A break-in Wednesday at a Mason County PUD No. 3 substation on the Tahuya Peninsula west of Belfair resulted in the theft of copper and cable connectors from the high-voltage transformer and distribution equipment.
Besides safety concerns, the cost to replace the cable can be expensive. In this incident alone, PUD officials estimate that the response to the theft and the cable replacement may cost PUD customers nearly $10,000. The cost of material stolen has been estimated at $200. Nationally, the US Department of Energy estimates that copper thefts result in nearly $1 billion of losses to businesses each year.
PUD 3 personnel discovered the damage during a routine maintenance visit late Thursday afternoon.
“This is an extremely brazen and dangerous crime,” said Bob Smith, PUD 3 operations manager. “Not only were the suspects putting themselves in extreme danger, but when a substation’s grounding system is damaged it can present a danger to the public near the facility and PUD workers who may need to enter the area to conduct maintenance work.”
The incident prompted the PUD to switch nearly 2,700 customers served by the substation to the nearby Union River substation. The Collins Lake substation will remain offline while PUD 3 crews make repairs.