Copper thieves are responsible for a power outage that affected nearly 1,500 Kentucky Power customers in Pikeville Monday night, including the local hospital.
Thieves cut fencing surrounding a high-voltage mobile transformer at the South Pikeville Substation to gain access at about 8:15 p.m. Once inside the fence, they risked electrocution as they removed copper grounds and neutrals, said Everett Phillips, Kentucky Power’s managing director distribution region operations. The transformer served Pikeville Medical Center, as well as customers in downtown Pikeville and Island Creek. Power was restored to all customers by 1 a.m. Tuesday.
“Anytime you go into a substation, you're dealing with high voltage lines,” Phillips said. “Stealing copper is extremely dangerous and a foolish thing to do. The theft causes damage to Kentucky Power property, creates hazards for customers and employees, and puts people at risk for fatalities and injuries for minimal gain.”
Over the years, Kentucky Power and its customers have been the targets of copper thieves because copper found in electrical sites like substations often are in remote areas where theft detection is difficult. Still, thieves risk their lives for little gain.
Copper currently sells for less than $2 a pound. The copper stolen Monday was estimated to be worth less than $200 as scrap metal, while the costs to repair the damage are estimated to cost at least $7,500 in materials and labor, Phillips said.
“Kentucky Power pursues legal action against all copper theft and vandalism,” he said. “We also offer a $5,000 reward for information leading to prosecution. Suspicious activity can be reported to local law enforcement or by calling 1-800-752-6007.”