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Pranksters Cross Over to Dangerous Vandalism with Manhole Cover Removal

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
May 7, 2008

This isn’t your typical college prank involving stealing the team mascot or rigging the bells in Thompson Hall to ring continuously. Removing manhole covers is serious business and the folks at UNH facilities want people to be aware of the danger.

In March, the manhole cover in front of Mills Hall was removed twice. Last year, it was taken on a Friday evening and thrown down into the drain. Because it was dark, no one knew it was gone, leaving the drain open and creating a potentially hazardous situation. The cover wasn’t replaced until Saturday morning.

A manhole cover was also taken from a drain located in front of the Gables in a main walkway area. The vandals apparently threw it in the woods so it took several hours to locate a replacement. It costs about $100 for a new cover.

“We’re very, very fortunate that we haven’t had any injuries,” says Thomas Byron, manager of grounds and events support in UNH facilities. “It’s a real concern at night; the manhole at Mills Hall is right outside the front door. Someone could have been seriously injured.”

Facilities is trying to find a locking device for the covers but so far they haven’t been able to find one that wouldn’t be an obstacle when work in the manholes is required. In the meantime, they want the UNH community to be aware of the problem.

Rates of serious injury from stealing manholes are increasing everywhere. In Shanghai, China, where manhole covers are being stolen for scrap metal, eight people fell down uncovered manholes and died between June 2003 and January 2004. Manhole covers are being replaced through out Central Park, New York, after a 5-year-old fell 18 feet into an uncovered hole.

There is also a concern about vandals going down into the basin, which can be between four and 16 feet deep and at times based upon weather conditions, can be full of water.


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