Measuring Milliamps on Copper Water Lines

dduffee260

Senior Member
Location
Texas
I am looking to measure for milliamps on a copper water line in a metal structured building. First will the a Fluke 381 with iFlex work for measuring milliamps?

Here is where we are at. They are getting blue water in the system and it is copper particulate. The building panels are grounded to the concrete rebar and all panels are tied back to a main with feeder grounds. The distribution panels do not go up to the structure or copper water pipes. We are looking next week to connect the 4 distribution panels to the structure and copper pipes. First they want us to check for milliamps on the water line so hence this is why I am looking at the Fluke 381.

I have read on here that most likely it is a PH problem but still with the copper pipes not attached we need to get this corrected.

Any thoughts from anyone on this?
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
the distribution panels are not required to be bonded to either the structural steel or the copper pipes.

the copper pipes and the steel might qualify as grounding electrodes and thus would need to be part of the grounding electrode system.
 

dduffee260

Senior Member
Location
Texas
the distribution panels are not required to be bonded to either the structural steel or the copper pipes.

the copper pipes and the steel might qualify as grounding electrodes and thus would need to be part of the grounding electrode system.
I don't know if I a reading you correctly. So the main switchboard which serves all of the distribution panels with grounding conductors is the only panelboard which would require a ground?

Also I have been reading up on electrolysis and copper.org says it is extremely rare and pretty much went away when they stopped running trolley cars.

How about checking for milliamps on the pipe. Will the Fluke 381 meter accomplish this?
 

infinity

Moderator
Staff member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Journeyman Electrician
I don't know if I a reading you correctly. So the main switchboard which serves all of the distribution panels with grounding conductors is the only panelboard which would require a ground?
What Bob is saying that the service switchboard would be the only place where a connection to the water pipe would be required, that connection would make the water pipe part of the building grounding electrode system (GES) and would be connected by a grounding electrode conductor (GEC) or bonding jumper. All distribution boards, panels, etc. beyond that point would be grounded and connected to the system with an EGC. When you say require a ground you would need to differentiate between equipment grounding and the GES since that term is too ambiguous.

If you have a city water system and measured the current on the GEC at the water pipe it would be common to find current flowing on the GEC since the water pipe creates a parallel neutral current path. If I measure the current on my metallic water pipe it's typically an amp or two.
 

ptonsparky

Senior Member
Location
NE (9.06 miles @5.9 Degrees from Winged Horses)
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
I don't know if I a reading you correctly. So the main switchboard which serves all of the distribution panels with grounding conductors is the only panelboard which would require a ground?

Also I have been reading up on electrolysis and copper.org says it is extremely rare and pretty much went away when they stopped running trolley cars.

How about checking for milliamps on the pipe. Will the Fluke 381 meter accomplish this?
The resolution is .1 amp for this meter so it most likely will not give the readings you want, if that is what you require.
 

ptonsparky

Senior Member
Location
NE (9.06 miles @5.9 Degrees from Winged Horses)
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
You are chasing butterflies in a field of clover.

I have Fluke 87s. There are probably better ones. Depends on the accuracy you need.

My take on what you will need to do is isolate the section of pipe you are measuring by inserting a short piece of plastic pipe. Insert your meter in series with the pipe sections and record the current flow. You could have several amps flowing at any given time so protect yourself and the equipment.
 

ghostbuster

Senior Member
During one of our investigations, we also found blue water in the pipes and a strong rotten egg smell from the water.The women's hair when washed was turning green.Found 25 amps of current flow on the water pipes.

Good Luck.:D
 

dduffee260

Senior Member
Location
Texas
During one of our investigations, we also found blue water stains in the pipes and a strong rotten egg smell from the water.The women's hair when washed was turning green.Found 25 amps of current flow on the water pipes.

Good Luck.:D
That is our problem here also with blue water stains in the urinals. We are going to start by looking for current draws on the copper water lines and taking record of these. Then we are going to attached all the copper water entrance points on the building to the GEC system. From there we just have to keep doing test and finding out what is causing the water to turn blue.

One thing I have been reading is that electrolysis is very rare and most of the time it is a PH level in the water that causes the blue water stains.
 

Dennis Alwon

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Chapel Hill, NC
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
The greenish blue stains can be caused by a few things. Certainly current can do it but a milliamp????? If this is a well water situation you may have high acid in the water. Cure- water treatment- acid neutralizer and a water softener.

If it is city water then it may be current coming in from outside somewhere assuming everything is done correctly at the house. Turn off the main and see if you still have current on the water lines
 

jim dungar

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Wisconsin
Occupation
Engineer
One thing I have been reading is that electrolysis is very rare and most of the time it is a PH level in the water that causes the blue water stains.
When you hear hoof beats think horses not Zebras.

Have the water quality checked, before you waste time checking for electrolysis.

Of course, ground and bond the piping, per NEC.
 

nicholaaaas

Member
Location
Baltimore
I don't know if I a reading you correctly. So the main switchboard which serves all of the distribution panels with grounding conductors is the only panelboard which would require a ground?

Also I have been reading up on electrolysis and copper.org says it is extremely rare and pretty much went away when they stopped running trolley cars.

How about checking for milliamps on the pipe. Will the Fluke 381 meter accomplish this?
Yes otherwise you have parallel paths to ground which can create voltage

Sent from my SM-T217S using Tapatalk
 

hbiss

EC, Westchester, New York NEC: 2014
Location
Hawthorne, New York NEC: 2014
Occupation
EC
What makes you think the current is going to be in the milliamp range? Likely it will be in the amps which is normal. Any decent clamp around will measure it. I agree also that you have the water chemistry checked first before going on a wild goose chase. Blue green stains are caused by PH problems.

-Hal
 
What makes you think the current is going to be in the milliamp range? Likely it will be in the amps which is normal. Any decent clamp around will measure it. I agree also that you have the water chemistry checked first before going on a wild goose chase. Blue green stains are caused by PH problems.
I agree, too- get the chemistry checked. And while you're waiting for those results, check every panel and distribution box for improper N-G connections and for correct bonding. You might even make a 1-line diagram of all these connections while you're at it, then use it to record the amp readings. A couple of bootleg N-G connections at the far reaches of a system can really jack up the EGC current.
 
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