Upper Pontiac hydro outages worse than ever Seven year record breaker

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Allyson Beauregard

UPPER PONTIAC – David Gillespie, a L’isle-aux-Allumettes farmer and Pontiac L’Union des producteurs agricoles board member, has been tracking hydro outages in the Upper Pontiac since 2009; with every outage, he records the date and time as well as the outage’s duration and then compiles the data at the year’s end in order to

Allyson Beauregard

UPPER PONTIAC – David Gillespie, a L’isle-aux-Allumettes farmer and Pontiac L’Union des producteurs agricoles board member, has been tracking hydro outages in the Upper Pontiac since 2009; with every outage, he records the date and time as well as the outage’s duration and then compiles the data at the year’s end in order to
compare it to other years. After three outages on November 19, Gillespie informed various Pontiac officials and community members that the outages in 2015 have already surpassed those of any other recorded year. “And the year’s not finished yet!” he stressed.
With 61 outages as of November 19, the number breaks a seven year record. There were 35 outages in 2009, 34 in 2010, 46 in 2011, 42 in 2012, 60 in 2013, and 54 in 2014.
After moving to the Pontiac in 2006 and witnessing the high frequency of outages, Gillespie began making note of the failures in order to have concrete data to present to those involved. “At the beginning, Hydro Quebec denied there was a problem and basically said ‘prove it’.  After a while, they began recognizing my recordings,” he said. 
This past summer, Hydro Quebec did tree cutting and brushing under power lines in order to rectify the
problem; however, according to Gillespie’s data, the number of outages have increased. “Since the very beginning, Hydro has said the trees are the problem, but I know they’re not. I believe the issue lies in
the distribution system,”
speculated Gillespie.
Raymond Durocher, Pontiac Warden and Mayor of Fort-Coulonge, looked
at Gillespie’s data more
positively. “There are more
outages, but the duration of the failures is less than other years,” he said, saying the MRC Pontiac will follow-up on the issue. “This was
mentioned in the Warden’s Report and we must remain vigilant,” he added. With 916 cumulative minutes of outages so far, 2015 ranks third ahead of 670 minutes in 2009 and 184 minutes in 2010; outage duration peaked in 2011 (5,699
minutes), and in 2013 (6,629 minutes).
Mayor of L’Isle-
aux-Allumettes Winston Sunstrum also highlighted the improvement in the length of outages as well as the work Hydro Quebec has already done but said improvements are still needed.
“We need to identify why we are having so many outages of one minute or less,” he said while identifying some of the problems the short outages cause such as having to re-set clocks and other electronics (or sleeping late because an alarm didn’t go off), businesses having to re-boot servers and re-start programs (losing data), and power surges that can cause damage to industrial motors and appliances with newer electronic systems.
“We will continue to work with Dave Gillespie, the UPA, the MRC, our MNA and Hydro Quebec to identify what is causing the outages in order to get the hydro service enjoyed by other areas of the Pontiac and Quebec. We will also continue monitoring to see if our efforts
are having any impact,” Sunstrum told the Journal.
Local commerce affected
According to UPA President Denis Dubeau, the matter will not be taken lightly.  “We are not going to let this go; we will keep pushing for action.
I will be meeting with Pontiac MNA Andre Fortin and will be speaking to the UPA Federation who will also look into it. The frequent outages have a big effect on the area’s producers,” he said.
The failures also have a negative effect on local businesses and organizations. Sue Collins, an employee at the Caisse populaire Desjardins Chapeau explained the bank’s plight:  “We are at a stand-still when the power goes out because everything is (stored) in the
computers. Even if the power goes out for a second, all of the computers reboot, which takes about four minutes. However, if the power is out for an extended period, our entire server goes down; when the power returns, we have to wait for it to power up and then all of the computers reboot, which takes about 15 minutes. This happened three times on November 19; by the time we got the systems going, the power went off again and we had to restart the process,” she explained, noting that
without power, customers can only be served using the old-style deposit and
withdrawal slips and no account information can be provided.
“It’s very time consuming because everything done manually must be then put in the computer when the electricity returns; we have to
do everything twice. It’s
also very frustrating for
customers if they can’t get the information they came for, about their account, etc.,” she concluded.