Wow! What a “shocking” experience we had yesterday! We were at the decor – filling stage of a large Custom Marine Aquarium that we installed at a new Dental Center in Monroe Township, NJ. When we arrived the head GC was standing outside the building and greeted us with a half-smile question about our liability insurance coverage…. Seeing my puzzled look he proceeded to explain that I neglected to tell him that the pure reverse osmosis H2O water that we prepared in 2 large polyethylene plastic vats were electrically charged and when he touched the water he got the shock of his life and thought he was getting electrocuted. I looked at him like he was crazy (by the way we have top of the line liability ins.). I told him that absolutely nothing is plugged into the wall outlets and it is impossible that any current should be running through the water. He walked me into the location of the aquarium and like an idiot I put my right hand into the water vat.
WOW! What a buzz did I get. It went up my right arm and out my left. I won’t forget that too quickly. I had a total mystery on my hands. What on earth could be causing this?
The water was pure with no dissolved solids so it shouldn’t even be capable of conducting electricity? There happened to be a licensed electrician on-site and even he was at a loss to explain what was going on. My ace associate technician Sage was with me, and he happens to be knowledgeable about electricity, said that it has to be coming from static electricity that is in the air. The GC kept claiming that our plastic containers were causing the electric charge. I had the feeling that he would have claimed fairy angels caused it so long as it wasn’t something coming from his end.
Anyway, Sage being way braver (or stupid) than me kept touching the water until the charge was grounded and mostly gone. When we later mixed reef salt into the vats the electric charge was completely gone. But I still had a mystery on my hands that I felt compelled to solve.
Later in the evening, after telling over this story to all my friends and family. Someone suggested that I ask a neighbor Daniel who happens to be a very high end scientist and electrical engineer for his opinion. It was already 11PM and probably not the right time to go knocking on a neighbor’s door but that didn’t stop me (wonder where my kids get their obsessive nature from).
I knocked on his door with no answer (I was very considerate and did not ring the bell). I knocked a second time and heard someone coming to the door. Thank G-d the voice on the other side of the door was Daniel and not his wife. I said who I was and he opened the door and stood there in his pajama’s.
After apologizing for coming so late (he claimed he wasn’t sleeping yet) I told him my story. Well, his explanation was similar to Sage’s but a little more detailed with some of the detail being over my head. In laymen’s terms he said that there definitely must be a lot of static electricity in the air (they had just laid carpet down the previous day).
Normally static electricity goes down and gets grounded through the floor but since the vats were pure H2O with zero dissolved solids(again pure water does not conduct electricity only the dissolved solids in the water do) the electric was not able to be conducted down to the floorand was pooled on to the surface of the water. When we added the reef salt, the solids were able to conduct the electricity down and out. He told me that none was ever in any danger. Since I was so creeped out I resolved to add an electrical ground wire to the holding water holding vat in the future so that this scenario does not repeat itself.