200 Old Lyme homeowners told houses uninhabitable

Because the flooding and winds in Hurricane Sandy that submerged furnaces, dampened electrical panels and pulled out wires could pose safety risks when power returns, Old Lyme officials have told more than 200 homeowners they can't restore electricity to their houses until they are inspected by a licensed electrician.

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said the town can't risk restoring power to damaged houses until it ensures their electrical systems are sound. The safety risks include fire and electrocution, she said.

About 15 homeowners in neighboring East Lyme and two in Stonington also have to ensure their houses are safe before power can be turned back on.

In Old Lyme, the building and health departments designated about 210 houses as uninhabitable following door-to-door inspections after the storm and have issued guidelines for contractors.

Building Official Ron Rose said furnaces and wires were under water in some houses. Even after water recedes, electrical panels can remain wet and cause problems, he said.

Electrician Roger Dill of Dill's Electric in Lyme who was at Town Hall Monday submitting certification for a client, said he has seen fires start after seawater flooding.

"Salt water is a superconductor," he said.

But for some residents, hiring an electrician for the inspection is an extra expense they don't want on top of all the other costs the storm brought.

Scott Boulanger, president of the Federation of Old Lyme Beaches, said the storm has already cost him a lot for many repairs, from furniture to walls for his Miami Beach house. Now he has to pay $125 for an electrician.

"I just want them to give me my power," he said.

Homeowners will still need their wells tested, once the power is back on and the pumps can run. Gas company representatives are now going around town to inspect propane tanks, said Rose.

East Lyme Chief Building Official Joe Smith said this is the first time he can remember a storm that severely damaged the insides of homes, as well as external wires and poles.

After assessing damage with Connecticut Light & Power last week, Smith said about 15 homes will need him to verify they are safe to be re-energized. Most of the houses are along the shoreline.

No homes in Groton were damaged enough to be deemed uninhabitable, though flooding left some without power until contractors were able to repair the electrical damage.

The luxury condominium complex at Randall's Wharf off Water Street in Mystic, was still without power on Monday due to meters that were partially submerged during the storm surge, said Kevin Quinn, Groton's manager of inspection services. Quinn said new breakers were installed and he inspected the work Monday morning, a requirement before Connecticut Light & Power would reconnect power.

k.drelich@theday.com

Day Staff Writer Greg Smith contributed to this article.

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