. These outages normally last less than one minute.

Our substation in the Codroy Valley is supplied by a single transmission line owned and operated by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro (Hydro) that runs from Bottom Brook to Doyles. Over the past five years, our customers in the Codroy Valley/Doyles area have experienced approximately 42 outages (greater than 1 minute). Only 7 of these outages were related to Newfoundland Power’s infrastructure. The other 35 outages were related to Hydro’s transmission line that resulted in a loss of power supply to Newfoundland Power and our customers. About one third of Hydro’s outages were planned to allow them to perform maintenance and upgrades to their transmission line. In those instances, customers should have received advance notice. Note that these outages impacted the entire power line, or feeder, that serves this area. Isolated outages impacting smaller number of customers in localized areas can also occur.

We conduct regular inspections of our power lines to identify potential problem areas that are then addressed on a priority basis. The power line serving this area is scheduled for its normal inspection in 2019 to identify any specific problems. This area is very heavy with trees and our ongoing vegetation management in 2019 will continue to address these problems. We also plan to install equipment that will make it easier for crews to sectionalize the line and isolate problems when they occur to minimize the number of customers affected.”

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