‘The toaster was on fire’: Halifax residents push Nova Scotia Power for answers to concerns

Nova Scotia Power identifies several changes for Clayton Park
WATCH: After about a dozen homeowners pushed Nova Scotia Power to investigate the cause of outages and a surge in their neighbourhood, the utility has identified several issues that require attention.

Last October, about a dozen homeowners in a Clayton Park neighbourhood experienced a power surge that caused significant damage to many appliances in their homes and piqued safety concerns due to one resident experiencing a fire.

“The toaster was on fire,” said Clayton Park homeowner Charlotte Marble. “If I had been home alone, I would have been downstairs — I wouldn’t have discovered that fire until it was out of control, I think, because by the time I came upstairs, the flames were several inches high and they were burning the underside of our cupboards.”

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Marble says she tossed baking soda on the flames and quickly shared her circumstances with other neighbours. Many decided to send a collective letter to Nova Scotia Power stating their concerns with ongoing outages and, more importantly, the recent surge.

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“[NSP] addressed the power outage but they didn’t address the power surge,” Marble said. “So, that’s what we really want to know. Is something going to be put in place so that power surge doesn’t happen again? Because that’s quite frightening.”

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An initial response letter from NSP stated that weather caused the outages and that several homeowners needed to cut, or trim, their trees because they interfered with some of the power system equipment.

NSP provided a contractor number for a tree maintenance company, encouraging customers to contact it.

Not satisfied with that response, some residents discussed their frustrations in a Global News story that aired on Jan. 24.

On Jan. 31, NSP sent operations and engineering crew members to the neighbourhood to conduct further assessments.

Crews found several changes that can be made to NSP equipment on some of the poles in the area.

“Nova Scotia Power needs to look after the equipment. That this is what the ratepayers are paying for,” said Nick Graham, another resident who experienced damage caused by the surge.

A Feb. 5 letter to homeowners in a Clayton Park neighbourhood states several issues Nova Scotia Power found in the area, ranging from trees to equipment changes. Submitted / Munis Karimzoda

Tree maintenance was once again noted as a concern and now, NSP is sending a contractor to the area to ask homeowners permission to proceed with trimming and cutting.

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A specific cause of the surge that caused home damage wasn’t identified but NSP says it was noted that several homes don’t have a grounding rod.

NSP says grounding rods are required in new homes built in the province and that the Clayton Park homes may not have them because they may have been built prior to that standard.

Graham feels NSP should have brought that to the attention of all owners of older homes.

“That’s the first I’ve ever heard Nova Scotia Power, or any electrician, mention that that’s something that we need to have. Why didn’t they have a publicity campaign to tell residents that every house built before whatever year needs to have one?” Graham said.

NSP is offering to pay for a third-party electrician to conduct an electrical and system inspection of the homes to determine if any modifications are needed.

According to NSP, a grounding system plays an important part in preventing a quick rush of current into a home during an outage, which can cause damage and safety risks.