Hot Topics: What is this Wire Buried in my Yard?!?

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It’s not uncommon to locate a wire you didn’t know was there, especially if you’re digging in your yard. But when that wire is severed, and it sizzles when you pour water on it (DO NOT POUR WATER ON IT) you should consider it a hazard until you know exactly what it is. How do you find that out? Get the Forum on the line.

Original Post: What is this Wire Buried in my Yard?!?

jb3710 Member

Found this cut wire buried just a few inches below the surface in my front yard. It is hot - it fizzed when I poured water on it. The side coming from the street is live, the other side, towards our house, is not.

The ground above the wire had lost its grass and was a strange white color which is why I dug in the first place. What kind of wire is it? Plain electrical?

Thanks!! JB

Highlights from the Thread

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

Welcome to the forums JB!

I think I'd call your electric company, especially if you are certain it's not getting power from your house. You could cut off the main breaker to see... but use a voltmeter, not water!!

Vermont Member

Looks like some kind of underground Telephone or Cable TV wiring; but isn't that usually housed in protective conduit?

Did you try calling "DIG SAFE" in your area?

aka pedro Member

Looks like phone to me as well. Some of it around here has a thin metal jacket under the outer casing, about like tin foil but a lot stronger, and some of it doesn't. Anyway, while any unidentified cable should be treated with respect, and nobody should handle it, I likewise suggest calling MISS DIG, DIGSAFE, or whatever it is in your area as well, as they will notify anyone who may own it. The problem that I've had here though is that if the phone company doesn't think they have something in a particular area I'm not so sure they even show, so, if it's abandoned, you may need to make a second call to them if the locating service doesn't net anything.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

...but would phone cable sizzle when it gets wet? It is hot - "it fizzed when I poured water on it."

pcboss Forum Topic Moderator

Normal phone voltage is 48 volts, jumping to 100 when ringing.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

So that is a yes? Remember I'm just a dumb ole painter.

aka pedro Member

Maybe I have lived too much of a sheltered life, because I do not believe that I have ever intentionally poured water on wires, particularly live or unknown, and certainly not with the notion of checking whether they were live or not, so I can't say at what voltage they sizzle. And while not what I typically use to be absolutely certain that a circuit is live or dead, this is a case where I probably would have started with a non-contact tester.

Forgot to mention earlier JB, but Mark made a good point about checking if it is energized through your home by shutting off the main breaker long enough to verify. And, again, I would probably use a non-contact tester, particularly in this case, as it appears there are multiple wires in that cable. I still think it's probably phone, so would not be affected by your breaker, but could also be something like a wireless fence, security system, intercom, etc., in which case you could then isolate the circuit that it's on and properly disconnect and abandon it.

jb3710 Member

Thanks all. Definitely would not have put a drop of water on it if it was in the house! I have called our miss utility number and they will be coming out.

CasualJoe Member

Residential underground telephone drops have been routinely installed barely under the surface for at least 35 years that I am aware of.

Vermont Member

So if that were a severed hot telephone line, and it even sizzles when splashed with water… wouldn't you expect that someone in the vicinity of that neighborhood would be squealing about a degradation in service ?

Or do they now have automated workarounds that minimize the ramifications of a periodic little old break in the lines?

ray2047 Group Moderator

“wouldn't you expect that someone in the vicinity of that neighborhood would be squealing”

No. May have been to the O/P's house and they don't have POTS or a new line was run for POTS and that was abandoned but never disconnected.

Mr.Awesome Member

“I poured water on it.”

“Remember I'm just a dumb ole painter.”

I'm a construction electrician, and this totally backs all the jokes everyone makes about the painters on site.

I'm also siding with phone line. Those wires are so small it has to be either communications or possibly a low voltage line for something. If it is on your property it likely won't affect anything beyond your property.

I'm also going to side with Ray in saying that line was probably abandoned. But it would be wise to contact this "digsafe" or check the wires with a meter.

chandler Forum Topic Moderator

Our EMC guys carry phone repair kits with them to temporarily restore service until the phone company gets there, because phone lines are shallow and they cut them every time they dig for primaries.

Our upcoming fios does have workaround loops built in. Your communication may be going from Georgia to North Carolina, and if a sever takes place, your service is looped through Tennessee without a whimper.

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