Water Heater Leak- Can anyone advise?

I have a small leak in my water heater. The drips of water are originating at a removable panel that reads, ""power supply must be disconnected before adjusting thermostat or resetting E.C.O." I called my housing maintinance and they sent out a young man that said that it needs to be replaced- he will put in the order for some time this week. He said that there should not be water in that area because that is where the electrical components are located. Now I find myself worrying about it.
The water heater is electric, Ruudglas Pacemaker Model PE52-2 C 50 gallon
Is this dangerous? Is there any threat of safety? I am a military wife and my husband is not here to advise me on these matters. Anyone know anything about this? Should I be losing sleep? or is it fine until it can be replaced.
Thanks, Katie
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It's exceedingly unlikely to present a risk.
The odds of anything bad happening are millions to one. But I understand how people can get a bit nervous with things they're not familiar with, and what I'm saying here is meant to reassure you. The precautions I give you as options are extremely UNLIKELY to be necessary, but should make you feel more comfortable.
I'm surprised he didn't pull the panel off and inspect the tank. This could be a leaky gasket on one of the heaters, and that's repairable.
On the other hand, maybe he did, and perhaps the tank really is in need of a replacement.
There are usually several access panels, and the electronics behind most of them are pretty minimal.
Especially if the leak is at the bottom of the tank (bottom hatch), chances are it's not getting anywhere near the electrical bits.
A properly installed water heater is quite safe, even if there are slow water leaks into the tank insulation. The grounding and panel breakers will protect you. That said, until it's repaired/replaced avoid touching it, and don't step in any puddles of water from the tank (if any). Wear rubber-soled shoes (eg: running shoes) when you're near it.
Keep the kids (if any) away from it.
If it still makes you nervous - call your housing maintenance, express your concern (make a joke about it), and ask what they suggest. Especially if this is military housing, I'm sure they'll steer you right.
If you're still very nervous, you could turn off the panel breaker feeding the tank. Once the power is removed, you'll still have hot water for a while - up to several days depending on your usage pattern, and you've completely eliminated any possible risk from the electrical.
If you run out of hot water, you could turn the breaker back on for a few hours. But it sounds as if they'd have it replaced before that would be needed.
--
Chris Lewis,

Age and Treachery will Triumph over Youth and Skill
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On Oct 16, 10:34 am, snipped-for-privacy@nortelnetworks.com (Chris Lewis) wrote:

Without knowing where the water is coming from, I'd be concerned about the leak suddenly getting worse and a flood resulting. I'd know where the shut off valve is located in case that happens. Also, I'd consider where the water will go and what damage might result. If it can cause damage, then I'd probably shut the water to it off, for sure if you're going to be going out for any length of time.
As someone pointed out, enough diagnosis should have been done to find out where it's leaking. The guy should have done this to determine that a new heater is needed. If it were around the heating element, then the leak isn't going to suddenly get worse. But if it's the tank itself that is shot, these leaks can suddenly get worse and start leaking badly. You could also buy one of the alarms that go for about $10, run on a battery, and you can set on the floor near the unit. If water makes it to the unit, the alarm sounds. That's something you should have anyway.
I wouldn't be worried about it blowing up, or catching fire. The main risk is that you could have a flood.
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FYI, the removable panels on most electric water heaters conceal the "base" for an electrical element that sticks horizontally into the inner cavity of the heater. Imagine an oversized light bulb filament that penetrates into the cavity of the water heater. Turn on the light bulb and the resulting heat warms the water.
The elements are cheap and easily replaced. The base of the element is a screw-in plug that seals the cavity once the element sticks inside. It also has contacts to hook up the power wires from the main power line to the heater. It sounds like one of your elements has developed a leak in the base, or the wall into which it is threading has developed a crack.
I am not clear on what needs to be replaced - the heater itself or just an element? Because elements are a slam-dunk, I assume the whole heater is getting replaced. If you can do without hot water until then, simply turn off the circuit to the hot water heater. As another poster indicated, the risk of any problem is mitigated by modern electrical panels and circuitry. But I wouldn't mess with it, and if you see any evidence that the leak might be getting worse, I'd kill the circuit just to be safe. Call me Captain Safety ;-)
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