Theft of catch basin inlet grates on the rise in Pierce County

PIERCE COUNTY, WA — More than 100 catch basin inlet grates have been stolen in unincorporated Pierce County this year, creating a public safety risk and costing the county thousands in replacement costs and staff time. The thefts are centered in Central Pierce County.

These grates, which are made of cast iron, allow rainwater to enter catch basins located under the roadway, which then drains into storm drainage pipes and ditches. They are located along the roadway near the shoulder or sidewalks, and help reduce roadway flooding by preventing leaves and other debris from entering the storm drainage systems.

“Missing grates create a safety hazard for motorists, bicycle riders and pedestrians that may not see the hole as they travel,” said Bruce Wagner, Public Works and Utilities road operations manager. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of thefts in the past few weeks.”

Catch basins are 4 to 20-feet-deep, and either 18 by 24 inches wide or 20 by 24-inches wide. The cost to replace a catch basin inlet grate ranges between $250 and $395. Each grate costs between $100 and $120.

Most of the thefts have occurred north of Graham and south of 512 between Highways 161 and 7. Many have occurred in developments still under construction, and likely take place at night.

People that see a theft in-progress should call 911. If they see a missing grate, they should call Public Works and Utilities’ 24-hour service line at (253) 798-6000.

Road crews clean roadside storm drainage facilities six months of the year. There are approximately 21,700 catch basins, 1,200 miles of ditch, and 550 miles of drainage pipes in unincorporated Pierce County. It is not Pierce County’s standard to bolt down the catch basin inlet grates, as it would take staff additional time to unscrew them during their annual cleaning.

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