Municipalities choose polyurethane and durable PVC pipe to save time and money
By Alan J. Henderson
The repair of cast iron curb valve boxes has long been a costly, frustrating process for municipalities. Time-consuming excavations and land restorations strain public works and water department budgets. And the old school materials, vulnerable to rust and corrosive soils, too often prove inoperable during emergencies.
The quest to eliminate such repairs seemed unattainable, even in recent years. But now department chiefs are encouraged by a new initiative to install curb boxes designed with performance-based polyurethane and PVC piping. The composition of these products makes them impervious to the breaks, leaks and the predictable cracking that causes cast iron to burst.
At a trade show five years ago Bob Krueger, a systems operator for the Waverly Sanitary District in Menasha, WI, discovered a product for repairing the grade-level caps of curb boxes. The innovation allowed his crew to lop off the metal top and slip on a polyurethane sleeve that was easy to adjust. But that made him pine for a bigger step forward.
Krueger liked what he saw—the ease of installation. Then he thought, it would be nice if you could do the whole box this way.
Krueger had good reason to want more. The boxes in his territory typically decay within 10 years. He could no longer reconcile replacing the damaged system with the identical steel or cast iron product.
Krueger inspired Argonics, a firm with facilities in Michigan and Colorado, to engineer the 3-part Speedy Sleeve Poly Curb Box System. The product includes the polyurethane sleeve Krueger and others now use, a valve box and a PVC extension pipe. The pieces are lightweight yet durable and easy to handle, unlike cast iron. They are also expected to last more than 25 years.
Last year the Waverly Sanitary District installed nine new curb valve boxes. But the key is to insist that this type of innovative product be included in the city’s specifications for new development—sub-divisions and apartment complexes.
It’s not beneficial to have ten different valves and curb stops – that’s too much inventory to handle. It’s always best to work with the ones that last the longest and work the best.
The boxes install easily, are easy to adjust and don’t rely on metal threaded couplings.
Open to innovation
Public Works Director Mark Pansier decided to try the polyurethane valve boxes because the cast iron variety, despite being sturdy, is hard to adjust in the Town of Ledgeview, Wisconsin.
Pansier found that it is difficult to adjust cast iron up and down. If it is adjusted down too far the pipe goes against the valve and stops it from opening or closing. In an emergency, contractors need to shut down the valve, but when this happens the box is inoperable. Meanwhile extensive water damage is possible in the home with a busted water pipe.
Although Pansier has yet to install the new product, his first opportunity will come once a new subdivision begins breaking ground in his town, possibly this summer. He estimates he’ll need 25 to 50 curb boxes.
Pansier looks forward to making repairs with PVC materials so that his crew can avoid the sometimes difficult task of cross-threading metal couplers. Some communities may stubbornly cling to old-school attitudes, but Ledgeview is not one of them.
But like Krueger, the savings Pansier envisions are based on reliability and reduced man-hours. Both of which are possible if seasonal repairs are reduced to a minimum.
PVC is a breeze
Barry Marietta is a crew leader for the Department of Public Works in Michigan’s Marquette Township. The shoreline of Lake Superior is not far off, and the temperatures are often sub-zero well into the spring season. Besides the frigid air, he knows what to expect when excavating sewers and water lines. So anything that makes repairs and installations easier is a huge benefit to him.
Marietta has worked his trade for more than half a century. In decades past he dealt with black iron in the water works, and all the corrosive vulnerabilities and inconveniences that came with it. If the pipe below the freeze line had to be extended on top, he’d have to thread a metal coupling. It was tough work. Now it’s a breeze.
The new product works really well. It saves time. If a homeowner says he wants the top at a certain level, the PVC pipe can easily be cut. Later, if they decide they want it lower or higher, it’s easy to change.
The Marquette DPW has installed about a dozen of the new system. Previously, they’d had trouble with another brand that disappeared below the grade level and couldn’t be found when repairs were necessary. The new curb valve box is easy to locate because a magnet is embedded in the cap.
The new system can be used on water valves and even miles of pressure sewers. It can be installed by one person – and doesn’t require a full crew.
For more information about the Poly Curb Box System contact Argonics at 800-991-2746