By Joel Hall
The Clayton County Water Authority (CCWA) is on a mission to replace 1,400 solid-concrete, catch-basin tops with new ones with manhole access.
The multi-year project, which started last month, is expected to greatly increase the ability of the water authority to monitor and maintain the county's storm water system.
The authority has sought to replace the tops since it took control of storm water maintenance from the county and its municipalities two years ago, according Mike Thomas, the authority's general manager. He said many of the older catch-basin tops - made out of four-foot-by-four-foot slabs of concrete - are dangerous and difficult to access.
"It's been on the radar screen ever since we took responsibility of the storm water program," Thomas said. "You always had to have a crane or a heavy piece of equipment to get the top off. There's a two-fold purpose. It makes it more efficient and quick for us to maintain the structure. Also, a lot of the older ones were already cracked or collapsing."
According to water authority officials, the new, easier-to-access tops are made of six-inch-thick, reinforced concrete, making them more structurally sound than the older tops, which do not have reinforcement. So far, the authority has replaced 32 tops in Forest Park, 42 tops in Morrow, and 55 in Jonesboro.
Kevin Osbey, the authority's storm water manager, said the state mandates that the water authority regularly inspect and maintain the county's storm water system. He said the concrete slabs over many of the county's catch basins have turned a one-minute maintenance job into a 20-minute ordeal, requiring manpower and machinery.
"When you have solid tops, you can't get down there and really inspect it," Osbey said. "You have a four-by-four piece of concrete that you have to move in order to look. That's two or three guys carrying a piece of equipment, unloading it, and moving a top that weighs 800 or 900 pounds, and then trying to reposition it. You are also talking about some restoration work."
With manhole access, "within 30 seconds to a minute, he's [a crew member has] got the inspection done and can write up his notes," Osbey said. "It's a 30-second-to-a-minute inspection, instead of 15 or 20 minutes with three or four guys. It's a significant saving for the storm water utility and [allows us] to use those funds more wisely for repair work."
Osbey said it costs the water authority about $500 to replace each top. He said the project would be a "multi-year project" and the rate of its completion "all depends on the funding."
The next city the authority will focus on is Lake City, according to Osbey. He said most of the work would take place in subdivisions, rather than along major streets.
"We're trying to hit spots here and there all over the entire county, instead of concentrating on just one area," he said. "There shouldn't be any road delays or traffic in heavily-traveled areas. Most of the work is on the side of the road."