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"Free" electricity is too expensive for one guy

In North Attleboro, Massachusetts, Chris Zagami is an unhappy man. He just finished building his new house, and discovered an unexpected side benefit: free electricity from his local utility. He didn't have to do a thing to get it, not even plug things in. Because his house was built so close to some very high voltage lines, he's having lights light up without even being plugged in.

It's an ugly situation. The city building inspector who approved his house no longer works for the city. National Grid says that he built too close to their easement, which he knew about going in. He says that their lines go beyond the easement, and intrude on his space. And the bank who loaned Zagami the money to build his house is threatening to call in the loan. I dunno how it's going to resolve itself, but it ought to be interesting.

In the meantime, pretty much every metal object in his house zaps anyone who touches it.

Comments (18)

Interesting photo @ link sh... (Below threshold)
Old Coot:

Interesting photo @ link showing the HV lines within feet of the home. Gotta be more to this story; no-one noticed the problem during construction? If metal doorknobs giving jolts now, why didn't the tools and ladders used during construction? What about whoever wired the place...didn't notice that tingling sensation whilst connecting fixtures and outlets? I want to be sorry for this poor guy, but can't.

Exactly WHY is the building... (Below threshold)

Exactly WHY is the building inspector not accountable for this whether or not he still works for the city?

Superfund lawyers hold companies liable for anything in the past, no matter how far back the violation. When does accountability end?

The City is still responsib... (Below threshold)
Bob Jones:

The City is still responsible. The inspector represented the city and the CITY issued the permit.

I guess he can get John Kerry or Teddy Chivas to do something for him.

I am with your OC. I work ... (Below threshold)

I am with your OC. I work for a utility, and I used to run around in a truck screening wires and towers.
You don't NOT notice something like this. If nobody was hurt building this place, it is a minor miracle. It sounds like the ground itself has a higher electric potential than the structure, which means there is no place for the electrons to go but into the lower potential that is a human.
That will give you a nice jolt, until the potential in the ground is lower than you are. Then ZAP. The potential, as it radiates from the source, drops off exponentially, so the difference of 2 feet can be enough to be deadly. That is, if you walk on high potential ground, and have one foot towards the locus and the other away, you become the path of least resitance for the electricty, and you get electrocuted. As a screener, I learned to do the powerline shuffle, essentially hopping from spot to spot, never placing both feet on the ground when there might be a downed line nearby.
Anyway, there is no way nobody noticed until the house was "done". They may have needed wiring in the house to act as an induction coil, but it woould have also been noticed if metal pipes were used.

Well, move the house back i... (Below threshold)

Well, move the house back if there is enough room, or enclose it in a grounded Faraday shield (install metal mesh, such as chicken wire under the roof and siding sheathing). A lot cheaper than losing the house, and the bank might go along with the remediation.

The article says the power ... (Below threshold)
Denny F. Crane!:

The article says the power company warned him repeatedly. I'll bet any warnings were about encroachment on the easement, rather than about safety issues. If it's the latter, there should be no sympathy for the guy.

Also, how has the guy missed all the controversy about high tension lines? For at least 20 years, people have been claiming health risks, and many dwellings around the country have been condemned. Whether you believe the claims or not, shouldn't they at least be considered as a red flag before committing your life savings?

Yes, the city is on the hook. Yes, the lender should have taken a more active role before committing the construction funds. But unless the owner took a good hard look at those lines and hired an expert who gave him bad advice, I'm not feeling much sympathy.

Meanwhile, they should bill him for the power.

Yep, I agree with Bob. The ... (Below threshold)

Yep, I agree with Bob. The fact that the inspector is not with the city is irreveleant. If the homeowner has a stamped permit the city is in for the duration. If the electric company is truly out of bounds on the easement the homeowner should be able to force the company to move their lines. Only seems fair to me.

Charlie,A Faraday ca... (Below threshold)

A Faraday cage would need to be tighter than chicken wire, and enclose the entire house. Even then, that only protects the contents of the house.
Given the amount of charge involved, it would also need to be in the floors all the way around. For the cage to work, it must be a closed structure with no gaps larger than the wavelentghts it is designed to block. If the house was built this way (my office building is a partial Faraday cage), well and dandy. To retrofit an existing structure? No mean task.

Obraining a city building p... (Below threshold)

Obraining a city building permit is not a sufficient condition to say you can legally build a house; it only says you've met the city's requirements. All other necessary requirements must be met (e.g. deed restrictions, state and federal laws).

The article provides too little information to place blame but, based on what appears to be a lack of common sense on Chris Zagami's part, I would say that he created his own problem.

The hope here is the guy an... (Below threshold)

The hope here is the guy and his wife own no sex toys containing metal parts.

On the other hand....

Ooooo. Guaranteed AC EM fie... (Below threshold)
The Listkeeper:

Ooooo. Guaranteed AC EM field exposure greater than 10 milligauss. Wonder how long before he develops leukemia or mutates into a gelatinous lifeform?

Hopefully he gets zapped be... (Below threshold)

Hopefully he gets zapped before he passes his blatant retard gene on to any progeny.

Why the hell shouldn't the ... (Below threshold)

Why the hell shouldn't the power companies and the town carry the blame . Just because these power companies have lobbyist to bury findings from reports who is to say how close is to close when every major study in the U.S. has been shelved or incomplete.It is time for big business to take there fair share of responsibility and stop hiding behind there money.Do not give in chris, keep fighting . Hopefully this will encourage people to grow a backbone and hold these large companies accountable . its time for the oil co's and the walmarts as well as the power and gas companies to stop shitting on the little guys

I agree with steve.L... (Below threshold)

I agree with steve.
Let's take walmart down too!!!!!!!!!

THIS GUY REALLY NEEDS AND A... (Below threshold)


Whos to blame ?. What was t... (Below threshold)

Whos to blame ?. What was there first the house or powerlines? If the house is built on a easement it's pretty obvious that national grid is not to blame. Who sold the land to him as a buildable lot in the first place, maybe there to blame. What engineer drew the plans and didn;t notice huge powerlines above where the house was to be built. Someone must have noticed during the construction, I can't imagine that no one got a shock, did Chris Zagami ignore their warnings.

The National Grid is wrong ... (Below threshold)
a friend:

The National Grid is wrong here. Chris' engineer has the papers that the lines are not where they are suppose to be. Money is exactly what they are hiding behind here! The town dropped the ball too. There are facts that aren't all in these news articles. If we let the big guys off the hook, we'll all pay one way or another.

Chris grew up right near where this new house, look at the pictures, this isn't the only house there. Every yard makes a difference and the lines are off there mark.

This guy is a phone company... (Below threshold)

This guy is a phone company technician. If he doesn't understand AC induction, he is going to get himself or someone else hurt or killed. No sympathy for the guy.






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