WATERVILLE – When Al Althenn opened the door Thursday to a rental house he owns, he couldn’t believe what he saw.

The new white-tiled floor in the kitchen was black with muck, the baseboard heating units were torn out and the copper pipes inside them were stolen, and the newly painted walls were splattered with pipe sludge.

He walked into the living room. Same thing.

In the bathroom, where a toilet is being replaced, someone had wrenched a copper pipe out of the wall. In the basement, all of the pipes were bent or cut out of the walls, the ceiling and around the furnace.

Althenn, who is renovating the house and had renters who planned to move in soon, didn’t have insurance to cover theft. He estimates that repairing the damage and replacing pipes will cost $8,000 to $10,000.

It has been a bad week for Althenn, 66. A few days ago, thousands of dollars worth of scrap copper was stolen from inside and outside a building at his home on Lakeview Drive in China. Copper also was stolen from a building he looks after on Route 32 in South China.

Althenn is one of a growing number of building owners who have been hit by thieves, who sell the metal at scrap yards.

On Aug. 23, a man was arrested in connection with the theft of about 40 pounds of copper grounding wire from at least 45 utility poles in Waterville.

On Wednesday, 7-foot-long copper grounding wire was clipped off at least 33 utility poles.

Central Maine Power Co. spokesman John Carroll said Friday that cutting copper grounding wire poses a safety threat to customers and CMP employees who approach wires. Thefts also drive up the cost of operating the system.

Elsewhere, people have been electrocuted when cutting copper wires off poles, Carroll said .

Thieves also have stolen copper from CMP substations, which became too dangerous for employees to approach and had to be shut down remotely.

The company takes steps to reduce thefts, working with police and installing substation detectors, he said.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

[email protected]