Copper Theft Slows Hurricane Irma Restoration Work
SECO Energy had more than 100,000 members without power after Irma lashed its Central Florida service territory with hurricane force winds.
Restoring power was a massive undertaking, needlessly complicated when copper line was stolen from several feeders in different parts of Sumter County.
SECO officials said the thieves’ biggest haul was more than 4,700 feet of copper from one of its facilities. The other feeders were hit for 1,000 feet and 460 feet respectively.
Copper theft has long been a problem for co-ops and other utilities. With the metal trading at around $2.94 per pound on the COMEX, thieves can sell it to make quick money but the utility is left with a bill that includes repairing damage, and that is often far larger than the cost of the stolen copper. “Though the cost of the replacement line itself was about $3,000, that doesn’t include the labor and equipment needed to perform the replacement,” said Kathryn Gloria, SECO’s vice president of corporate communications and energy services.
SECO hasn’t had as big a problem with copper conductor line thefts as some other co-ops because there’s not a lot of copper line left on its system due to infrastructure upgrades over the years.Theft of pole grounds is a more prevalent occurrence.
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