SWEPCO: Stealing copper from substation can be deadly - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

SWEPCO: Stealing copper from substation can be deadly

Live transformers can produce up to 340,000 volts. Live transformers can produce up to 340,000 volts.

In recent weeks, AEP SWEPCO has experienced a number of copper thefts at substations in Texarkana. The company warns that this isn't the best idea a thief can have.

Because of the risk of electrocution when coming close to a live transformer, SWEPCO is took steps Tuesday to notify the public of the dangers of the copper thefts. Not coincidentally, SWEPCO also supported authorities' efforts to catch those responsible for previous thefts.

SWEPCO's awareness campaign began as employee Paul Knowls demonstrated to the media the danger of stealing copper from an active power source.

"You will end up with third degree burns. The electricity will travel through here and back through this wire and work its way back to the ground," Knowls says.

The transformer Knowls works with produces 19,000 volts of electricity and can cause severe injuries. Transformers at SWEPCO substations transmits up to 340,000 volts.

"The word is, you have to be careful," SWEPCO spokesman Scott McCloud says. "It is a dangerous, dangerous thing going on in the community with the copper theft."

SWEPCO also brought in area law enforcement to curtail the copper theft problem.

"It can be costly. And, ultimately, our customers end up paying for this through the rate base because that is part of the rate base. We include the cost of equipment to be replaced," McCloud says.

McCloud says the thefts could affect safety features on electrical lines that could cause a danger for those working near power lines, including emergency personnel.

"If our protection device hadn't fired because of the loss of copper due to theft, what you end up with -- you see the arc will go straight through him and find the ground."

Anyone with information about copper theft is urged to call SWEPCO's security hotline at (866) 747-5845.

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