Defective purplish street lights being replaced but aren’t a safety concern, Hydro says


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Out of the blue, white street lights are taking on a purplish hue.

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Out of the blue, white street lights are taking on a purplish hue.

Hundreds of bulbs across Winnipeg have changed shades in recent months, sparking questions about driver and pedestrian safety.

However, the city isn’t responsible for fixing the problem.

Manitoba Hydro is — and the Crown corporation has been aware of the issue for about a year.

Hydro spokesman Bruce Owen said the problem stems from a manufacturing defect called “delamination” in the LED street lights. He said LED lights produce purple or blue hues, but a yellowish coating applied over top changes the colour to white for use in street lamps.

One Winnipegger is concerned the purplish lights are creating a safety issue after noticing the problem on Corydon Avenue near the Tuxedo Shopping Centre.

“I see drivers driving much more slowly suddenly in this area,” said Carole, who did not want her last name used. “It seems apparent that this is due to the reduced visibility caused by these lights.”

Carole said it also causes a problem with a bus stop in front of a section of the mall’s parking lot being converted into a apartment complex.

“You will see how dark it is for anyone waiting at that bus stop at night,” she said. “I would not even consider waiting there for a bus at night.”

The area is not far from the Assiniboine Forest, where deer frequently emerge from the woods and run into traffic.

“I think this should be of concern to Manitoba Public Insurance and risk to drivers,” she said.

A spokeswoman for MPI referred calls to the city, where spokeswoman Julie Horbal Dooley said a request was made for Hydro — which supplies lighting infrastructure — to look into the problem.

“We report any new locations we encounter to Manitoba Hydro and we encourage Winnipeggers to do the same,” Dooley said.

Owen said the yellow coating has worn off many of the bulbs; the utility is replacing them when crews can get to them.

“To date, we’ve replaced approximately 1,000 purple street lights with about 750 outstanding reports to be dealt with,” he said. “We can’t speculate how many may be affected by this defect.

“In cases where one particular area or neighbourhood has several purple street lights among white ones, for maximum financial and operational efficiency, we may replace all the lights there in anticipation of further issues.”

Owen said the lights are under warranty and the manufacturer is replacing them free of charge. He said the issue with lights from the same manufacturer has appeared in Vancouver, several American states and the United Kingdom.

But while the defective bulbs flood the street in a different colour, the volume of light is the same, he said.

“There are no pedestrian and traffic safety concerns associated with the changed colour,” he said.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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