Qwest files claim against Duluth steam plant for communications outageQwest Communications has officially filed a damage claim with Duluth Steam Cooperative’s insurance company, accusing the steam cooperative of causing an outage Jan. 26 that left virtually the entire North Shore without Internet, cell phone or landline phone coverage for more than 12 hours.
By: Mike Creger, Lake County News-Chronicle
Qwest Communications has officially filed a damage claim with Duluth Steam Cooperative’s insurance company, accusing the steam cooperative of causing an outage Jan. 26 that left virtually the entire North Shore without Internet, cell phone or landline phone coverage for more than 12 hours.
A monetary figure has not been determined.
Qwest Minnesota President John Stanoch sent a letter to Lake and Cook county commissioners Monday repeating his company’s position that a steam leak damaged fiber optic cable under Second Street and Second Avenue West in downtown Duluth. Stanoch included a letter dated March 15 from Qwest to Western National Mutual Insurance Co., Duluth Steam’s representative, outlining why it believes the steam company is liable for damages.
In the report, Qwest states that trouble began under the street the Sunday before the Jan. 26 outage when its monitoring system detected a failed line. Qwest said single-line failures are routine and it rerouted service to a spare line within the same cable. That Tuesday, more lines failed and the total outage occurred.
Duluth Steam manager Jerry Pelofske has said repeatedly that there wasn’t a steam leak in the area of the fiber optic lines. He said Tuesday he couldn’t comment on the claim because he hadn’t read it and deferred to Western National’s Gary Zylstra, who did not return a call seeking comment to his claims office in Edina, Minn.
Pelofske said earlier this month that Duluth Steam has received damage claims from Qwest before. He said the cooperative has never had to pay claims because the fault is in the installation of fiber lines too near the heat of steam pipes.
Qwest, in its report, says Duluth Steam workers were in the area of the line damage the day after the outage and told Qwest workers they were repairing a pressure valve leak 10 feet away from the damaged Qwest lines.
Qwest said more work would need to be done to determine how “such unusual heat and steam could occur in a manhole physically separated from Duluth Steam facilities located approximately 10 feet away.”
Qwest reports that the outage it suffered is “extremely unusual” and that it has “never experienced a similar issue” in Duluth. The fiber that was damaged had been in place since 1987.
Stanoch told Lake County commissioners that he will schedule meetings in the “next few weeks” to talk to them and other county officials to “answer any questions relating to this outage and our steps to minimize the possibility of a future outage.”