Parts of our yard also have current levels that make them bad places to hang out, which brings me to another part of the story. For every single electron that leaves the substation, an electron must return to the substation. The utilities’ wiring system is capable of carrying the outgoing power, but most need a major overhaul in order to be capable of carrying the high-frequency current returning to the substations. With every year, as more and more current is used, and more of the loads are electronic, the utility transmission system can return less and less of the current to the substations via the existing conductors.
To deal appropriately with the present loads and the present levels of pollution, E.P.R.I. (Electrical Power Research Institute, the advising body for American electrical utilities) says that utility companies should be using a five wire system including an isolated neutral. How are all those little electrons presently getting home to the substation? Across the surface of the ground, through your home, through you. Most people think the earth soaks up electricity like a sponge. It does not. Electricity flows across the surface, like water over a brick, or deeper in the earth. Up to 70 -80% of the return current these days is flowing back to the substations over and through the ground, terra firma. As the higher frequencies are subject to the skin effect, they tend to spread out and return across the surface, forming invisible rivers of health-damaging current.
How have the Public Service Commissions responded to this situation? The PSC in our state, Wisconsin, has given the utilities the nod to ground each electric pole giving the return currents free access to travel across the ground and through your home. If an industry tried to use channels through people’s private property to transport their pollution, what an uproar there would be. Right? Apparently not.
These ground currents are called “stray voltage” by the utilities and PSCs of WI, MI and MN, and defined by them as only affecting livestock. Thus, even if a human being dies due to ground current, the utility is legally protected.
The affects on livestock are horrendous, as they have four uninsulated feet on the often-damp ground or barn floor, and their feet are further apart then those of humans so they take in more current. Many cattle suffer terribly before dying. Autopsy of some of these poor animals reveals that they were essentially microwaved from the inside out. The utility companies have highly trained lawyers who often convince the uninformed jury that the farmer cared for his cattle improperly or had faulty electrical equipment that “leaked” current onto the ground and barn floor. (Even the cattle of Amish farmers who have no electrical service can suffer, from ground currents that happen to pass through their barnyard on their way back to a substation.)
There are, then, two main dimensions to the electrical portion of the present situation. One is that the wiring system is in no way capable of carrying the return currents, which then run in places that harm us. The other is that the power quality is terrible in the first place. If either dimension were addressed, the situation would improve dramatically.