'Not something anyone has ever seen': Hydro One investigates how a barge and crane left Toronto in the dark

·3 min read
Hydro One said a crane which was being transported by barge through the Port Lands caused the downtown outage when it hit high-voltage power lines.  (Yan Theoret/CBC - image credit)
Hydro One said a crane which was being transported by barge through the Port Lands caused the downtown outage when it hit high-voltage power lines. (Yan Theoret/CBC - image credit)

A day after a power outage left thousands in the dark in downtown Toronto for nearly eight hours, Hydro One says it is continuing to assess damage caused by a crane that hit high-voltage power lines.

Toronto Hydro and Hydro One say power was restored last night to remaining customers after a large swath of the city's downtown core — including office buildings, a major mall and a university campus  — was left without electricity.

Hydro One says the outage was caused by a barge moving a crane in an upright position that ran into high-voltage transmission lines in the Port Lands, a largely industrial area on Toronto's waterfront.

The general manager of Toronto Water, Lou Di Gironimo, said two subcontractors were trying to move the crane ahead of the future construction of an outfall project for the city's main wastewater treatment plant in Ashbridges Bay.

He says nobody was seriously hurt.

"There are safe limits any time you are talking about power lines and the [person operating the boat] was clearly not adhering to that," said Hydro One spokesperson Tiz Baccega Rosa told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Friday.

"I've been around for 10 years, a lot of long-standing employees at our company know this is not something anyone has ever seen."

Baccega Rosa said the utility needs to repair the damage caused by the crane, which will take at least a few days.

She also said Hydro One will continue to stress the importance of respecting safety protocols to prevent similar incidents.

LISTEN | Hydro One crews still working to assess damage from Thursday's power outage:

The outage, which hit around 12:30 p.m., affected approximately 10,000 customers, and power was restored to half of them by 6 p.m. It affected customers in the financial district, Toronto Metropolitan University and the bustling Eaton Centre mall.

"That type of impact on a line carrying that voltage actually has a downstream effect that was hindering our ability to repower," she said.

Simon Dingley/CBC
Simon Dingley/CBC

Baccega Rosa said the incident, which caused issues at its Esplanade station, meant crews also had to wait for Toronto Fire to determine the site was safe before they were able to enter and re-route power.

"A lot of yesterday was spent actually gaining safe access to the site. Once they were able to gain access to the site, [crews] were able to make repairs," she said.

At approximately 8 p.m., Toronto Hydro reported that all affected customers had their power restored.

Baccega Rosa said Hydro One crews will continue to assess damage on Friday.

"The important thing to know is what is happening shouldn't have an impact on the city," she said.

City launches investigation

The City of Toronto says it has launched a full investigation into the cause of Thursday's massive power outage, and says it's expected to wrap up in the coming days.

The city says it with its main wastewater contractor to investigate what procedures were in place as the work was carried out, and whether health and safety measures were implemented and followed, Di Gironimo said.

They will also come up with recommendations to help prevent similar incidents, he said.

It's requested a full report from the main outfall project contractor, Southland-Astaldi Joint Venture. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a separate statement, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says it's been notified of the incident. It states investigators are currently gathering information.