Vandalism to electrical transformers causes outages, oil leak in North Vancouver

BC Hydro says vandal cutting into transformers at risk of electrocution

Environmental calamity, a transformer explosion and electrocution are just a few of the risks posed by four acts of vandalism concentrated around Northlands Golf Course in the District of North Vancouver.

Since April, electrical transformers at Parkgate Avenue, Anne Macdonald Way, Mount Seymour Parkway and Strathaven Lane have been knocked out of commission by a vandal or group of vandals.

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“I have no idea why somebody would do this because it’s so dangerous on a number of levels,” said Jonny Knowles, BC Hydro public safety lead.

The incidents have caused more than $150,000 in damages along with multiple power outages, including one blackout that left 185 residents in the dark, another that cut power to the golf course, and a third that switched off electricity at a grocery store.

In each incident, someone has cut into the base of the transformer, posing a danger to the public, the vandal, and the employees assigned to repair the damage, Knowles said, comparing the acts to drilling into a car’s gas tank.

vandalism transformer
BC Hydro says vandalism has caused $150,000 in damage to electrical transformer boxes in North Vancouver. photo supplied

The transformers are designed to be safe and “99.9 per cent” of the time they should switch off when breached. “But there’s always the chance that that might not happen,” he added.

In two incidents, oil that acts to insulate the transformer leaked out. The leak was contained in gravel placed beneath the transformer, according to Knowles, who added that there is an environmental risk if the oil spreads.

On July 2, two transformers across the street from each other at Strathaven Lane and Mount Seymour Parkway were cut into some time before 4:45 a.m., according to North Vancouver RCMP Sgt. Doug Trousdell.

“We are investigating as a criminal matter,” Trousdell said, requesting residents review relevant dashcam video. “If anybody saw anything suspicious we’d very much like to follow up with them.”

There doesn’t appear to be anything stolen, according to Trousdell, who emphasized the need for people to avoid meddling with transformers.

“Nobody’s got any reason to be next to a transformer box,” Knowles said, asking neighbours to be watchful of anyone crouching near a transformer or carrying saws or power tools.

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