Comic Nurse has done Infospigot a good turn by going out to the site of the John Peter Altgeld/Vachel Lindsay monument (“Eagle Columns”) on Chicago’s North Side and getting a picture of the installation. As part of a volley of posts touched off by my random blogging about forced beer drinking in old New York, CN (who also goes by the name MK), mentioned an incident connected with the Altgeld/Lindsay installation (at the corner of Sheffield, Wrightwood and Lincoln):
“A few years ago when I was a nursing supervisor at the nearby level-one trauma center, a woman was brought in with multiple dog bites to her arm. Apparently she was walking her dog near the Altgeld memorial and her dog stepped on the manhole cover. Normally a quiet lab, he began squealing, yelping and seizing. When she reached down to help him, he bit her. It turned out somehow the manhole cover was conducting electricity. The dog did not survive the accident.”
OK–there’s a freak occurrence for you. Right? Using the curious person’s favorite tool, I find that, depending on where you live, it’s not so unusual. A quick search turns up several high-profile cases in New York City, including one several years ago in which a woman walking her dogs died (the dogs survived). The family of the victim in that case, Jodie S. Lane, won a $7 million settlement from Consolidated Edison and used part of the money to set up a foundation dedicated to public safety in New York. But as the Gothamist blog has noted on several occasions since Lane’s death, the electrocutions, a product of “stray voltage” from nearby electrical installations like the manhole cover MK writes about. It’s an old problem and one that used to be associated mostly with dairy farm operations. On the public streets, the issue appears to be particularly acute in rainy or snowy weather (one recent example from Chicago).
InfraShock, a New York activist’s website, is devoted to alerting (or alarming) the public to (about) the danger. The New York City Council continues to study the problem. And ConEd, still trying to track down all the stray voltage it’s leaking into the street, has happened on a novel strategy to warn the public away from potentially hazardous site: The utility was found last year to be roping off the danger zones and hiring limo drivers to park nearby to ward off hapless pedestrians.
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