By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Montclair residents have already suffered a few frustrating blackouts this summer. And PSE&G officials say they can’t guarantee whether interruptions will happen, especially when lines are overloaded during heatwaves.
But at a Township Council meeting July 13, they said they do guarantee a quick response when outages do happen.
That was the case on June 6 when a “violent breaker failure” occurred at the West Orange switching station that feeds power to Montclair substation, which in turn feeds power to residents and businesses, company Engineering and Resource Manager Joseph DePinto said. Within a half hour of customers in the area of Orange Road, Gates Avenue and Bloomfield Avenue reporting outages, he said, PSE&G was on site assessing the problem.
Although the weather was moderate and in the 60s, a mechanical failure caused a breaker to blow, coming off its foundation, damaging the breaker next to it, and spewing oil and soot all over the West Orange yard, he said. While the utility has the capability of shifting load from one line to another to retain power while fixing a problem, the breaker failure took out five lines, making that impossible, he said.
Within another half hour, they had the problem assessed, but 5,085 customers had to be taken offline for one to two hours while they replaced the breaker, DePinto said. Those same customers were offline for about 28 minutes on June 7 after two sensors blew.
In all, three breakers were replaced and upgraded to new gas ones in West Orange, he said — the one that blew, the one it damaged and another “sister” oil breaker of the same age.
Two circuit failures at the Montclair substation on June 28 during a heatwave caused residents to experience longer blackouts of six to 16 hours, DePinto said. The blackout, caused by the “stress of loading” and two underground cable failures on days that reached high in the 90s, affected 870 to 1,002 customers in the area North of Bloomfield Avenue along Midland Avenue, Valley Road, Highland Avenue and Upper Mountain Road.
In that case, the challenge was accessing connections in 12 different locations that are located both above ground and underground, DePinto said. Workers had to be sent to backyards and down manholes that had to be drained.
Last week, when a short but powerful storm raged through the area, more than 22,000 customers through the region were affected, as 181 power lines were ripped off of homes, 25 poles snapped, 125 trees were downed and PSE&G experienced 16 circuit lockouts, DePinto said. In Montclair, about 83 customers were affected, as it took crews more than 24 hours to restore power.
PSE&G Regional Public Affairs Manager Joseph McQueen, the company’s liaison to Montclair, said it’s important that residents call PSE&G directly when their power goes out.
“We don’t have smart meters that tell us there is a power outage,” McQueen said.
Rebecca Mazzarella, a communications senior consultant at PSE&G, told Montclair Local every outage should be reported.
“Don’t assume your neighbor called,” she said.
Residents can call 800-436-7734 or report outages on PSEG.com, but the best way to report is through the PSE&G app, the officials said. Residents will then also receive updates to their phones about when the lights will go back on.
The officials also encourages residents to report when street lights go out. Only an address where the light is located is needed, and the person reporting doesn’t need to live in the area.
By law the light needs to be replaced within three days, unless there is a mechanical problem, McQueen said.
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