Mass thefts of manhole coverlids show an urgent need for water companies, local authorities and utility firms to review and upgrade security of access covers.
Professional gangs are stealing old cast iron drain and gully covers to sell for scrap at prices of up to £1,000 per item in the UK, including Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Gloucestershire and Lincolnshire. Manhole thefts caused eight deaths in Shanghai, China, where more than 1,500 covers have been stolen in the past two months.
Modern, fabricated steel covers, unlike old iron, offer the security of recess padlocks, which are virtually impossible to reach, explained Peter Evans of the UK company Strataform, which specialises in security product metal fabrication.
Peter Evans reported that the recent steep rise in world steel prices and subsequent upshot in the value of scrap metal are among the reasons that access cover theft has been so high. However, theft would decrease with appropriate locks or a change, depending on the manhole location, from iron to better designed, secure steel covers.