The major news coverage of billion dollar maintenance costs and PUC fines against California utility companies in 2013 have damaged the utility industry. As Patrick Healy reported in NBC 4 News on August 19, 2013, many of the wood poles were weakened by termites: SoCal Edison Proposes Plan to Assess, Fix Power Poles That Don't Meet Safety Standards. According to NBC and Southern California Edison spokesman David Song:
Termites were listed in the CPUC Report as one of the causes of the structural failures that led to these catastrophic failures:
"Edison and CIP were found to have "violated...General Order (GO) 95 safety factor requirements," the January report reads. The investigation discovered that some of the failed wooden poles had been weakened by termite, woodpecker, dry rot, and fungus damage."
Elected officials in California like Felipe Fuentes (Council Member 7th District) and former State Representative and now U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff have noted the problem with their constituents. As reported in the NBC 4 news story:
"That's going to be a massive job," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), much of whose 28th Congressional District was affected by the 2011 windstorm and power outages. "And we'd like to have that soon, so we don't have another mass outage."
In Hawaii the utility companies, windfarms and Ziplines have long protected wood poles by installing Polesocks LLC termite barriers - a marine grade stainless steel wire mesh boot or "sock" that covers the portion of the wood pole buried in the ground. A total of 34,000 wood utility poles are protected for the life of the pole with pesticide-free stainless steel mesh barrier:
From 1996 to now no failures have been reported.
Now Polesocks termite barriers are being brought to the California utility industry to eliminate the problem of subterranean termites that contributed to the multi-million dollar fines and the economic losses to customers from pole failures.
All the utility company needs to do is to look at poles as they are removed and see if termites were present. Wood damage from termites is easy to determine by visual inspection. If termites have attacked a pole, they did so from a colony or nest in the area underneath the pole.
The nests are stable and long-lived (the termite Queen lives 25 years) and do not move, so if a pole was attacked by termites, then it is 100% guaranteed that the replacement pole will be attacked immediately as soon as it is in place. The pole replacement crew can simply call for a Polesocks termite barrier from the closest utility warehouse and install it on the pole.
The Polesocks termite barrier costs in the range of $500 and since replacement of a utility pole in Los Angeles can cost up to $43,000, the expense of $500 for life-of-the-pole termite protection is a no-brainer.
Polesocks Termite Barriers are expected to save the California utility industry many millions of dollars by keeping wood poles structurally sound and eliminating termite damage and the $43,000 replacement costs for a wood pole.