preventing lightning from traveling up septic pipe

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by mauzbiz, Dec 4, 2009.

  1. mauzbiz

    mauzbiz New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Lightning hit a tree, went into a septic tank near the trunk, and then presumably traveled up the septic drain pipe (or contents of the pipe?) into the house damaging some plugged in appliances. There was no evidence of a strike on the house itself. What kind of more basic protection could have been in place, aside from the obvious surge protection in various electrical feeder points and sockets within the house? Not knowing the construction of the pipe, I'm assuming that at some point (or possibly many) there should be either be ground stakes from conductive material in the pipes or in touch with the contents of the pipes. Anybody out there have some thoughts or experience in remediating factors in this very strange occurrence?
  2. thassler

    thassler New Member

    Messages:
    106
    Location:
    Tennessee
    Wow, what are the odds on that happening? You should play PowerBall. :D
  3. Bob999

    Bob999 In the Trades

    Messages:
    448
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    How did you conclude that the lightning pulse traveled via the septic system?

    I think it is more likely that the energy traveled via wiring--perhaps underground wiring in the vicinity of the strike or even overhead or exposed wiring in the vicinity of the strike.

    To give an example that I personally observed--lightning struck a tree about 200 feet from my home and about 250 feet from the underground cable pedestal providing cable tv service to my home. (the tree is west of the house and the pedestal/cable entrance is on the east side of the house) The strike caused no known damage in my home but blew a fuse in the cable tv system about a quarter of a mile away.
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,263
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    pipe

    If the lightning traveled up the pipe, it would have to be a cast iron pipe, and since it is buried in the earth already, it was already as "grounded" as possible, so any additional ground rods would have been redundant. The connection between the drain piping and the electrical system would have had to be by way of any plumging fixtures and THEN into the water piping, and finally through a ground clamp to the electrical system. Possible given the energy level of lightning, improbable given the circuitous path needed, and it depends on both the drain system AND the water system being made of metallic piping, also not a given unless the house is prior to 1960 or so. But, I was checking a leak at a water meter, in a light rain, years ago when I saw an arc jump from my steel toed boot to the water line. The customer said, "Did you see that?" I asked, "See what? I saw a spark from my shoe.?" He said, "The lightning just hit that light pole across the street." I said, "No, nor did I hear any thunder clap, but I will be back tomorrow to fix the leak."
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2009
  5. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
    how conductive is your soil?

    Resistivities, ohm-meter
    rock, less than 10k
    tap water, 1M to 100M
    salt water 0.2
    fresh water, 1000
    concrete, 200

    Soil Conductivity, ohm-meter
    • Sand, gravel 1k to 10k
    • Silty sand 200 to 1K
    • Loam 5 to 25
    • Silt 20 to 40
    • Clay 10 to 40
    • Saline soil 5 to 10
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2009
  6. drick

    drick In the Trades

    Messages:
    392
    hi mauzbiz,

    The magnetic field surrounding a lightning strike is rather large. You do not need a direct hit to sustain damage. Close can count. I have been electrocuted twice by lightning. The first time I was standing in my garage watching the storm and holding myself up with a hand against the garage door track. This is when I learned holding on to a large ungrounded metal pole during a lightning storm, even if it is not wet, is not a good idea. That hurt. The second time I was working in a basement on a CATV drop. I knew there was a storm but how long can it take to add a compression connector and connect that to a splitter? Apparently too long. That was not as bad, but still comes under the heading of things not to do in a lightning storm.

    What can you do?
    1. Power strip surge suppressors.
    2. Whole house surge suppressor.
    3. Lightning rods.

    Lightning rods are great because they absorb the static electricity from the air during a lightning storm. Removing the static electricity reduces the possibility of a lightning strike in the first place. And in the event of a direct strike they will direct that energy (most of it anyway) into the ground. Unfortunately with a direct there is no guarantee your electronics won't be damaged, even with the rods. This is because its difficult to predict exactly what will happen because of the high voltages involved.

    -rick
  7. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
    Yes.
    The enormous, changing magnetic/electric field generated by lightning can induce voltages in wire loops or a grounded conductor (your body can supply the ground, through direct connection or capacitive coupling to ground).
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