New manhole covers aim to keep lid on Morristown mayhem


For a long time, navigating the streets of Morristown was a game of manhole roulette.

New "safety" manhole cover installed in Morristown. Photo: JCP&L
New "safety" manhole cover installed in Morristown. Photo: JCP&L

Things came to an ugly head in the summer of 2011 when a Morris Township mom was injured by an exploding manhole while driving her young sons to an ice cream shop.

Citing an “alarming litany of failures” by Jersey Central Power & Light, the state Board of Public Utilities advised the utility to install a dozen safety covers, one of 25 steps to shore up Morristown’s underground network.

Those special covers have been installed, according to JCP&L spokesman Ron Morano:

“The new covers feature latching devices that allow ventilation of the system while preventing the covers from being displaced. The covers also prohibit unauthorized entry through the manholes, which provide access to Morristown’s underground electrical network for equipment maintenance and inspections,” he said in a statement.

Over the last year, Ron said, the utility also has worked in Morristown on:

  • Installation of new underground electric switches
  • Refurbishing a transformer along Flagler Street
  • Completing preventative maintenance on circuit breakers and sampling oil in the underground network electrical transformers
  • Adding special animal guards on four circuits at the Morristown substation to prevent animal-related outages
  • Additional training for employees on electrical vault inspections and data collection to support effective preventative maintenance
  • Electrical safety training on the underground network for Morristown firefighters
  • Upgrading relays at the Morristown substation to help reduce the length of any future power outages

“Upgrading Morristown’s underground electrical network is part of JCP&L’s ongoing effort to enhance the reliability of our system,” said JCP&L President Don Lynch in a statement.

There still has been no official explanation, however, of what caused the basement explosion that severely damaged the Morristown & Township Library in May 2010.  JCP&L and Public Service Electric & Gas have denied responsibility for the blast; alert library staffers sensed trouble and evacuated the building with just moments to spare, almost certainly preventing tragedy.



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