A water meter vault missing its cover is barricaded by Saint Peter Hall at Saint Peter Church on the 100 block of East Deming Street. (Tess Townsend Photo)
The City of Roswell Utility Department has reported that several water meter vault covers have been stolen over the past year. The thefts violate federal law and pose safety hazards.
“People can trip and fall. They can damage their vehicles,” said City Water and Wastewater Manager Art Torrez.
Torrez said that more than 15 covers have been taken. In the past two months, the city has replaced four or five covers at a total cost of roughly $1,200, he said.
Two covers are missing on the 100 block of East Deming Street, near Saint Peter Church, according to Torrez.
Theft of meter covers violates the Federal Bioterrorism Act of 2002 and perpetrators “may be considered to be tampering with a water system and are to be reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” according to a press release from the city.
Torrez said he did not have a number for the quantity of vaults still open. Open vaults have been barricaded, he said.
City water meter covers are made of steel and may interest thieves wishing to trade the items for cash at recycling locations and steel dealers.
Donald Ensor, owner of Quality Recycling on South-east Main Street, said that recycling centers are legally prohibited from purchasing government property without documentation from a government entity permitting that the item be sold as scrap.
The recycling company purchases steel at 4 cents a pound, according to Ensor.
Torrez said a water meter cover can weigh up to 200 pounds.
The rash of meter cover thefts is not the only pilfering this year of steel street covers owned by the city.
At least three manhole covers were stolen in March, according to the Roswell Police Department. Another was stolen in October.
They city has not reported the meter cover thefts to law enforcement and is working to replace covers as soon as possible, according to Torrez. New covers will include locks to prevent thefts, he said.
He said the city is considering installing non-metal covers in the future, to minimize trade value.