Dangerous power surges in Waltham to go uninvestigated by the state
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts denies formal investigation of company following two major power surges in Waltham; city councilors and mayor disagree.
With the charred remains of Waltham resident Raimondo Alonge’s home behind them, Waltham City Councilors Colleen Bradley-MacArthur (D – At-Large) and Jonathan Paz (D – Ward 9), a mayoral candidate this November, demanded that the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities investigate regional power company Eversource after two major power surges in the past year. Mr. Alonge’s home likely burned down because of the power surge, while hundreds of other Waltham residents lost a variety of electronic devices, such as refrigerators and computers. The City Councilors demanded that Eversource fully compensate Waltham residents who suffered property damage due to the surges.
In October 2022 and June 2023, Waltham experienced major power surges, where local power stations sent out more electricity to individual homes than those houses can safely handle. These surges caused hundreds to call the Waltham Fire Department and other first responders, straining the department to the point that the neighboring city of Lexington, MA began sending its fire engines. The Waltham Fire Department did not respond to the Justice’s request for comment in time for publication.
Mr. Alonge and other residents claimed that Eversource would only reimburse damaged items at a depreciated value. Paz and Bradley-MacArthur argue that Eversource should reimburse damaged property in full.
According to an Aug. 30 letter to Waltham city officials from the DPU, the dangerous surges most likely stemmed from rodents fraying control cables at the Automated Bus Restoration power station on Pine Street, which caused the breakers to malfunction, ultimately leading to the overvoltage. The letter went on to say that although the DPU issued a “strong warning” to Eversource, it would not conduct an investigation, based on but not limited to the seven safety responses promised by Eversource, such as keeping the Pine Street power station turned off until renovations and testing can be done.
Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, a 19-year incumbent and current candidate for reelection this November, reiterated in a written response to questions from the Justice that she is “not satisfied” with Eversource. McCarthy stated, “On behalf of the residents and businesses in the City of Waltham, I am asking DPU to review and independently evaluate Eversource’s infrastructure and policies.”
In a press conference at Alonge’s home on Tuesday, Sept. 5, Councilors Bradley-MacArthur and Jonathan Paz forcefully argued that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts reverse this decision. Paz said, “We demand that the Department of Public Utilities actually move forward with a public investigation of Eversource.” Paz added, “How many firefighters do we have to send in before Eversource does basic maintenance of this system?”
In an interview with the Justice immediately after the press conference, Paz reasoned that a D.P.U. investigation would shed light on Eversource’s upkeep of its electrical infrastructure and the long-term damage of power surges to homes. To Paz, citizens “need that picture, and we will not get that from Eversource.” When asked if she is confident that there will not be power surges in the future, Mayor McCarthy had a one-word answer: “no.”