COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A woman in Columbus’ Hilltop neighborhood says she spent nearly a month fighting to get AEP Ohio to replace a dangerous power line, but the company has a different account of what happened.
Hilltop resident Sarah Bidwell said she first noticed issues with a power line over her backyard and alley on July 17. Sparks began shooting out of the wire, landing in the grass in her backyard near the intersection of Whitehead Road and Harris Avenue.
AEP Ohio shared its explanation for why a power line would create sparks like the one near Bidwell’s home did.
“Power line ‘arcing’ can sometimes occur if energized power lines come into contact with each other,” a spokesman for AEP said.
Bidwell told NBC4 that she called the Columbus Division of Fire about the sparking power line, who told her to call AEP Ohio. When a representative with the power company arrived, Bidwell said they did not do anything to address the line because she did not lose electricity.
“So AEP was aware of the sparking at that time but took no action, resulting in the second event that I caught on video less than a week later,” Bidwell said.
AEP Ohio did agree with Bidwell’s assessment that the wire over her backyard was creating a dangerous situation.
“Sparking power lines are hazardous and the customer did the right thing by notifying us right away,” the AEP spokesman said. “We always advise customers to stay away from any downed line and anything it may be touching, and immediately reach out to us or 911 to make the situation safe.”
However, the company disagreed with Bidwell’s account of what its worker did in response.
“Any tools or equipment that are determined to be dangerous are immediately removed from service,” the spokesman said. “The issues with the power line were immediately addressed when the customer contacted us.”
The Hilltop homeowner also disagreed with AEP’s statement.
“If it had been immediately addressed on [July 17] then the second event would have never occurred,” Bidwell said.
This is where Bidwell’s account goes further. During the next week she said the shooting sparks kicked up again on the same power line, and this time the energized wire fell down. Bidwell was able to capture video of the sparks flying in her home’s alley this time around.
After Bidwell called firefighters about the downed line, they called AEP to help. This is where the Hilltop resident and the power company have differing accounts again. Bidwell said the AEP worker told her there wasn’t enough wire in his truck to replace the downed line, so he picked up the existing one and reconnected it.
While AEP said that the power line issue was immediately addressed in the first situation, it also disagreed with this portion of Bidwell’s story.
“Our line trucks are equipped with enough wire to make any situation safe,” the spokesman said. “When a power line falls, if one of our employees is able to repair it so the wire is safe and can reliably deliver power, typically only damaged sections need to be replaced.”
Bidwell said that the reconnected line was clearly damaged, and that she got the AEP employee at the scene to confirm that.
“You can visually see the wires are disintegrating,” Bidwell said. “He explained to me the insulation casing around the actual wire is crumbling off.”
Bidwell said that she persisted to try and get the power lines replaced through her alleyway, because they were in similar shape to the sparking line.
“When we were looking at the condition of the wires further down the alley [the AEP worker] acknowledged those are also in bad shape and would need replacing,” Bidwell said.
The Hilltop resident said AEP informed her that it made a work order, but only to replace the power line that was shooting out sparks near her home. However, AEP Ohio said that the work order — planned for the future — goes further than the one sparking line.
“After talking with the customer and to alleviate her concerns, we made the decision to replace the power lines in the alley … which is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 8, weather permitting,” the spokesman said.