WORCESTER (CBS) — They look like a light pole or sewer grate, but the jolt they can give humans and animals alike is enough to kill them.

The I-Team found lots of sources of stray voltage in the city of Worcester. Stray voltage is when electricity bleeds out of aging or poorly installed wires and then shows up in places it shouldn’t.

A woman in New York City was killed when she stepped on a manhole cover that was discharging 57 volts. Some of the poles the I-Team found registered 120 volts, the same as a household light socket.

The Power Survey Company used its state-of-the-art truck to hone in on contact voltage. It picks up signals from energized surfaces.

WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports.

“If you were barefoot and you touched this, you would get a shock for sure, maybe even electrocuted,” said Dave Kalokitis, of Power Survey Company, after finding an electrified pole.

In Massachusetts there’s a law that requires utilities to test for this exact problem once every five years.

Worcester Public Works Commissioner Bob Moylan said he was surprised by what the I-Team found. Although they haven’t had any complaints about stray voltage city testers did find current on some of the poles the I-Team reported. Moylan believes some of the sites were false readings. Still, he said he is taking the situation seriously and plans to go beyond the state regulations.

“We are gong to put a label on each light pole as we inspect it, and I said we are going to do about 50 percent of our system each year,” said Moylan.

Some of the charged poles in Worcester were the result of crossed or chaffed wires. The city says they’ve been fixed.

Comments (15)
  1. Bob says:

    When the CBS cameras were there…the lightpole was arcing and sparking all over the place….when Moylan and DPW show up….they claim the hazard was false?

    How can a sparking lightpole be a false hazard?

    Moylan should be given the axe right there. Enough taxes going to incompetents in the DPW.

    1. tom says:


  2. Bob says:


    Please explain to me what a false spark is?

    1. tom says:

      ASK THE MAN FROM THE DPW ???????

  3. Ann says:

    Iteam is doing good job show the problems so if someone is walking there dog or runing they will know what places to stay away so no one will get hurt.

  4. exitseven says:

    I’d like to run an extension cord from the lightpole to my refrigerator.

  5. Julie Solomita says:

    In 2003, my dog was electrocuted on the streets in Boston. I spent a night in the hospital as a result of the shock I got. State police was completely unresponsive when I dialed 911 ( the operator went so far as to yell at me then transferred me to Boston public works after hours while I was alone with a dead dog on my lap on a sidewalk in the dark sitting on a sidewalk with am active electrical charge)! Even after the incident, my follow-up with State police resulted in the typical “old boy network” response that everything was handled properly despitey having copies of the 911 tapes showing terrible treatment and no assistance. In addition, there is insufficient incentive for NStar and other electrical companies to do anything about this because animals are not worth anything in the eyes of the law. These companies also merely blame construction site companies even though they are supplying the electricity. Eight years after my terrible experience, the problem is still not resolved. Finally, I had a terrible time getting city officials to talk to me and listen to the problem.

  6. Michael Berry says:

    The I-team was there at night, when did the DPW go out and test?
    During the day when the pole lighting is off?
    No votage No problem. Or who is testing, are they electrical workers or the guy that patches pot holes?

  7. Watchdog 1 says:

    Please follow up on this story and recheck the locations in a spell— since the city just gave NSTAR the OK to bury a 115 KV line through streets in a heavily residential neighborhood. Sadly, the city missed an opportunity–it should have requested a dedicated truck be assigned to test downtown areas like the Suffolk Street location where you found stray voltage since its along a street where a lot of kids going to Friendly House pass by on a regular basis.

    Utility will install underground line
    National Grid has been given a green light from the City Council to install a new underground 115-kilovolt transmission line intended to improve the reliability of the regional electric system serving the city and nearby towns.
    Published on 05/19/11 in the category News

    And in today’s headlines– NG National Grid apologizes to customers who lost power

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