Over 160 families have been stealing electricity from the electrical grid of Heritage Petroleum and the company says it will soon beef up security to crack down on this.
The revelation comes after Kern Williams, 34, of Rifle Range Road, Palo Seco died after coming into contact with a 480-volt powerline tapped off from an illegal connection on the company’s grid on Boxing Day.
Even though the company has issued warning letters, placed signs and issued notices warning of the risks involved, the families in question have continued to play a cat-and-mouse game with the company. Because of the theft, the company pays an additional $14,000 per month for electricity it does not use. Apart from this, stolen electricity results in production losses whenever an illegal connection trips the electrical grid.
During an exclusive tour of the area yesterday, Guardian Media photographed the site where Williams died. A makeshift transformer was seen outside his plyboard house, exposed to the elements. Electrical lines encased in PVC piles led towards Williams’ home and another house. There was also an exposed electrical socket and a reel of electrical lines hanging loosely from Williams’ house.
One of Williams’s neighbours Angel Yearwood said they did not know that Williams’s power supply was illegal. She described Williams as a quiet and kind man.
“They say he died when he tried to move the electrical line. I knew him to be nice and kind. Honestly, I did not know his connection was illegal,” Yearwood said.
She revealed that the house he previously occupied broke down after gusty winds and he rebuilt it about two years ago.
A relative who requested anonymity denied that Williams had installed the illegal connection. She said when they moved into the house a few years ago, the house already had that existing supply.
She said they had applied to T&TEC to get electricity but had never been successful.
Heritage to crack down
on illegal connections
Corporate Communications Manager Arlene Gorin-George, who accompanied Guardian Media on the tour along with Operations Manager Reyos Seebaran; Electrical and Instrumentation Technician, Anthorn Millette; Facilities Lead Kibwe Herrera and Health and Safety Officer Joel Bourne, said about six families in Rifle Range Road were stealing electricity from the Heritage grid.
The 160 illegal connections, she said, were found at Forest Reserve, Grand Ravine Point Fortin, Los Bajos and Palo Seco.
Saying the perpetrators had become more innovative in their attempt to conceal the connections, Gorin-George said, “One person had bored a hole in a hollow electricity pole and ran the lines inside the pole before making the connection to their home. Most times they hide the connections on the grass without burying it.”
Gorin-George said the company had been doing its part to warn citizens about the risks of illegal connections.
“We disconnect as much as we can find while carrying out our day to day operations.
“However, the illegal connections are made in a simple way (yet risky) to connect and disconnect by illegal users. Once we start to disconnect in one area, they communicate with each other quickly and disconnect and move their wires off. This in itself is a risky operation,” she said.
She revealed that in some areas, perpetrators even threatened Heritage staff with violence when they were disconnected.
She noted that Heritage’s oil field spans most of southern Trinidad from Guayaguayare to Cedros and the company was responsible for the electrical grid within the oil fields.
“We take power from T&TEC high voltage systems and distribute it via our electrical grid in the field where we step down the power for use as required,” she explained.
Anyone utilising power from the Heritage grid has to find the means of reducing the power from 480 volts to 110 volts.
Gorin-George said the company has been utilising drone technology to monitor its vast land assets and would be cracking down on perpetrators soon.
Williams died around 11.30 am Saturday after coming into contact with the 480 voltage line.
Someone was brush cutting his yard and when he went to move the line he was electrocuted instantly. Williams’ funeral arrangements have not yet been finalised.