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Winter Valve Box Asset Management

Posted by Mark Beatty on

Are your valve boxes prepared for winter? There are some things you can do to make your life easier, job in the spring easier, and save some money in the long run with valve box asset management. These involve keeping valve boxes from getting damaged from snow plows, insuring that lids are secure to keep out winter salt, debris, an grime, preventing a long spring valve box clean out program, and finding the valve boxes in the winter snow and ice. If you have a winter main break and need to either access the valve box for a leak detector or leak correlator will you be able to? How much water may leak and freeze if you have to thaw out a frozen broken valve box to shut off a valve in large main break, or if you have to wait on a vac truck to do the clean out?

Protruding Valve Boxes

If you have valve boxes protruding above the pavement now, there is a good chance they will be broken off with snow plows this winter. If that happens, you will also likely end up with a valve box full of dirt, sand, and gravel that needs a spring cleaning, and maybe have difficulty accessing that valve in the mean time. You can prevent that with the Kerf Cutter valve box repair tool and repair top kits. The Kerf cutter can cut protruding or broken top sections typically in less than 10 minutes and replace with a repair top flush or slightly below the pavement level. The whole process uses the existing footprint in the pavement, so no pavement cutting or patching is required. This can be especially useful when cold weather prevents patching with concrete or blacktop patch. Here is a video of the whole process. The Kerf Cutter is a no-dig solution to valve box repair.

Broken Valve Boxes

The Kerf Cutter tool above can also repair broken valve boxes so that you have a nice tight fit with a valve box lid. The repair kit is shown below with the replacement repair top, a flexible gasket to seal between the old and new,, a cutting wheel for each kit, and a tube of asphalt crack filler. The upper right shows two broken valve boxes before and after repair. The asphalt crack filler wasn't used yet in the second repair since the mud from the hydro cleaner needed to be cleaned out first.

Valve Box Plugs

If you have valve boxes that are susceptible to filling with debris, sand, mud, or road salt, there are mud plugs and debris caps that can help seal better than a loose lid held in place with gravity. By trapping mud and silt at the top, they prevent it from falling to the bottom where it must be removed by hydro vac trucks, spoons, or augers. The plugs remain at the top and when you pull them out by the handle, the mud is brought out of the valve box instead of ending up blocking the valve key at the bottom.

Locking Valve Box Lids

Sometimes you have valve boxes where the reason they get full of mud is that the lids don't fit right or are knocked out by heavy vehicle traffic. Most, but not all valve box lids just rest in place by gravity with the weight of the lid itself. In cases where they don't, you may need a valve box lid that locks in place. There are several types of locking valve box lids to insure the lids stay in place in traffic. Both of those shown below have standard pentagon curb box bolts. The metal one has lock wings that tighten inside the valve box top for a secure fit. The Polymer one below can also allow you to have valve box leak loggers in place and allow the radio signal to penetrate for better signal propagation. The polymer valve box lid below locks in place with a cam. If theft is a problem, the polymer lids don't have the scrap value a cast iron lid would have.

Valve Boxes Asset Management & Maintenance Records

Finding valve boxes in the snow or when buried under mud can be a problem when you need them. More utilities are starting to GIS locate and map their valve boxes so they can narrow down where to look. GIS apps with photos can show where the asset was when it was exposed in relation to the surrounding area. Ferromagnetic locators can also be used to pinpoint once you have a general area located.

Asset tags can also be used to provide information at the site about the valve and the maintenance record. Two waterproof Tyvek tags are shown below. The one on the left has a magnet to hold it into the inside of the iron cap. The one on the right is attached to a foam mud plug. They can be marked with the valve normal position, number of turns, direction of open, size, type, and other information useful when using them. When capturing the valve box for GIS, the information can also be useful for the GIS operator to know what data attributes to enter for that asset in the electronic database.

Contact us for more information on any of these valve maintenance products. We would be happy to provide on-site demonstrations of the Kerf Cutter valve box repair tool kit.

Utility Technologies, LLC | | | 513-488-1940

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