Missing sewer structures cause hazards

City of Fort Wayne Seal

News release from the City of Fort Wayne:

Missing Sewer Structures Cause Hazards
Residents Encouraged to Report

(October 10, 2011) – Storm sewer grates and manhole covers have been disappearing from Fort Wayne streets, causing concern for public safety and costly replacements.

Since March 2011, City Utilities has found or learned of 95 locations where these structures were missing — all have been replaced.

Fort Wayne Police Department Captain Paul Smith says police believe that the items, which are typically made of cast iron, are being stolen and sold to scrap yards.

“We believe many of these manhole covers and grates are being broken up and mixed in with other scrap metal to be sold,” Smith said. “This is a crime, but more importantly, it poses a safety hazard to pedestrians and motorists.”

Locations where manhole lids or storm grates have been removed are scattered around the city (see attached map). However, police and City Utilities report that, in some areas, several grates have been removed along a particular street or on adjacent streets.

Sewer manholes and inlets left without covers can pose serious risks for pedestrians and drivers. People walking should be especially watchful and should use caution to avoid stepping into an uncovered sewer. Residents are encouraged to warn children not play in or around openings in streets – sewers underneath can be much deeper than they appear.

City Utilities incurs significant costs to replace the grates and manhole lids, and the fixes can be complicated.

Replacement of the storm grates – which can weigh between 60 to 80 lbs. – and the manhole lids – which weigh up to 160 lbs. – could cost up to $2,200 for each site. This includes the cost of digging up the supporting structure and replacing it along with the grate.

Many of the missing storm sewer grates have been in place for more than 50 years and are no longer being manufactured. In these cases, City Utilities must replace not just the grate but the underground structure that supports it.

“Every couple of years we see a spike in the number of stolen grates or manhole lids, but this year we’ve seen the most in the shortest period of time,” said Jeff Morris, Superintendent of Water Pollution Control Maintenance. “It could be a result of increases in scrap metal prices. We have over 100,000 manholes and sewer grates in Fort Wayne, so they’re everywhere.”

City Utilities is working closely with the Fort Wayne Police Department to investigate what may be happening to the apparently stolen items. The Fort Wayne Police Department is seeking the public’s help in being vigilant about reporting any information on persons who may be removing these grates.

Residents are asked to call 311 to report missing storm grates or manhole lids.

Download a map of the missing sewer structures

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