PUC hears complaints about winter storm outages, other PECO issues

E08C3589534C42058BD56B4755EF4B37Better communication about outages and progress on repairs were among concerns expressed on electrical power disruptions from February’s ice storm.

The state Public Utility Commission, joined by PECO, listened to complaints Wednesday night stemming from the Feb. 5 ice storm. Electric service was disrupted, leaving thousands shivering in freezing temperatures from trees snapped by ice that downed wires.

Eric Helt, PECO vice president for electrical operations, said the utility learned from the experience of Superstorm Sandy three years ago, and tried to anticipate problems by calling for help outside the area before the storm hit, and by putting all staff on duty.

The winter storm, however, was the second-worst incident in the utility’s history. In Chester County alone, 80 percent of customers were left without power.

The hearing at the township building was attended by about 40 customers with other officials, most from Tredyffrin. They politely listened, but were looking for better communication about outages from PECO. They also expressed grievances to the PUC about long-standing issues with PECO service.

Ron Nimitz of the Glenhardie area near Valley Forge National Historical Park, said the reliability of service in the area was like a “third world country” in the best of times — let alone the understandable disruption from a major storm.

It was a complaint echoed by several who complained that service in the township could be disrupted for a few minutes or a few hours on clear days like Wednesday when there were strong breezes.

Peggy Frank of Valley Forge Mountain said residents up there spent five days without power from downed trees and did not have accurate information from PECO about when power would be restored. Personally, she said she was signed up for a PECO service to call back when power was restored. She never heard back from the utility.

Mark Herring of Tredyffrin in the Valley Forge Mountain area said the PUC should hold PECO to greater accountability for any service outages, that the integrity of the power grid should not be an option and that it should be the cost of doing business to provide dependable service.

Casey Jones of Parkesburg said the utility suffers from bad infrastructure in western Chester County, easily observed by the poor condition of many utility poles.

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