Electric sabotage attempted near Ivy
Three nuts were completely removed from one tower and eight nuts were loosened on a another, according to Albemarle detective Phil Giles. Although the two towers were damaged, Giles says they are "not in danger of falling"– that is, unless more nuts are removed.
Each steel lattice-construction transmission tower is 80 to 100 feet tall, with four legs that sit on large concrete bases with four pairs of nuts to lock each leg in place. A quick visit this morning by a Hook photographer found new alloy
bolts nuts on two of the four bases of the tower closest to Wendover Road, a quiet cul-de-sac.
Giles says this is the first electrical tower vandalism in the area. And according to Karl Neddenien, a spokesperson for Dominion Virginia Power, this is the first time in its history that the company has noticed damage to equipment serious enough to warrant contacting local law enforcement.
In recent months, the electric utility has received criticism for its plan to build a new high-power line through Northern Virginia, but opponents of the project– primarily farm owners whose property would be crossed– have not urged supporters toward violence or sabotage.
Albemarle County Police are currently assisting the FBI by interviewing residents of the West Leigh neighborhood, where the incident occurred. Giles says investigators have "no idea" about a purpose for the act, but he adds they are pursuing a few leads.
Although no special tools were required, Giles explains that any saboteur would have needed implements, and that the suspected individual or group "had used several items."
Giles speculates that since three nuts were completely removed on one tower and several loosened on the other, the perpetrator or perpetrators may have been unable to complete the job. "It looks," he says, "like they got frustrated and left."
The damage was discovered on a routine inspection by Dominion workers on January 10, but is suspected to have taken place up to five weeks earlier. Citing company security concerns, Neddenien declined to say what steps might be taken to prevent similar deeds.