Thieves grab 100 Pierce County cast iron road grates

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, according to Pierce County officials.

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 Pierce County Public Works and Utilities Road Operations Manager Bruce Wagner. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of thefts in the past few weeks.”

Catch basins are four- 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.

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, according to Pierce County officials.

Most of the thefts have occurred north of Graham and south of 512 between Highway 161 and Highway 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 Pierce County Public Works and Utilities’ 24-hour service line at (253) 798-6000.