MONTECITO, Calif. - Trev Broudy has become an expert of sorts on the interaction between electricity and copper plumbing. For several months, he's been on a mission to figure out why his home on the 100 block of Middle Road in Montecito has been electrified and why the tap water inside his home has dangerously high levels of copper. He's frustrated why so many 'experts' have not been able to figure it out.
On Tuesday morning, Bobby Snyder with Quick Response Plumbing in Santa Barbara cut the copper water line running onto Broudy's property and inserted a PVC or plastic coupling. Broudy stood by with a meter used to measure the electric current running through the copper pipe. Before Snyder started working, the meter read 30 volts. By the time Snyder had completed inserting the coupling, the meter reading fell to zero. Broudy said they had finally found a way to stop the current.
Broudy and Snyder believe the electricity which had been flowing through the copper water line into Broudy's home was causing the copper pipe to deteriorate and leach into his water. It's a process called electrolysis. Broudy believes that's why the Montecito Water District (MWD) was getting extremely high copper readings in his tap water. At one point, he was even told to leave his home for safety reasons. He said all of his appliances had become a shock hazard, although he said he had not felt any serious shocks.
The MWD has 37 properties that participate in its Lead and Copper Monitoring Program. The properties are tested every three years and Broudy's is one of them. Broudy said MWD's test in September, 2017 showed copper readings at 90 ppb (parts per billion) at his home which apparently is acceptable because Broudy said no one from the water district seemed concerned. However, the MWD's next test in September, 2020 showed his tap water at 1530 ppb for copper. And last week, Broudy said MWD notified him that its most recent test in December showed 2450 ppb for copper, an extremely dangerous level for that metal in drinking water.
Broudy said his dog almost died from copper poisoning in 2019 before he started putting all the pieces together. The dog recovered when a veterinarian suggested he started giving her bottled water among other changes.
Broudy seems to think he's figured out the electrolysis issue and stopped the electrical current running through his home. Now, he wants to find out how long this has been going on. Snyder cut and removed a section of the copper pipe on Tuesday morning and they plan to send that section of pipe to a lab for testing. They hope the test can determine how much the copper pipe has deteriorated and whether Broudy must replace all or some of the plumbing in his home.
The mystery that remains at this point is the source of the electrical current that was coming in from outside his property line. Broudy said Southern California Edison and Cox Communications crews have been to his property numerous times over that last few months trying to figure it out. Both utilities have lines or a box located next to a wall along Broudy's property. Officials from both SCE and Cox tell NewsChannel 3 they are looking into it and there's no indication the source of the problem is from their equipment.
Broudy said one of his biggest concerns through this whole nightmare is how many of his neighbors might have the same problem and don't know it. NewsChannel 3 has made numerous attempts to talk with someone at the Montecito Water District to get answers but so far none of our calls have been returned. MWD General Manager Nick Turner replied by email on Tuesday afternoon referring us to a statement on the district's website. However, that statement does not address specific questions we have about Broudy's situation or possible similar problems at neighboring properties.
Since we aired our story last week, some Montecito residents have contacted us and said MWD appears to be doing more testing of tap water in the area.
Broudy said he was also contacted by the California Public Utilities Commission which is investigating. NewsChannel 3 reached out to a CPUC official for comment, but we have not received a response.
We'll have more on this story tonight on NewsChannel 3.