NStar: Power Fully Restored In Back Bay

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — NStar says power has been restored to the last of the customers who lost electricity after a smoky electrical transformer fire in Boston’s Back Bay earlier this week.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Karen Twomey reports

An NStar spokesman says the last 1,500 powerless customers were back online at about 2 a.m. Friday.

However, several people called WBZ-TV Friday morning to report they still have no power in their homes and businesses.

If you, or someone you know, is still without power, NStar urges you to call them at 1-800-592-2000.

About 21,000 customers lost power after the fire Tuesday evening.

NStar chief executive Tom May said at a news conference Thursday the fire was caused by an unusual “catastrophic” connector failure between a substation housing the transformer and the transmission system.

He said cables and generators are a temporary solution, and it’s hoped an undamaged second transformer at the substation can be reconnected.

State utility regulators said they’ll require a full report from NStar.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said NStar shareholders should bear the outage costs.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Rob Cleary

    I would personally like to thank the dedicated workers from NStar who’s professionalism and skill made this accident bearable for the residents of the Back Bay. What could have been a major problem was simply a minor inconvenience. Ignore the buffoon of a Mayor for He knows not of what He speaks. You are by far the best most experience power company in the whole country. The people of Boston are grateful that you are among us. Take a bow boys, you deserve it!

  • Dave_D

    Although people are commenting (ad nauseum) about how long certain areas were without power, I find it absolutely amazing how quickly NStar was able to restore power. They did this by cobbling together an ad hoc network of (relatively) small capacity generators and cables. How they were able to find resources and quickly integrate them into a temporary, but effective, solution boggles the mind. I’m sure long term reconstruction will take a while, but in the meantime everyone has their power back. Well done!

    • tsalnew

      Dave_D – they really have done an incredible job – also given the congestion of the city. I’ve never really had a problem with the mayor although in this case his posturing is more than amusing. It is typical for a utility to cover any police details. As far as his demand that an investigation be conducted, if he doesn’t know that an investigation as to the cause of failure was begin within hours, then his response time and knowledge should be in question.

      • Dave_D

        I can’t imagine that anyone has a greater interest than NStar in finding out and fully understanding what happened.

  • emom

    Lets see,,, How old are these behemoth of transformers,,, 5, 10 20 years old, When was the last time they had been looked at.. First they say they have no idea why they blew then they say its this connecting failure between substation and transformer.. Like so many transformers that blow up they are never looked at until they blow up… This is a huge house size one , some maintenance should have been able to be done to it. So glad it was not worse than it was. My mom has has a small one on a pole explode outside of her house, she lost power for 2 days, its a small one should be take down and put up a new one.. took longer than two days to do . Oh and here is the kicker,,,,, my mom and all the neighbors on the street called the electric company to inform them the stupid thing was buzzing,,,, get this there answer Its working fine, probably bees, really…. that’s what they call looking into it… the next street heard the darn buzzing,.,, that’s no bees trust me.. 3 days later KABOOM. and it burned the pole and a near by tree,,,,,,, YEAH that guy had no clue at all .. these things are dangerous and should have regular maintenance,,, rule of thumb if its buzzing, prepare for some faulure and or explosion… Have to wonder if birds made a nest in that big one and was a bit to close to a active part . those vents in front probably didnt have any prevention to stop them. small birds get into many places….

    • gramps

      Customers may absorb $160M power bill

      Experts such as John Sterman, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management who studies failing infrastructure across the country, said what’s happening in New England reflects a national trend.

      He attributes the increasing number of outages across the U.S. to a downward spiral of maintenance budget cuts by power companies in a bid to bolster bottom lines, followed by more expensive outages and more cuts to make up the difference.


      An NECIR investigation has found:

      A quadrupling of major power outages in Massachusetts over the past five years as major blackouts, once somewhat rare, have become annual occurrences.

      Too few frontline repair crews at the major power companies.
      Growing concerns over whether the state’s electric grid, including aging infrastructure and trees looming over lines, is being adequately maintained.

      National Grid, which has 725 field personnel, would have to an hire 336 additional linemen to match levels at the 11 town- and city-owned power companies reviewed by NECIR.

      WMECO, which has 80 linemen, or a 1.6 ratio per 10,000, would need to hire another 108 linemen.

      NStar, with the highest ratio at 3.08 linemen per 10,000 people, would have to hire another 169 field personnel.


  • tsalnew

    gramps – interesting article and thanks for posting it. My question would be what business do you know that is not cutting back on costs. And what would our electric bills look like if the utilities staffed to outage levels? That being said my guess is that they could staff somewhere in between what they have and what they need for a serious outage since there is no question they have cut back.

    The article cites the municipals I grew up in Belmont. On of my responsibilities when I was still living at home was to pay the electric bill. In the 1960s the electric bill in our home was $180.00 per month on average for electric only – not heating. I can’t even imagine what it would be now. And I will tell you we did not leave so much as one night light on that wasnt necessary. I’d rather go without power for three days than pay twice the monthly bill I currently get.

    emom, tests are regular and thorough on these transformers. ONE proof you have of that in this case is NSTAR’s immediate access to test records indicating the oil was not contaminated. In order to use it as a definitive tool, the test had to have been performed within a certain period of time prior to failure.. Oil standards are one major key to maintaining a transformer’s lifespan. Keep in mind that these transformers are very different from the pole type you are referring to – and what is referred to in gramps article You do not simply just change these out but you do test them thoroughly on a regular basis.

    I know it’s common for people to want to make something worse than it is – especially with the news media over-dramatization – but Dave_D is right. And it wasn’t worse than it was because of the job NSTAR did – and certainly credit goes to the police and fire. But hold on to your hats since there will be a surge in complaints when the replacement transformer goes on line.

    • gramps

      The cut’s they made in staffing only allowed the ‘Chiefs’ to keep their job’s & or increased the size of their ‘BONUSE’S’ !

      They put any ‘rate payer relief’ in their own pockets….


      • tsalnew

        and this differs from all big business at the moment how? More of the trickle up notion that never worked, never will worked, but is still supported by one side of the aisle.

  • emom

    GRAMPS so right,, the higher ups, continually gain a higher salary, while the employee field shrinks, And when there is a major catastrophic events, like we have seen over the last few years , that require outside states and Canada to come BAIL our state out is becoming a growing trend. Not to mention a much higher cost to all of us in the long run.. How much you wanna bet everyone in the bay state will have to absorb the total cost of this black out, the star will raise rates to everyone to off set costs, the Boston police will push the cost some how to the commonwealth.. and anyone else that was involved with this outage will in the end burden others for their cost,.. Something that is unfair to those that are never involved, But we will fork over the cost..And as for the going out and maintaining these things please they never do it, they even admitted they never had to… they believed there was no need to ,, If they had I have to wonder if they would have seen a problem sitting there, Like a birds nest or dozen of them there are vents right in front of it, and it probably generates heat so its a prime spot for birds..they just never thought ,, something they never THINK.

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