Hamilton Kent Blog

When manhole covers go missing!

Main Image

As any long-time underground infrastructure manager knows, manhole covers can be involved in some pretty strange news stories. And these stories often have a common theme – chaos caused when manhole covers go missing.


Often, these failures are caused by natural disaster. For example, this Associated Press story from May 20, 2012 describes the almost $6000 in damage to local manhole access systems that occurred when a record-breaking tornado touched down in Joplin, Missouri last year, sucking a number of area’s manhole covers right out of their frames.


On the opposite side of the disaster equation is overflow due to overcapacity. This Montreal Gazette article recounts the damage done to the city’s sewer system after a sudden and severe rainstorm on May 29, 2012. In a storm that saw 46 millimetres of rain fall in 40 minutes, the city’s (aging) sewer system reached its capacity in minutes, turning manhole covers “into projectiles and basements into wading pools.”

More troubling are the scores of stories online detailing the theft of manhole covers for scrap, a problem that seems to be increasing in frequency for municipalities all over North America.


"Typically, we're missing three to four manhole covers per month and sometimes we're up to six or seven," said Ron Labelle, commissioner of New Bedford, Massachusetts’ Department of Public Infrastructure, in a May 30, 2012 Standard Times article. "It's a big problem for us."


Or this story from Casa Grande, Arizona, where police in May arrested two men suspected of stealing 90 manhole covers worth an estimated $12,000. In this case, a witness had the foresight to film the two men in action, so the police could execute a search warrant and ultimately book them into jail for the crime.


These incidents not only cost municipalities a lot of money, they are a significant public safety threat, and are responsible for major traffic problems, such as this recent story from Pittsburgh in which a missing manhole cover (suspected to be stolen) snarled local traffic for hours.


To combat rising thefts, some municipalities are seeking to address the demand side of the equation, such as Surrey, British Columbia, which has passed new legislation requiring scrap dealers to record the ID of sellers and share purchase details daily with local police. In the UK, Scotland and Britain have joined forces to combat metal theft, estimated to “cost the UK economy up to an estimated £770 million a year.”


At Hamilton Kent, we’d humbly like to suggest an additional solution that not only deters theft, but helps protect against failures caused by natural or manmade disaster: our patented Lifespan System®.


The Lifespan System features a cast-iron cover and an ultra high-performance rubber frame, which can be locked together using theft-resistant bolted lugs. The Lifespan System’s high-performance design also makes for more rugged, long-lasting performance, so that failures due to inflow or infiltration are less likely to occur.


For more information about eliminating inflow and infiltration in manhole covers and frames, watch this video hosted by Henry Flattery, Hamilton Kent’s director of sustainable market development.