Chestnut Hill Power Outage Benefits Philabundance

News Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

By: Andrew Maykuth

An outage of a high-load power service forced a Chestnut Hill grocery store to close Monday, creating an unexpected bonus for Philabundance, the regional food-pantry supplier.

Peco Energy Co. said three commercial customers lost heavy-duty power service early Monday, including the Weavers Way Co-op at 8424 Germantown Ave. Peco spokesman Greg Smore said the utility’s crews worked until early Tuesday to complete work replacing a faulty 30-foot section of underground cable in the Chestnut Hill business district.

Power was restored Monday night. By then the store’s shelves were emptied of meat, dairy and other refrigerated and frozen foods, said Jon Roesser, the co-op’s general manager.

“We’re missing a lot of perishable food,” he said Tuesday morning as the store reopened. “It’s going to be a recovery day.”

It was the second time in three months that Weavers Way lost three-phase service, which powers the store’s high-energy equipment, including freezers, refrigerators, and air-conditioning and ventilation systems.

Single-phase electrical service, which powers most residential and commercial customers, was unaffected.

Without refrigeration, some perishable items were moved to the co-op’s warehouse and its Mount Airy store, said Roesser. But much of the food was quickly picked up by food pantries associated with Philabundance.

The nonprofit, community-owned co-op lost three-phase service for a night in August, causing the dairy products and meats to rapidly lose refrigeration. “We had to discard a ton of product,” Roesser said.

Peco turned down the co-op’s $22,000 claim for damages, saying the outage was planned maintenance. Peco had notified customers that day of plans to work overnight on the service, though it had estimated the outage would last less than half as long as the 10 hours it actually did.

Peco compensates customers only for outages that could have been prevented, not for storm disruptions or something that the utility could not have foreseen, the Peco spokesman said.

Roesser said the co-op had considered installing backup generators, but was put off by the $200,000 up-front cost.

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