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Richmond residents sparked into action after power surge

Condo owners being offered scant compensation, despite BC Hydro admitting it was at fault
Cathy Oughton, front, and fellow residents at Chartwell Mews want BC Hydro to take greater responsibility after a power surge sent many of their appliances and electronics up in smoke.

The residents of a three-storey condo building are fighting BC Hydro for compensation after a blown transformer fried their appliances and electronics.

“(BC Hydro is) not taking responsibility for this, it’s a disgrace; our appliances and electronics have been fried,” said one of the residents, Cathy Oughton, who lost her stove, washing machine, microwave, laptop and other electronics.

More than half of the 68 strata units in Chartwell Mews on Citation Drive, near Garden City Road and Granville Avenue, were affected after a planned power outage and then massive power surge a few weeks ago sent their electrical equipment up in smoke or sparking.

BC Hydro admitted to the News it was at fault, having failed to fit a “tap” on the transformer, causing extra voltage to fly into the building when the power was restored.

A few of the residents have suffered financial losses of less than a $1,000, but the majority may take a hit of several thousand dollars to replace washing machines, fridges, stoves and entertainment systems.

Some of the residents have no insurance at all and can’t afford to replace the items — with one dad having to go out and buy packs of ice daily to keep milk fresh for his kids.

Those who do have insurance have large deductibles – up to $1,000 – and feel they shouldn’t have to cough up the cash and lose  any discounts through no fault of their own.

It’s also understood their strata corporation could be on the hook for having to pay for round-the-clock security for the building’s busted fire panel in the lobby and repair of the fire safety systems, such as sprinklers.

BC Hydro has told the residents it’s not required under the “Electric Tariff” — a provincial regulation that determines its terms of service — to reimburse customers after such power surges.

While recognizing the surge has “caused financial hardships,” BC Hydro is willing to compensate the residents — up to $1,000 only.

“All they’re offering is up to $1,000 compensation and even that is pro-rated, I’ve been told. My stove alone costs $1,200 to replace,” said Oughton.

“This was not our fault, it was theirs, they should be taking care of us.”

Another resident, Michelle Morin, has told of a “loud bang and then buzzing,” before going out onto her deck to inspect.

It was there that she realized the transformer had blown and later, after BC Hydro workers had arrived, she overheard one of them saying he had forgot “to do something the last time” he was at that transformer.

“I went back into my suite and I realized there was some smoke and sparks coming out of a unit on my wall,” said Morin.

“I called the fire department, as I was too scared to touch anything. One of their guys arrived shortly after and flicked all the switches off.

“I’ve lost phones, stereo system, CD player, DVD player, speakers, microwave; it comes to between $2,000 and $3,000. I have insurance, but with a $500 deductible.

“I shouldn’t be held responsible for the fact their transformer blew.”

A member of Richmond Fire-Rescue told Oughton that it wouldn’t have mattered if she had switched all her breakers off prior to the power surge.

BC Hydro spokesperson Simi Heer said the company would “work with those customers” whose needs are not being met by the maximum $1,000 compenation offer, including those being forced to claim via their own insurance.

The building’s property manager, Vancouver-based Pacific Quorum, did not return calls from the Richmond News by press time.

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