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Lakewood locks-in community rebuild

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Hamblen Avenue in Lakewood, TN, doesn’t get much traffic outside of the locals who live there.

The small houses are pushed back from the road, some with huge green lawns in front of them. At the end of each driveway is a mailbox that hangs on a post over a gravel ditch.

There’s no sidewalk, and two years ago the road was completely covered in potholes, patched up concrete, and sinking manholes.

“The city of Lakewood was a very economical place to live. They had very low taxes and costs, but they did nothing,” said Greg Ballard, an engineer with Nashville’s Metro Water Services. He noted that the 75-year-old system was not well maintained. “They patched what broke.”

Infrastructure rehabilitation in Lakewood

Today, there’s a fresh coat of pavement and brand new manhole covers. The updates were a part of the $11 million Lakewood Infrastructure Rehabilitation project to fix the water, sewage and stormwater infrastructure across the entire Lakewood community.

More than 300 homes and businesses belong to the neighborhood, which is a former satellite city to Nashville. When the city dissolved itself and joined Nashville in 2010, Metro Water Services proposed a project to the city to rehabilitate Lakewood’s outdated water system.

“The sewers were constructed very inexpensively when they were originally built, and we had a lot of inflow and infiltration into them which is how the project got its start,” said Ballard.


 

It all starts on the shop floor

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Just north of the Canadian border, Patrick van den Berg, plant manager at Hamilton Kent’s Toronto production facility starts his day at 6:30 a.m.

As soon as he arrives, he walks the shop floor and makes sure that the machines are all running properly for the shift transfer at 7 a.m.

Two of these are compression molding machines capable of applying pressure of between 600 and 800 tons. The presses are preheated to 350 degrees F, and virgin EPDM rubber compound is placed between them.

The powerful presses mold the preformed rubber into a circular casting, which is then cured and cooled for 25 minutes on a large wooden pallet.

A mushroom gasket is inserted into the casting that, along with a locking mechanism, forms a seal between a manhole cover to become what is now a finished Lifespan System® unit—a corrosion-proof rubber manhole frame that prevents inflow from entering sanitary sewers through the top of the manhole.

“Once the manhole cover is fit into the unit itself, it stops the egress of water where there previsouly was a lot of water running into the system,” said van den Berg. “You’re not going to have a manhole cover that’s displaced by surcharge, you’re not taking away rainwater and your processing costs are going to go down.”

Once finished, the units are shipped to Hamilton Kent’s Winchester, TN plant for local distribution. For this project, Lifespan units were transported just over 100 miles to Lakewood and installed into the infrastructure system on Hamblen Avenue.


 

The Lifespan system on trial

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“It was a unique opportunity for Metro Water Services and a very unusual project for us to go into a community and do a complete rebuild,” said Ballard. “But then, we don’t take over very many satellite cities either.”

Metro Water Services was approached by a Hamilton Kent representative and local distributors to install The Lifespan System units as a part of the neighborhood’s overhaul. The Approved Materials Committee involved with the project’s planning determined that they would do a few installations on a trial basis— on Hamblen Avenue.

“Because it’s a trial, I think there will be a little more interest in how those performed compared to other castings that we put in place,” said Ballard who noted that they will be reviewing the units next spring to see how they handled the changes in season.

More than patchwork repairs

“One of the biggest problems is that we have decaying infrastructure in this country,” said Ballard. “We spend a lot of money to put new things in, we don’t spend enough money to keep it up.”

Over time, Ballard said, you’ll start having small problems that lead to big problems and ultimately the infrastructure becomes unusable. Products like the Lifespan System could mean fewer repairs, and help resolve the neighborhood’s initial inflow and infiltration problem—which was the main reason that the project was even initiated.

The Lakewood project could also lead to improvements in other areas locally.

“We are very committed to maintaining our infrastructure, but we have to fight for the resources to do that,” said Ballard. With a local focus on infrastructure improvements, it could be local products like Hamilton Kent’s that end up paving the way for long term improvement.

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