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Monday, August 23, 2021

WIPCO, NIPCO hit by copper theft

Western Iowa Power Cooperative and its power provider, Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative (NIPCO), were victims of copper theft on Friday, August 20th between the hours of 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. The vandalism these thieves performed became evident the evening of August 21 and during the early morning hours of August 22, according to a press release. Four distribution substations and one transmission switching station in Monona County were vandalized. In each case, vandals cut through locked gates and mesh fencing to gain access to the substation equipment where they stripped copper grounding wire attached to the electric componentry and system. This resulted in SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) alarms and calls from local passersby, stating they were a witness to electrical arcing/fire and open gates and fencing. While electric power was able to be re-routed to prevent outages to member-consumers, all sites required extensive repair to restore normal operations. Two substation sites received major damage which will necessitate electric cooperative crews more time to assess and repair.

No personal injuries to any WIPCO or NIPCO crews occurred, and minimal power outages were reported by member-consumers of WIPCO. All power related to this vandalism has been restored as of 4:30 a.m.

Copper theft is a serious crime. These thefts can cause power surges, outages, fires, explosions, and injuries to co-op workers or innocent people coming into contact with tampered equipment.

Any additional information on this criminal activity is being sought by WIPCO and NIPCO in the hours or days preceding the time the vandalism occurred at or near any of the following substations in Monona County: Blencoe, Blue Lake, Lossing Corner, Onawa, or the J5 switching station.

“These thieves are risking their lives and the lives of others for a very small return on their ‘investment’ in crime,” said Jeff Bean, Executive Vice President and General manager of WIPCO. “We urge the public that if they see something to say something. Call our office at 800-253-5189 or call Crime Stoppers number at 800-452-1111 to help us solve this crime, and stop copper thefts.

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