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Thread: Water Utility Replacing Metallic Service Lines With Plastic

  1. #1
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    Water Utility Replacing Metallic Service Lines With Plastic

    Here is an interesting situation that we recently encountered in one of the municipalities where we provide electric utility service. The local water utility's contractor came through a neighborhood and started replacing metallic water service lines to all of the homes with plastic. Most if not all of the homes are older and likely relying upon the metallic water service line as their sole premise grounding electrode rendering the homes without any grounding electrode system once the water lines were replaced. This was brought to our attention as the local electric utility but sadly, it is not our role or responsibility for policing this type of issue and ensuring that private residences are adequately grounded. We've done the right thing by alerting the AHJ but in the end, who ends up being responsible and accountable for any premise grounding system upgrades? Looking for everyone's thoughts and experience in similar situations.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by golson View Post
    Here is an interesting situation that we recently encountered in one of the municipalities where we provide electric utility service. The local water utility's contractor came through a neighborhood and started replacing metallic water service lines to all of the homes with plastic. Most if not all of the homes are older and likely relying upon the metallic water service line as their sole premise grounding electrode rendering the homes without any grounding electrode system once the water lines were replaced. This was brought to our attention as the local electric utility but sadly, it is not our role or responsibility for policing this type of issue and ensuring that private residences are adequately grounded. We've done the right thing by alerting the AHJ but in the end, who ends up being responsible and accountable for any premise grounding system upgrades? Looking for everyone's thoughts and experience in similar situations.
    *The major immediate thing to be concerned with is previously masked service neutral problems cropping up once that metal pipe gets replaced.

    *As long as there is at least 10 feet of metal pipe in the ground on the customer side that stays connected to the gec, there is still at least 1 recognized electrode. In that case, there may be nothing that can be done- many areas allowed the solo water pipe GE decades ago- the entity replacing the pipe could argue that the services were effectively grandfathered, and that they aren't required to add any electrodes.

    *Beyond being a shunt for surges/lightning strikes there really isn't any benefit to having rods. The houses definitely wouldn't be compliant w/out any type of GE, but outside of the potential issues with the hidden neutral problems mentioned above, there is no immediate safety issue when replacing the city water pipes.
    Last edited by user 100; 07-13-17 at 02:05 AM.

  3. #3
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    I agree with the hundredth user from texas and I'm living proof.

    When I replaced my water line I used copper but I sleeved it in pvc so my water pipe doesn't have any contact with the earth until it ties to the city main twenty five feet away from my house, so I would say it does not qualify as a grounding electrode. I only have one ground rod, too. Never had a problem.

    I would be curious to know if any masked, lost neutral issues show up.
    Once in a while you get shown the light
    In the strangest of places if you look at it right. Robert Hunter

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by ActionDave View Post

    I would be curious to know if any masked, lost neutral issues show up.
    I think that that would be the bigger problem, lost neutrals where the current is now returning on the water pipe. Once the metallic pipe is removed then that would be a bigger issue then no electrode.
    Rob

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    All responses based on the 2014 NEC unless otherwise noted

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by infinity View Post
    I think that that would be the bigger problem, lost neutrals where the current is now returning on the water pipe. Once the metallic pipe is removed then that would be a bigger issue then no electrode.
    I would think so too, but there are so many dirt worshipers out there we're likely outnumbered for another generation at least.
    Once in a while you get shown the light
    In the strangest of places if you look at it right. Robert Hunter

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ActionDave View Post
    I would think so too, but there are so many dirt worshipers out there we're likely outnumbered for another generation at least.
    LOL.
    Rob

    Moderator

    All responses based on the 2014 NEC unless otherwise noted

  7. #7
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    Is city replacing just main lines and reconnecting taps to existing structures or are they replacing everything all the way up to structures?

    If just the main lines then they all will still have at least 10 feet of pipe as an electrode, unless main line is closer then 10 feet away, but that is maybe only the case in the "old downtown" type districts

    It still will expose those that had lost neutrals and the water piping was carrying their neutral.

  8. #8
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    The installing contractor will find where the neutrals are bad. Hope they are aware of the potential problem.
    Tom
    TBLO

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ptonsparky View Post
    The installing contractor will find where the neutrals are bad. Hope they are aware of the potential problem.
    Bad enough to be down in a hole cutting the pipe then find voltage across it when it is cut - then factor in an existing water service pipe is probably making everything wet when you cut it on top of everything.

    Hope they are aware of the problem as well and have a plan to avoid anyone getting killed over it. Bonding jumper around the cut seems should be a mandatory rule, and you are fired if caught not doing so. When/how to disconnect bonding jumper becomes less clear. Contractor doing this work may want to talk to insurance or an attorney as well to know how to handle the damages that may occur if they open circuit someone's "neutral", because they are going to be the number one target for lawsuits over any damages.

  10. #10
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    It should be noted that even in the absence of any NEC premise grounding electrodes, the system is likely grounded at the utility transformer. Also if its an MGN system, it will be grounded to the utility MGN system. So It is probably very unlikley you have a truly unearthed system.
    Ethan Brush - East West Electric. NY, WA. MA

    "You can't generalize"

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