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Manholes for Scrap Metal

[ad#125-right]Scrap metal is one of the unlikely markets that is forcing municipalities to rethink how they manage their infrastructure…

Several hours a day, five days a week, [Francis McConnell] stakes out junkyards. Pretending to read a newspaper, Mr. McConnell sits near the entrances and writes down descriptions of passing pickup trucks and shirtless men pushing shopping carts. His mission is to figure out who is stealing the city’s manhole covers and its storm drain and street grates, increasingly valuable commodities on the scrap market. More than 2,500 covers and grates have disappeared in the past year, up from an annual average of about 100.

Source: With a Surge in Iron and Steel Prices, Thieves Are Stealing Metal Manhole Covers –


Philadelphia has quite the problem, causing liability issues, as well as the cost of replacing the manholes. To combat this, the City is installing chains to secure the lids…

But so far, only 300 of the city’s more than 70,000 manhole and inlet covers have been locked.

Cities across the country are working with the police, junkyard dealers and industry associations to improve the chances of catching thieves, but while the price of metals keeps increasing – so will the problem. I haven’t noticed a problem around here, anyone got stories?

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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