Sub-station vandalised six times in one month

Brian Watkyns inspects the sub-station in Pinelands which has been vandalised six times in a month. With him is David Sullivan, a senior superintendent in the electricity department.

A single sub-station in Pinelands has been vandalised on six occasions within the space of a month, leaving several areas without power.

The Alices Ride sub-station is being targeted for copper and cast iron switchgear stands, resulting in extensive damage to protection relays.

However, it is not the only one to have been damaged recently, with vandalism also reported at the Pinelands, Pine Edge (twice), Homestead Way (numerous), Cedar (twice), Achilles Way, Ringwood Drive (twice) and RH Morris sub-stations.

“The first time the Alices Ride sub-station was vandalised was around June 16,” said ward councillor Brian Watkyns.

“After the third break-in we decided to remove the low voltage switchgear ourselves, but there have been break-ins after normal working hours. In each case the padlocks were broken off to gain entry to the substation building. While we were busy removing the gear we noticed that people had gained access during the night and removed some secondary wiring.

“When this supply of copper was exhausted or removed by our staff, they tried the live equipment which resulted in the outages.”

While authorities are not aware of who the vandals might be at this stage, video footage has been received and will be studied this week.

“Hopefully this may lead to some action. These chaps take the scrap to dealers which are known to the SAPS. I would assume that with the photos, and videos we have made available to them, it should only be a matter of time before an arrest is made,” Mr Watkyns said.

In the interim, the City has installed steel palisade fencing as well as barbed wire where possible.

“All sub-stations have been fitted with anti-vandal or ‘skollie’ boxes which makes breaking of the padlock difficult.”

Mr Watkyns said in most cases the neutral and earth bars were being removed by the vandals, although the problem was not limited to sub-stations. Low-voltage infrastructure along the canal was also being targeted.

While levels of vandalism have not increased in Pinelands in the past five years, there has been an increase in terms of cost as a result of this action.

“It may also have a lot to do with the fact that we now ‘Capitalise’ the vandalism costs. In previous years we saw it as an operational expense. The problem is not limited to Pinelands alone; it also includes, Maitland (residential and industrial/commercial), Milnerton, Kensington, Woodstock, Summer Greens, Joe Slovo and Observatory,” he said.

In February, the City revealed that its electricity services department had experienced stolen or vandalised equipment costs totalling more than R9 million in the first half of the 2015/2016 financial year.

“The cost of this theft is not limited to repairing or replacing the infrastructure. In the case of our electricity network, theft also causes repeated blackouts, which affects local business and industry,” the City’s mayoral committee member for utility services, Ernest Sonnenberg, said at the time.