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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bazan details MetroRail stray current problem

MetroRail has a problem, in addition to the cost overruns, low ridership, even lower paid ridership, foul-smelling panhandlers, outages and scores of accidents. You see, due to poor design, the MetroRail power lines are leaking "stray current" into the ground. At first, this might not seem to be such a big deal. So what if a little electricity leaks into the dirt? It's a potentially huge problem. Local activist Tom Bazan -- who has been a tireless advocate of fixing this problem --sent me an email with the details:
The St. Luke's Medical Tower foundation, as well as the other hospitals, appears to be within fifty feet of a documented Stray Current generator, the electrified METRORail tram, which operates at 750 volts DC, and each power substation is rated at 8,000+ amperes of current. If one ampere of stray current will dissolve 20 pounds of iron in one year, then a stray current loss of merely 5% (400 amperes) would result in FOUR TONS of iron, yes rebar is made of iron, in one year. I am curious if the city fire hydrant line was properly protected from the stray current? Also, one should wonder if the natural gas service line as well as the building foundation of the Texas Medical Center's CROWN JEWEL, which is now situated in close proximity to the tram, was properly protected from the ravaging corrosion resulting from the underground stray current likely radiating from the tram line.
Yikes. Just think about the terrible possibilities this could cause. We're talking about potential gas leaks near hospitals with partially-dissolved foundations and spotty fire hydrant service. What's worse, we just don't know how bad the problem is, because Metro refuses to release its report on stray current. To understand the mechanics of corrosion by stray current, take a look at Rorschach's comment on blogHOUSTON.

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