What is Causing Electrolysis Water Main Leaks on 188 St Queens
February 19, 2019

Over the previous year, many property owners on 188 St. in Queens have been suffering from copper water main leaks. The cause of the leaks have been in question however, they are speculated to have been caused by underground stray currents. After over 30 separate homes had experienced their water main leaking in such a short period of time a company by the name of CorrTech was hired to perform further investigation.

The primary issue was that many homeowners were required to replace their water main, and some up to three times before realizing that the cause of the water main leaks was entirely out of their control.

The result of stray current leak on copper pipe
The problem

Over time people started to assume that the water line leaks were caused by some form of an underground stray current which led plumbers to begin installing the copper water mains inside of plastic tubing.

Copper water main installed inside of plastic tubing
Copper water main installed inside of plastic tubing

The goal of the plastic tubing is to protect the copper pipes and avoid any further water main leaks.  At this time the plastic sleeves have been proven to be successful in preventing any additional leaks.

The investigation process

CorrTech began a preliminary stray current investigation in response to the water main leaks and began with both  ConEdison and Verizon underground utilities. It was concluded that most of the water main leaks had begun in the same location in the roadway where the copper pipes crossed  Verizon conduits and  ConEdison power cables inside of ducts.

After testing multiple locations including a soil analysis the report included information on the ConEdison gas lines stating  “Low potentials measured on both of the 2-in gas lines indicate that they are NOT causing 1-in copper water service piping to corrode”.

The report did state that “A change in Verizon’s service (i.e. recent fiber optic installation) may have been the initial cause of the corrosive condition. Verizon reportedly has a 48-V DC copper cables inside this clay conduit, to provide phone service to the houses. It is possible that this service line has been breached and is contacting the soil directly, causing stray current effects on the affected copper piping, as well as the nearby high-pressure gas piping”.

The report went on to say the clay conduit was compromised at one or more locations and the stay current may be leaking from the seams.

What are the next steps?

It was suggested that Verizon temporarily interrupt the underground service during CorrTech’s next site visit which will allow them to measure the influence on the copper piping in the area. The goal is to determine if there are any other utilities in the area that were not investigated and may be contributing to the copper water main failures.

It has also been reported that DEP has asked Verizon continue to provide results of their testing as well as an interim or permanent solution to repair and/or protect the water mains that have been affected.

Who is responsible for the water main replacement cost?

At this time it is a sticky situation, homeowners are receiving DEP 3 day notice violations for their leaking water mains which put them in jeopardy of having their water mains turned off in the roadway. Most homeowners have been covering the cost of their water main replacements to avoid the water from being turned off.

Many of the affected owners have hired their own private attorney with the hopes of being reimbursed once the source of the current leaks has been concluded upon.