San Jose

Aging Power Poles Under Scrutiny by State Regulators

Power poles around residential areas across the Bay Aea are under extra scrutiny because of their age and potential fire danger, according to state regulators.

Old and poorly maintained power lines, like the ones suspected of causing the deadly fires in the North Bay in October, have been getting some extra attention.

Officials with the California Public Utilities Commission were in the South Bay on Monday touring problem poles, including one in San Jose's Willow Glen neighborhood. On that particular pole, the lines are being secured with a rope, which could fray, instead of steel cable.

Other issues observed Monday include unattached cables, new lines attached to old poles and duct tape used to secure equipment.

The CPUC is now rethinking how millions of poles across the state are managed and inspected.

"The follow through just isn't there, and some of these problems persist for years, posing a big risk to safety," said Catherine sandoval, former CPUC commissioner.

The CPUC wants to establish a statewide database for power poles.

"We know there is a potential for these poles being overloaded, but right now, there is not a single database that would establish where each pole is, what's on it and what it's condition is," CPUC President Michael Picker said.

That type of documentation would indicate whether there was a recent fire or other damage at a given power pole. But some wonder if the database would be enough to spark better maintenance.

Sandoval says despite complaints, not enough fines have been levied for poles violating safety standards.

PG&E says it inspects its poles once a year. One challenge is the fact that cable and phone companies also use the poles.

The CPUC held a public forum Monday evening in San Jose to talk about pole problems and what to look for.

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