2013-07-26 / Top Stories

LIPA Fixes Up After Sandy

By Katie McFadden

LIPA officials invited elected officials and the press on a tour of their facilities to highlight their post-Sandy recovery in the Rockaways. LIPA officials invited elected officials and the press on a tour of their facilities to highlight their post-Sandy recovery in the Rockaways. “It’s a work in progress,” Nick Lizanich, Vice President of Transmission and Distribution Operations for the Long Island Power Authority said of the power company’s post-Sandy recovery.

LIPA has taken immediate, temporary and permanent steps to repair the peninsula’s substations and prepare for future storms.

Lizanich and other LIPA officials hosted a tour on July 17th to show what they have been up to over the past nine months since the storm flooded the peninsula and their substations in Arverne, Rockaway Beach, Far Rockaway and Neponsit.

Labels mark off the exact spots that up to five feet of water reached in various parts of the Arverne substation, which is a 33,000 to 15,000 volt distribution station and 33,000 volt transmission station on Beach 53rd Street. During Sandy, switchgear short circuited, breakers were destroyed and entire buildings were damaged, knocking out power to the entire peninsula.

Temporary measures were taken to fix some of the components as quickly as possible after the storm receded so that Rockaway’s 34,000 LIPA customers could get their power back, once certified electricians inspected individual properties and deemed them safe.

Most residents had to wait several weeks to get power restored, which made kick starting the recovery process difficult as it got dark early, which limited work, temperatures were starting to drop and gasoline used to repeatedly fill generators was hard to come by.

As part of the temporary measures taken wiring was fixed, breakers, batteries, chargers and fencing were replaced and all of the terminals were cleaned, but signs of the salt water damage still remain. “As good as you clean it, it’s salt water. It doesn’t go away,” Lizanich said.

Entire switchgear buildings, control houses and other components will have to be completely replaced and elevated, as part of the permanent plan that LIPA has for the local substations.

Taking FEMA’s recommendations into consideration, the electric company will elevate entire components that were flooded by Sandy. Some have already been lifted and now rest on concrete walls, at least five feet high.

“It’s going to take a couple of years to improve everything,” Lizanich said. He noted the work is expected to take two years and should be complete by early 2015.

While this work is being done and buildings are replaced and elevated and stations are rewired, Lizanich says customers won’t be affected and won’t have power disruptions as mobile stations will be set up when the old components are taken out of service.

As all of these repairs are done and improvements are made, there is still the concern of possible flooding in the near future. To address this problem, LIPA has turned to TrapBag barriers.

The power company is using the same device that the Department of Parks and Recreation has decided to use as temporary protection for some of the beaches.

The six-foot TrapBag barriers have been installed around the substations in preparation for any potential flooding as LIPA works to elevate its operations.

Among those who took the tour and saw LIPA’s improvements were Councilman Donovan Richards, Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska and Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder.

“I personally experienced the suffering caused by LIPA in the aftermath of Sandy and I’m now proud to witness firsthand the progress that has been made by nearly nine months after the storm.” said Goldfeder.

“I worked alongside my colleagues from Long Island who were instrumental in helping to restructure LIPA and ensure that there is a plan and accountability in place going forward.

“LIPA’s response after Sandy was completely unacceptable, but it’s great to see the many improvements that have already been made for our community and for our future.”

Goldfeder and the Assembly recently passed a measure that will lead to an overhaul of LIPA to ensure that the company is reliable and held accountable.

The legislation would privatize the day-to-day operations and long-term planning of LIPA, stabilize electric delivery rates, improve customer service, refinance LIPA’s higher interest rate debt and strengthen oversight.

A new Office of the Department of Public Service will also review and make recommendations for the company.

LIPA is also currently involved in a lawsuit brought by 120 Breezy Point and Rockaway residents, represented by local firm Sullivan & Galleshaw, who say that the power company should be held responsible for their homes burning to the ground during Hurricane Sandy.

The plaintiffs say the electric company and National Grid had a duty to turn off the power grid during the storm, which was done on Fire Island.

Fire officials confirmed that the fires started around the peninsula when water hit the electrical systems inside homes.

When asked about the lawsuit, Lizanich had no comment.

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