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St. Albans, Queens Resident Wins Award for Con Edison Research

A Con Edison engineer from the St. Albans neighborhood in Queens has won prestigious recognition for findings that improve manhole safety.

Mark Riddle, an engineer in Distribution Engineering, received the Technology Transfer Award from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

He and Con Edison colleague Colleen Murach, an operating supervisor in Brooklyn and Queens Electric Operations, represented Con Edison on a task force that looked for ways to make the low-voltage electric distribution system safer and more reliable.

“Safe, reliable energy is imperative in New York, home to millions, host to visitors from all over the world, and where top health-care, technology and educational institutions do their important work,” said Tim Cawley, president of Con Edison. “The work of our researchers will help us continue to provide the excellent service that is essential in this vibrant region.”

The research included simulating manhole events at EPRI’s Lenox, Mass. laboratory to determine the most effective latch designs for protecting the public. The latch keeps the cover in place if heat and gases build up in the manhole.

One latch used by Con Edison allows the cover to lift slightly on all sides in response to pressure and then settle back into place. An alternative design that the research determined to also be effective allows the cover to lift slightly on one side while remaining hinged on the opposite side.

Con Edison has installed more than 750 latched covers on its manholes.

Manhole events tend to occur following winter storms when melting snow and road salt wash into the underground electrical delivery system. If that salty water gets through the insulation on the wires and makes contact with the copper, it can generate heat. The burning insulation creates gas and smoke. A spark from the wires can ignite the gases.

Summer heat waves can also cause manhole events, as the demand for power rises due to customers using their air conditioners to stay comfortable. This causes underground cables to become hot.

Murach, who joined the company in 2014, and Riddle, who has worked for Con Edison since 2011, were among four company employees who won Technology Transfer Awards for work on the manhole research.

Josephine Aromando, a senior engineer in Research and Development, and Stan Lewis, a section manager in Distribution Engineering, also won Technology Transfer Awards for their work on the project.

The installation of latched covers is one of a number of programs Con Edison has to improve manhole safety. The company has also begun piloting the placement of bags of light pebbles in manholes to reduce the impact of manhole events.

Con Edison crews use thermal-imaging cameras to locate hot spots on cable. Crews are also placing wireless sensors in manholes to detect heat and gases that can indicate a repair is needed.

In addition, Jozsef Szabo, a senior engineer who works in Equipment & Field Engineering, won for a separate project. Szabo, led Con Edison’s adoption of a lubrication kit for substation equipment, including circuit breakers.

Working with EPRI, Szabo developed a process that uses the kit to clean and lubricate breakers without disassembly. The lubricant works its way into hard-to-reach parts of the breaker mechanism.

Con Edison is a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, Inc. [NYSE: ED], one of the nation’s largest investor-owned energy companies, with approximately $12 billion in annual revenues and $54 billion in assets. The utility delivers electricity, natural gas and steam to 3.4 million customers in New York City and Westchester County, N.Y. For financial, operations and customer service information, visit