A copper theft May 10 left much of Wheelersburg and Sciotoville without power because of damage to the Dogwood Ridge electrical substation.
According to AEP Ohio, the grounding coils of these substations are often the target of copper thieves because they contain such a large amount of copper. However, newer equipment uses copper-plated steel in the grounding devices, which is of much lower value, if any, should someone try to cash in on its metals.
Sheriff's reports in Scioto County show a list of similar crimes. On May 19, copper piping from a gas line was stolen in Sciotoville. On May 29, pipes and wiring were stolen from a house on Fourth Street in Portsmouth. And on May 17, several arrests were made for copper thefts, one from a water pumping station.
Several area scrap yards and metal collection facilities take scrap copper. More than 80 percent of the copper used today in the U.S. is recycled, and with a finite amount of copper in the world to be mined, copper recycling is important.
Copper is 100 percent recyclable, and more than 80 percent of all the copper that has ever been mined is still in existence. This is a much greater amount than aluminum, which is often thought of as the standard by which recycling efforts are gauged. This makes scrap copper extremely valuable, especially in light of sustainability concerns of recent years.
However, paying for scrap copper can allow thieves to cash in on stolen metal. Areas businesses that pay for scrap copper require photo identification and keep records of what is brought in an attempt to thwart copper thieves.
The price paid for scrap copper depends upon the grade of the metal that is turned in and how easily it can be processed for recycling. No. 1 copper consists of clean, unalloyed, uncoated copper. No. 2 copper may include oxidized or coated pieces of copper scrap.
Copper prices in the area average about $3 per pound for No. 2 copper, with No. 1 copper going for 10 to 20 cents more per pound.
The primary factor that influences the price of scrap copper is the level of demand for the versatile metal and the limited supply of mined copper. The electrical, housing and automotive industries are the main users of copper.
Although it might seem that copper theft is on the rise, AEP Ohio representatives say that copper theft is an ongoing problem. Copper theft increases during the warmer months but tends to decrease during the winter, but AEP has not seen any significant increases in copper theft in recent years — it has always been a problem.
HEATHER DUMAS may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org.