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Copper thieves steal power lines, leave thousands without power in Everett

Copper thieves broke into a substation and cut copper power lines out of the ground Wednesday morning, leaving thousands without power in Everett. (file photo)

Thousands were without power in Everett Thursday morning after copper thieves pulled the plug.

“We noticed, this morning, voltage fluctuations at our Glenwood substation in Everett, so they took the substation offline which cut power to 8,400 customers,” said Bob Bolerjack with the Snohomish County Public Utility District. “That power was rerouted and restored within a half an hour.”

Power was restored at around 6:45 a.m.

When crews went to the substation to assess why power was fluctuating, it didn’t take long to find out what the problem was.

“After an investigation we found that copper thieves had broken into the substation, cut ground wires, and that was the cause of the voltage fluctuation,” Bolerjack said. “We are still assessing the damage.”

Bolerjack said that the thieves cut through the wire fence around the substation to gain entry.

“It’s an incredibly dangerous and stupid thing to do, to break into a substation,” he said. “Anyone who does so and gets out without getting electrocuted is incredibly lucky. It’s high voltage and it will kill you if you hit the power. They are taking a heck of a risk for an extremely low return.”

While the theft of copper from a substation is a shocking revelation, it isn’t a new problem for the utility.

“This is probably the first one we have had this year, but we had about a dozen last year,” Bolerjack said. “It has been increasing, certainly. As copper prices have gone up, people have seen this as a target.”

“We’ve got 88 substation out there and this was never a problem in years past, but in the past couple of years it has become a problem,” he said.

Bolerjack said that the utility has begun investing in security retrofits for its substations which include cameras and hardened walls. So far, 18 substations have received the security upgrades, but Bolerjack notes that it will take time and money to get through them all.

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