Exposed cable wires seen as a hazard

May 06, 2008|By Liz F. Kay

THE PROBLEM: Exposed Comcast cables spew out of broken metal cases meant to protect them from the elements.

THE BACKSTORY: Larry E. Greene, who lives in the Irvington neighborhood of West Baltimore, reported what he feared was a dangerous problem.

Light-green metal cases housing Comcast cables have been broken for months and have wires sticking out on several streets of Frederick Heights, his townhouse community. He noticed the exposed wiring while walking up to Edmondson Avenue and when driving through the neighborhood.

The cases, or pedestals, cover the above-ground connections to below-ground utility cables, he said.

Greene alerted Comcast to the problem early this year. "I advised the Comcast phone representative that this is clearly a safety catastrophe waiting to claim a child's life," he wrote in an e-mail last month.

According to Greene, the representative told him a technician would respond, but nothing had been done when Watchdog contacted Greene last week.

By that point, a metal case had disappeared entirely on Athol Avenue near of Davis Avenue - leaving a clump of cables on the grassy median between the sidewalk and the roadway.

During a tour of the community, wires clearly labeled with Comcast tags spilled out of one casing between 37 and 39 N. Athol Ave. Watchdog observed at least four damaged pedestals in all, including those at other locations on Cobber Lane and Dana Street.

When Watchdog contacted Comcast, a company spokeswoman said that the wires were not dangerous.

"These are considered passive taps so they pose no imminent danger," said Aimee N. Metrick, director of public relations for Comcast's eastern division.

On Thursday, she reported that technicians had responded within hours of contact by Watchdog. They installed new pedestals where needed and locked down the covers of other cases.

"Although obviously unsightly, I want to reinforce that the previously exposed cables posed no electrical-related dangers to local residents," Metrick wrote in an e-mail.

The company has field audit employees who travel the region daily in Baltimore and the surrounding counties, Delaware and Richmond, Va., to check for quality-control issues such as broken or missing pedestals, Metrick said.

A number of factors can contribute to broken pedestals, such as weather, but the most common cause is vandalism, Metrick said.

WHO CAN FIX THIS: Customers can call 800-COMCAST or 410-427-9600 in the Greater Baltimore area to report an issue.

Update

CSX has taken down a dead tree on its property that was about to fall near a Rosedale home.

On April 22, the day Watchdog featured Gina Van Camps' concern that a dead tree across from her family's home on Gilmore Avenue might take out power lines as well as their fence, their truck and any drivers on the roadway, they received a call from CSX. An inspector came out on April 28, and workers took the tree down the next day.

She and her husband - and Baltimore County public works staff - had contacted the company numerous times to let them know that the tree was leaning and could fall.

"After over a month of our complaining through numerous phone calls and e-mail, and nothing being done, all it took was one article in The Baltimore Sun to finally get this resolved," Gina Van Camp wrote in an e-mail to Watchdog.

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