SSA electrical wiring left underwater for at least 22 years

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Old electrical wiring from the 1990s that snaked over the sand in the water between the Steamship Authority terminal in Vineyard Haven and the adjacent dinghy dock. It was removed in May after The Times inquired about it. — Rich Saltzberg

Black electrical cable sat underwater between the Steamship Authority terminal in Vineyard Haven and the adjacent dinghy dock for 22 or more years until being removed in May after inquiries by The Times.

Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis said previously the wiring wasn’t active and served no purpose, so it was taken out by the Steamship’s electrician.

Tisbury harbor management committee member Jeff Canha pointed out the wiring at a May 16 committee meeting.

“The wire is believed to date back to the last time major construction was done at the Vineyard Haven terminal,” Steamship Authority spokesman Sean Driscoll recently wrote in an email. “We believe it was used for temporary power at the construction site.”

Driscoll later wrote he believed that construction wrapped up in 1995.

“It’s unclear when exactly the power would have been shut off, but we presume it was when that project was complete, as no one here can remember needing to add a power line by the dinghy dock,” he wrote.

Members of Tisbury’s harbor management committee have said they believe an abnormal degree of electrolysis is at play in Vineyard Haven Harbor. Chairman Jerry Goodale pointed out zincs meant to mitigate electrical activity on his boat have decayed more rapidly than normal. Longtime mariner Gene DeCosta has said he suspects Steamship Authority shore power is the culprit. He described the electrolysis in the water near the terminal as “bad, real bad.”

Tisbury has begun an investigation into electrical activity in the harbor. Industrial electrician Cole Powers told The Times he’s been in contact with DPW director Ray Tattersall about testing the harbor for stray voltage.

Chilmark suffered through a season of shocks in Menemsha in 2017 because of marine current. Improperly grounded electrical work was cited as the primary issue. Powers, the town’s inspector of wires, oversaw the corrective work.

Davis deployed a diver in May to inspect wiring at the Vineyard Haven terminal. He wrote that the diver “found no faults with the wiring.”