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Retired hydro worker warns inadequate maintenance behind vault explosions

Last Updated Jul 15, 2017 at 6:49 pm EDT

A retired Toronto Hydro worker says long-term systemic problems at the utility are exposing the public to great danger.

Paul Kahnert claims inadequate maintenance is at the root of two recent hydro vault explosions in the downtown core.

Toronto Hydro crews say equipment failure was the cause of a hydro vault explosion Friday afternoon on Adelaide Street West near Bay Street.

Back on May 1, a series of blasts along King Street West during rush hour forced the evacuation of the RBC Building at 20 King St. W. That was determined to be a transformer fire possibly caused by flooding in the vault following days of heavy rains.

Until the May incident, there had been no fires in Toronto’s 1,100 underground vaults since 2015.

Hydro spokesman Brian Buchan says while there have been two incidents within a short period of time, “it’s not a common occurrence.”

But in an open letter to Mayor John Tory back in May, Kahnert — a retired hydro worker with over 30 years experience on the job — wrote he and several other retirees warned Toronto Hydro last July of the likelihood of transformer vault explosions due to inadequate maintenance.

Kahnert says the lack of proper maintenance on key components of the power distribution system is a “long-term systemic problem” and that the neglect is putting the public at risk.

“The big concern is there are hundreds of cafes and restaurants sitting right on top of Toronto Hydro transformer vaults,” Kahnert tells 680 NEWS.

Kahnert and fellow retiree David Grant have called for a ban on restaurant seating on top of the transformer vaults until a thorough and public review of Toronto Hydro maintenance is carried out.

Toronto Hydro spokeswoman Florence Gabriel claims while the city does have aging infrastructure, all of the equipment is properly maintained.