Castings Around Town

An MCDP Staff Report

Whether it’s theft-proofing products, earthquake-resistant pipes, innovative components for fire hydrants, or attractive lighting options, castings are a major part of municipal infrastructure.

Metal castings are all around you. They help you get to work, prepare your food, keep the temperature just right in your home, and allow civilization to move forward.

That’s very true when it comes to infrastructure. Castings are crucial in the systems that deliver water and natural gas to residents. Below are examples of how castings not only play a vital role, but are innovative products making our lives better in necessary but interesting ways.

Securing Castings
In some major cities, theft of unsecured cast iron and steel infrastructure products is an ongoing concern. When manhole covers or grates are missing or broken, they create safety hazards for vehicular and pedestrian traffic. AFS Corporate Member EJ (Warner Township, near Elmira, Michigan) worked closely with the city of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) in 2012 to develop the cast iron hinged drainage grate assembly to help solve this issue.

EJ worked closely with the city of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) in 2012 to develop the hinged drainage grate assembly to help solve security issues.

“We’ve been very pleased with the hinged catch basin units,” said Ken Miller, DWSD Team Leader Sewer Division. “They have greatly helped us achieve cost savings by reducing theft and provide other benefits such as preventing worker fatigue and injury. Our manhole crews love the design.”

The heavy-duty assemblies are hinged and also incorporate a bolted design to help limit unauthorized access and theft. They feature a slip-resistant tread design surface and offer several grate options, including an ADA-compliant version. The hinge design allows the cover to open to 100 degrees and features a safety catch at 90 degrees, where it can also be removed.

The hinged operation is ergonomically preferable to complete grate removal and saves time. Effective locking is achieved with only one bolt (instead of four). Occupational safety and labor costs are reduced for handling, installation and maintenance access.

Meeting Seismic Standards
AFS Corporate Member AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company (Birmingham, Alabama) and Oregon’s Joint Water Commission (JWC)—owned in partnership by the cities of Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Beaverton, and the Tualatin Valley Water District —worked together to design a water-delivery pipeline for an area that has averaged nearly one earthquake per week during the past year.

The JWC treats, transmits and stores drinking water for more than 365,000 customers and operates the largest conventional water treatment plant in Oregon. However, due to population growth, the JWC needed to strengthen the water plant infrastructure and increase capacity from 75 MGD (million gallons per day) to 85 MGD while factoring in a potential future capacity of 105.

To meet the challenge, AMERICAN sales engineers worked closely with project engineering firm Jacobs (formerly CH2M), general contractor Slayden Constructors Inc. (a subsidiary of MWH Constructors) and the JWC to design a ductile iron pipe system to achieve the JWC’s aggressive goals.

AMERICAN provided a variety of 24-48 in. Flex-Ring pipe and fittings for the project with Oregon’s Joint Water Commission.

Because the state of Oregon requires new and retrofitted construction to meet rigorous seismic safety standards, this project sets a precedent for earthquake-resistant treatment plants in the Pacific Northwest.

“We provided a variety of 24-in. to 48-in. Flex-Ring pipe and fittings,” said Jeff Blakely, AMERICAN senior sales engineer. “The design we helped develop is capable of withstanding 22 in. of permanent ground deformation due to liquefaction (a destabilization that occurs when saturated soil loses its firmness) during a seismic event.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Castings Around Town

Robert Montgomery, senior project manager for Slayden Constructors Inc. said, “AMERICAN worked with the engineering team (from Jacobs) even before the project went out to bid. Then, AMERICAN came out and did a class for our installation people because the earthquake-resistant system is such a new thing. That was very helpful.”

The project will be completed via an alternative delivery model known as Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC).

This method allows the owner to engage a construction manager during the design process to provide constructability input.

Hydrant Component Stops Gushing
You can picture the scene from a movie or TV show. An out-of-control car swerves around a corner and hits a fire hydrant. The car is destroyed and the hydrant is too, spewing water and soaking everything in the near vicinity.

While it has no control over the speeding car or what happens to the automobile when it crashes, an AFS Corporate Member has worked to save water after an accident.

Clow Valve has produced a Break Off Check Body that shuts down water flow to a hydrant when it’s struck by a vehicle or broken off its base.

Clow Valve (Oskaloosa, Iowa) has produced a Break Off Check Body that shuts down water flow to a hydrant when it’s struck by a vehicle or broken off its base by an accident or other damage. The casting weighs 29.5 lbs. and is made from low-lead brass and thin-wall ductile iron.

The casting was converted from a pipe-fabrication avoidance, which allowed Clow Valve to change the design from a two-piece fabricated part (half-formed metal and half-casting) to a single casting.  Also important: the check body provides water conservation to the tune of 98% water-loss savings.

“At Clow Valve/McWane, our team is committed to innovative thinking and protecting our natural resources,” said John Grahek, metalcasting facility plant manager, Clow Valve. “Identifying and developing new product lines create opportunities that reinforces our sustainability efforts as an American manufacturer and a leader in the water works industry.”

Streetlights Add to a Capital Design
Streetlights do more than just add light to an area. Their design can set a vibe and enhance a landscape.

One example is the work done by AFS Corporate Member Spring City Electrical (Spring City, Pennsylvania) at the Maryland state capital in Annapolis. Their “Clearwater Luminaire” adds a colonial touch to the grounds, and even has a pole and flag bracket so the Maryland flag can be flown.

Spring City’s “Clearwater Luminaire” adds a colonial touch to the grounds in Annapolis, Maryland, and even has a pole and flag bracket so the state flag can be flown.

“Spring City’s Clearwater Luminaire is the preferred style when trying to achieve a colonial landscape,” the company said in a brochure. “Maryland’s state capital is steeped in historical relevance and the Clearwater represents modern technological advances while paying aesthetic homage to the capital city’s historical roots of street lighting.”

The ductile iron lamppost is made in a horizontal green sand floor mold, and the core is made of chemically bonded sand.  The core is supported by chaplets to maintain a consistent 3/8-in. wall thickness. The lighting fixture is made of aluminum castings and uses LEDs, and Spring City president Alan Brink said “aesthetics are very important in that people have close contact with these posts.”

Brink also highlighted the finishing efforts on the posts.

“All grinding marks are covered with filler prior to painting,” he said. 

Click here to see this story as it appears in the September/October 2019 issue of MCDP.