If you have ever worked in the infrastructure business, or otherwise know something about it, you are probably very aware that there are many parts that have been deemed antiquated. After all, in the past few years, pipes have had to be replaced, fitting changed, and many more adaptations made in order to take advantage of new and better materials as well as to prevent failure of old materials. Why should manholes be any different?
A recent story published in Trenchless Technology reported that in the United States alone, there are more than 20 million manhole covers, and of that number more than half were installed prior to 1960, which is near or past their design life, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The trouble with replacing these covers is that up until recently, there have been no viable options when it came to new and better materials, particularly composite, non-metalic covers.
You would think that in more than 150 years of progress, manhole covers would have been improved, yet that is exactly how long ago it has been since the inventor, Henry Smith Jr. patented his design for a metal cover to enclose sewer systems. Unfortunately, what we used today is virtually the same thing with the same design as Smith introduced back in 1870.
There’s an old saying that when you have enough reasons, you can do incredible things. Unfortunately, when it comes to manhole covers, we obviously haven’t had enough reasons since, after all, as far as manhole covers is concerned, we have all the reasons covered. Indeed, for the last 150 years, manhole covers have provided numerous advantages with their design. These include:
* Theft prevention
* Limited options
* and more.
Simply speaking, iron manhole covers have served their purpose for more than 150 years. That’s saying a lot since they are not only exposed to some of the harshest elements in the environment, but they do it consistently, day in and day out. That’s a lot to demand of anything. Further, when you consider that manhole covers provide a method of saving countless lives from the potential of ending up in a manhole, the cost and effort of keeping and replacement manhole covers when they need it seems reasonable.
There are downfalls, however. First, when you consider the fact that the average manhole cover weighs between 150 and 300 pounds, you have a major liability issue at hand from those who are frequently called upon to lift and move those covers. Another drawback is an inherent problem with the fact that manhole covers are not sealed. As a result, every year, billions of gallons of extraneous water enter our public sewer system every year, which calls for countless dollars being spent on needless treatment expenses.
Where to Go From Here
As well as cast iron manhole covers have served us for more than 150 years, especially in light of the current green movement, there must be a better answer. Unfortunately, there are. These include, naturally, the use of composite manhole covers, but inherent in these is also a problem: ourselves. There are, after all, millions of manhole covers. Even with a product that is lighter, more durable, more resistant to deterioration, and more, how do we get decision-makers to act now, or anytime soon, to replace what is there now with what might be a better choice? Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to this just like there are any alternative, but who will make the decisions and when is a matter of time and money.