Steamed homeowner cools down after company comes through
By Bob Okon email@example.com July 25, 2012 6:30PM
Gail Brugnara wipes sweat from her face as she talks about how a Waste Management garbage truck knocked down her power line between noon and 1 pm Monday off Marigold Place and Third St. and has left her without power since as seen Wednesday, July 25, 2012, in Joliet Township. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 27, 2012 11:14AM
JOLIET TOWNSHIP — With the temperature rising to 100 degrees Wednesday, Gail Brugnara had enough.
Brugnara had been without power — and air conditioning — since noon Monday, when a garbage truck snagged an overhead utility wire outside her house. The truck pulled down two poles and also ripped out the wire bringing electricity to Brugnara’s house on Marigold Place in the Ingalls Park area just outside Joliet.
She then spent two days on the phone with Waste Management, ComEd and others trying to find someone who would take responsibility and repair the damages so she could turn on a room air conditioner. All she heard until Wednesday afternoon was that it was someone else’s fault, and she’d have to come up with as much as $500 to hire an electrician to fix the damages.
“I’ve been very cooperative with everybody and understanding, and it’s run out,” Brugnara told The Herald-News as she described her predicament. “This is not fair.”
Brugnara, who is 61 and lives on a fixed income, said she could not afford the repairs and could not take the heat.
But then things got better,
Neighbor Floyd Catchpole came by with a generator she could use to run her air conditioner.
And then, Brugnara learned that Waste Management had decided it would pay for an electrician to hook up Brugnara’s electricity.
The heat was a factor in the decision, Waste Management spokesman Bill Plunkett said.
Waste Management blames the accident on a low-hanging wire. ComEd said it was a cable television line. But Plunkett said Waste Management decided something had to be done for Brugnara.
“Under the circumstances with this extreme heat, the important thing was to make sure that this lady was taken care of,” Plunkett said.
“I’m thrilled,” said Brugnara, who got the word from Waste Management after the company was contacted by The Herald-News about her situation. “I’m getting more help today than I’ve had the last two days.”
Just a couple of hours earlier before hearing the good news, Brugnara sat under a shade tree in her yard telling her story to a Herald-News reporter and expressing her frustration with a system that left her trying to fix a problem she had not caused.
“I’ve cried for two days straight,” she said then. “I don’t have any tears left. I’m totally, mentally exhausted. I feel like I’m chasing my own tail, and I wasn’t born with one.”
The accident knocked out power to several houses. ComEd came out quickly to fix the problem, Brugnara said. Restoring the overhead power lines was all her neighbors needed. But because the line leading to her house had been ripped out, Brugnara needed someone to reconnect her house and was being told that was her responsibility.
ComEd, when asked about the situation, issued a short statement indicating the problem was Brugnara’s to resolve.
The riser, the connection from ComEd’s overhead line to the resident’s meter box was damaged, ComEd said.
“The riser is customer-owned equipment,” ComEd’s statement says. “In order for ComEd to provide safe electrical service to the house, the riser has to be in good working order. The customer is responsible for repairing the riser.”
And, that was about it, although ComEd did say the problem started when “a garbage truck snagged cable television lines.”
Plunkett said low-hanging utility lines are a problem that tends to get worse in extreme heat. The company’s garbage trucks are 13 feet high, he said. Overhead utility lines are supposed to be at least 16 feet above ground, he said. Drivers report low-hanging wires, Plunkett said, “so these kind of things don’t happen.”