LIPA: Rockaways Too Damaged To Repair
By NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
|Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand toured the damage in the Rockaways.
Photo provided by the Borough President’s office.
With some residents approaching their third week without power, the Long Island Power Authority has removed the Rockaways from its power outage map, citing the area as simply too damaged by Superstorm Sandy to restore electrical service at this time.
Nick Lizanich, vice president of transmission and distribution at LIPA, said that restoring power in the Rockaways in its current condition could potentially create a dangerous situation because many of the homes that sustained flood damage contained massive amounts of water that came out of the ocean and Jamaica Bay, leaving electrical panels under water.
“When it is under water, especially sea water, you end up with salt contamination and debris contamination, such that if we were to try and put the power on, there is the possibility the house could catch on fire,” Lizanich said. “The electricity would create a flash and the flash would ignite and turn into a damaging type of event.”
Additionally Lizanich said that by LIPA code, it is standard protocol to clean and replace important pieces of equipment to ensure it may safely revive electricity.
“We have about 34,000 customers with meters in the Rockaways and that would include a little bit of the area that’s back towards the Queens border. About 5,000 [of those] customers are on,” he said. “The remaining 29,000 are in the category that we can not restore them until they provide us the certification that the City of New York is requiring them to do.”
According to the representative, another major factor that delayed LIPA’s restoration efforts in the Rockaways is that its facility also suffered a considerable amount of water damage during Sandy.
“I also think it is also important to point out, LIPA’s equipment also sustained similar kinds of damage and we have had crews down there since the event occurred,” he said. “We did repairs on our facility and we are powered up again, so we do have power from one end of the peninsula to the other and we are taking on load in areas where we know it didn’t flood and in areas where customers have already cleaned and replaced their equipment.”
In an effort to speed up the recovery effort in the Rockaways, Lizanich said the agency has been communicating and identifying to community leaders about the steps the area should take to regain power.
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) did confirm that he has been speaking to officials at LIPA and said he also believed there were several parts of the Rockaways that were damaged to an extent that LIPA cannot restore its power.
“I can tell you that I’ve gone up and down the peninsula from the east all the way to the west, to Breezy Point, and there are a substantial number of homes that were affected by the storm. You just need to go and see the loss and rubbage that are in front of the homes,” Meeks said. “When water rises six feet in people’s basements and it gets into their electrical switches, salt water destroys it and we got to fix it.”
Although the Congressman shared many of the same concerns regarding the fire hazards of restoring power in homes far too damaged, he expressed his disapproval with LIPA’s response time, arguing the agency’s facilities should have been built better to withstand water damage.
“Initially they did not restore power to the places that could have power because the substations were knocked out,” he said. “Some were repairable; others were knocked out beyond repair so they had to bypass it. They will hopefully learn from this storm so that when they build anew, when another storm happens, it will not knock out the substations.”
Just nine days after LIPA removed the Rockaways off its outage map, CEO of LIPA, Michael Hervey resigned. More than two weeks after storm, 45,000 LIPA customers still remain without power.
Reach Reporter Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or email@example.com.