Shocking Situation in Ocean County

BRICK, NJ: August 27, 2002
Residents of one New Jersey community are in shock – literally. They're dealing with a problem called stray voltage, and it has them afraid to let their children play in their own backyards.

Gary Smith/BRICK, NJ: "I honestly thought I was having a heart attack."

Gary Smith, of Driscol Drive in Brick, is one of several residents here who've felt the jolt of stray voltage. It happened when he dipped his hand in the family hot tub.

Gary Smith/BRICK, NJ: "My arm almost felt like it was falling asleep, like it was pins and needles shooting up my arm into my chest."

Stray voltage occurs when lines that are supposed to carry unused energy back to the power station can't handle the load. The electric current strays into the ground and connects with whatever will conduct it, such as swings, sprinklers, pools and hot tubs.

The water in the Smith's hot tub showed a reading of up to 4.7 volts. Because of that, both the tub and the pool have been declared off limits, and the kids aren't allowed to set foot in the backyard unless they've got shoes on. Their mom is worried about them.

Eileen Smith/BRICK, NJ: "A current that maybe only gives me a little buzz or a little jolt, enough to scare me, they're just so much smaller and so much closer to the ground."

Across the street, Mike Kulik has an electric fence – that's not supposed to be.

Mike Kulik/BRICK, NJ: "It's a little less than six volts, like it's five and a half volts we're getting."

After his kids were shocked in the pool, Kulik now pulls the plug to the filter before they swim. And even without any power going to the pool his volt meter still gets a reading.

Residents in Brick are annoyed with the inconvenience, but more importantly, worried about their safety and the possible health effects. The Smith's dog Holly has begun losing all of her hair, and they wonder if the clumps falling out are caused by stray voltage, which has been known to make animals ill in the Midwest.

Pete Johner/PSE&G SPOKESMAN: "We believe it will not have any health effects."

PSE&G says it has engineers trying to figure out the source of the problem.

Pete Johner/PSE&G SPOKESMAN: "This is very, very low voltage and they're feeling the tingling feeling, so the fear is there. We're doing everything we can to find out what the problem is and we're going to rectify it."

In the meantime Driscol Drive residents are afraid to be in their own backyards.

Copyright 2002 by WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.

Mike's Comment: Visit my Stray Voltage/Current page (http://www.mikeholt.com/technical.php?id=technicalgeneral#StrayVoltage) for more information on this subject.


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