Residents of the Brilyn Park community in Falls Church have had what they consider to be an unusual number of power outages over the last three years, prompting them to ask Dominion Virginia Power for answers.
One section of the neighborhood has had seven localized outages over the last three years, in addition to a handful of more widespread power failures following big storms.Dominion spokesman Charles Penn said the average number of outages varies greatly based on geography, exposure to trees, and other factors.
Brenda Seidman worked to set up a meeting with Dominion officials after it seemed that outages were becoming more frequent and lasting a longer period of time.
“I walk a dog, so I hear a lot of complaints from the neighbors,” she said “Our perception was that our community was more affected.”
She said she was particularly concerned about an elderly neighbor who was in hospice care during a recent outage in June. It made her think about how a lack of air conditioning and other electrical services would be more of a challenge as she gets older.
After looking into the issues in the neighborhood, Dominion is planning to make improvements to the power grid there, said Rob McIntyre, a reliability manager with the utility.
He said the neighborhood’s older trees and more frequent severe weather events are the primary factors leading to the greater number of outages. Most of the approximately 500 homes in Brilyn Park and neighboring communities were built in the late 1940s, according to county tax records.
Dominion can use newer technologies and add redundancy to the system so that fewer people experience outages, McIntyre said.
The company will add new fuses to the circuits in the community to better isolate localized outages, so a downed tree on a neighborhood line will affect 35 homes instead of 135, he said. Those devices will be installed later this year.
Dominion will also add a new line into the community in early 2014, McIntyre said.
Dominion declined to say how much the Brilyn Park projects will cost, but Penn said the company will spend about $180 million this year on reliability upgrades.
McIntyre also encouraged residents to contact the company if they believe a tree is at risk of affecting power lines.
This level of attention to a neighborhood issue is not unusual for Dominion, said Tim Sargeant, manager of state and local affairs.
“We work with a lot of community groups to make sure that the service is meeting their expectations and ours,” Sargeant said.