For one hapless electrical engineer, it’s a classic case of “oops.”“They blew out six houses, all the appliances, everything,” said irate Waskaganish resident Bob Black.
Black is upset at Waska Resources, the company contracted to change the old transformers in the community. But he’s even more upset at the guys who did the work, TCI and CCI Arnaud.
“Everything that was plugged in got zapped and should be replaced,” Black continued. “We’ve been having trouble getting them to repair it. They’re nickel and diming us to death.”
Black claims that six houses lost $200,000 worth of appliances during the November 27 power surge when Hydro was in the midst of upgrading the community’s transformers from 2,400 volts to 14,400.
He personally lost his dishwasher, four new DVD players and four TVs, all of which he’s replaced, plus his Bell Expressvu satellite system, the icemaker in his fridge and his surround sound system, which still have not been attended to by Arnaud.
On top of it, he has had to do all the work in replacing and setting up the new items in his house.
“I spent hours doing all this work, they should have had a crew come in and set it all back up. Are they going to pay my labour?” he asked.
Black said community electricians informed him that if everything was not replaced, they would slowly burn out.
St. Arnaud Project manager Luc St. Arnaud was apologetic about the whole mess. He explained how it happened.
“The whole community was fed by the old system of 2,400 volts,” he said. “But with the new system, the village will be fed with 14,400 volts.
“To do the changes, we needed to change all the transformers.”
The company thus replaced 60 transformers simultaneously. “Unfortunately, we missed two,” St. Arnaud said. “So when we energized the new 14,000-volt power line, the old transformers were still connected. So the houses connected to those two transformers received a lot more power than they’re supposed to.”
The result was a quick surge into the homes and the loss of everything plugged in at the time.
The change will see Waskaganish households feeding off 240-volt outlets instead of the much weaker 120-volt system.
“We replaced all these devices that were damaged, regardless of if they were able to repair them or not. They were all replaced by new ones,” said St. Arnaud, who added that someappliances were replaced with better, newer models. Those that have not yet been replaced shortly will be.
St. Arnaud said that his company also hired Jean-Pierre Brunet, the band’s electrician, to oversee the operation by testing the system and making sure no more damage is detected.
Some of the residents have experienced delays, according to St. Arnaud, because they did not give a list of what was damaged until a week or so after the fact. Contacting the insurance companies was another delay.
As far as food that perished during the outage, St. Arnaud said all residents have to do is make a list of what was lost and they will be reimbursed.
CCI Arnaud has extensive experience in these types of jobs, having built the power lines from the Nemiscau Hydro substation to Waskaganish.
Another resident affected was Peter Moses. “I wasn’t mad, but I didn’t feel too good aboutit,” said the soft-spoken man.
He lost his washer, dryer, and stove, which were replaced. He also said that his refrigerator is making a loud noise and is getting louder. Electricians were slated to re-check his house at press time.
Waska Resources’ Liaison Officer and Community Relations Representative Ian Diamond said the problems are being worked out.
“The items that were affected are being taken care of,” he promised. “Other than that, we apologized. That’s one of the errors that happen on a large-scale transition like this.”