Assessment of premature wood utility pole failure in Butambala district-Uganda
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A wood pole is a long round timber for use in a free standing application ( Steinar Refsnaes et al, 2015) where as, wood utility pole failures are faults that happen in a column or post used to support overhead power lines and other various public utilities such as electrical cables, fiber optic cables and related equipment such as transformers and street lights. Wood poles are commonly used to support electrical distribution systems due to several factors; wood is readily available in most places across the country and can relatively be acquired cheaply, they are easy to handle, excellent insulators, renewable and environmentally preferred. A number of wood utility poles in Butambala district fail prematurely and there is limited data on the likely quantity of utilities that fail, causes of the failures and the service life of the erected utility poles. This is causing a number of challenges to the electricity users and electricity distribution agencies which range from power outage, high utility pole maintenance and replacement costs, accidents. The objective of this research is to assess the premature wood utility pole failure within Butambala district by determining the minimum service life of utility poles together with number of utility poles failing per year, determining the failure causes, comparing the failures in utility poles with the preservative chemical used to treat the poles and finding solution to the failure problem. Over 200 utility poles were visually surveyed and out of them 120 utility poles were creosote treated and out of them only 95 were in good service condition and 25 utility poles needed either replacement or maintenance. The 80 utility poles were CCA treated and a number of them had been installed within a period of less than 10 years. Through visually inspection conducted, interview with key informants and questionnaire guide it was found out that the minimum service life of the wood utility poles in Butambala district is 30 years. The root cause of the wood utility poles failure in Butambala district are due to; decay by fungi, insect infestation, inadequate impregnation, insufficient preservative penetration depth, the deep cracks and splits, road accidents, agricultural activities carried out near the utility poles, no inspection and lack of remedial treatments. Results shown that, most of the utility poles which do well in Butambala district are creosote treated poles serving to a service life of 35 years and above and most of them had been installed during U. E. B company regime although there are some which were installed during UMEME company operation time and are also doing well. On the other hand,there are also CCA treated poles and they are leading in failing prematurely.