By Kevin Walters
The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) is advising residents that a low-voltage electrical current is still being detected at Cherokee Reservoir.
While the low voltage may be perceptible to some as a “tingling” sensation, the electricity in the lake is believed by experts to be part of a normal neutral-to-ground phenomenon common in home electrical connections. No injuries have been reported.
“The State Fire Marshal’s office and power providers take electrical safety very seriously, and encourage anyone using electricity on or around water – regardless of voltage – to take prudent safety precautions,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “Electrical experts have told us that the voltage observed in the lake does not pose a hazard. Out of an abundance of caution, we want Tennesseans to make informed choices about how they choose to recreate.”
This summer, SFMO investigators coordinated with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Appalachian Electric Cooperative to gather information about the electrical current. Monitors were installed at locations in Jefferson City and in Talbott where data about the voltage was collected over 17 days.
The maximum steady state voltage observed was 3.8 volts at Lakewood Drive and 3.0 volts at Pointe Drive. All voltage levels were consistently below 5.0 volts.
People who are swimming and who may come in contact with metal docks are most susceptible to detecting electric “tingles” at this low voltage. To reduce this annoyance, dock owners might install rubber mats on metal walk surfaces where people enter/leave the water. Install a non-conductive (fiberglass or plastic, for example) water-access ladder. Cords that supply power to docks should be unplugged while the dock is used for swimming.