In addition to this column, members are welcome to post their questions in the general forum area of the APWA website at There, other members have the opportunity to post their answers directly. We also retrieve those questions with broad appeal for "Ask Ann."

Joe Roscioli, Public Works Director, West Whiteland Township, Exton, Pennsylvania posted the following question on an infoNOW Community. It created a great deal of comment.

"Help!!! Our elected officials have asked me to look into the placement of grates over the ends of stormwater pipes to prevent children from crawling into the pipes. Do any of you require (or allow) the placement of grates over the end of pipes? If so, can you provide any details on your design, i.e., material, vertical/horizontal spacing, material size, upstream and/or downstream end, etc.? Also, if you do this on a case-by-case basis, what criteria do you use?

"We have never had a problem with children crawling into pipes, but our elected officials want to be proactive. Do any of you see any problems with grates being placed over the end of pipes?"

Boy, did Joe get answers! Since this question was posted to only one of the infoNOW Communities and the response was so great and varied, I thought you might benefit from hearing some of them. Feel free to send me your own comments and I'll do a follow-up later.

Paul O'Shield, retired superintendent of stormwater field operations for Gwinnett County, GA, reported that grates were not permitted in his agency. After experimenting with several types and realizing that, due to the clogging that often resulted in serious flooding of yards, and roadways, and the expensive repair costs, the agency determined that "education of the public was the key to keeping children out of these drains."

Al Gesford, Pennsylvania LTAP Center, shared Paul's advice that placing grates on stormwater pipes was not a good thing. He also provided some considerations should your agency decide to fly in the face of convention and install grates.

Steve Pettis, Assistant Director of Public Works, Macon, GA, says his agency has discussed the problem of retaining litter on the outfall end of a pipe and was considering constructing "wire mesh cages" that were large enough to trap litter as it left the pipe system but not impede the flow of the stormwater. Could be an interesting solution.

Rodney Ramos, Scottsdale, Arizona, says they do install grates at the end of storm drainpipes, as adopted from the Arizona DOT.

Grant Anderson, Deputy City Manager of the City of Goodyear, AZ, says grates have become a necessity in their locale since the storm drains are so large (up to 5 feet in diameter) but are so seldom wet that children find them a great place to play.

Len Chambers, from Winnipeg, Canada, shared their website containing a manual of practices entitled "Culvert and Draining Inlet/Outfall Safety Guidelines."

Paul Hauck, Tampa, FL, says they have actually had several people drown after being sucked into the stormwater culverts during unusually heavy summer rains. With tongue in cheek, he suggests, "We need a few tricks from Harry Potter to meet the objectives of preventing unwanted entry into our stormwater culverts. The barrier simply needs to meet the following criteria: minimum flow restriction, easily removable, non-corroding, aesthetically pleasing, self-cleaning, and intelligent barrier device." Good luck!

Tom Reeves, City of Monterey, CA, takes a more humorous, but often true, stance when he says, "It seems to me that all that grates will do is provide a place for the poor person's body to hang up so that once the flood recedes, you'll know where to find their body. Grates alone won't save lives."

Seems to me there are as many solutions, or non-solutions, to this issue as there are agencies. Some of these may work for you. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me.

"How can I get involved on a committee at the national level? I think I could provide some insight and would enjoy sharing my thoughts and my time," asks Sue Hann, Public Works Director, Palm Bay, Florida.

Nothing we love to hear more than someone wanting to volunteer! While each of our Technical Committees is comprised of only six actual members, many of them utilize subcommittees or task forces to help monitor the activities in the technical area. If you'll visit us at you will find two documents which should help you to share your interest with us. One is entitled, "Expectations of Committee Members," which details the commitment you are making when you agree to serve. The second is, "Committee Interest Survey" which you should complete and return to me. This form places your name on the list of interested members who would consider appointment by the President-Elect as he seeks appointees in the early spring. We'll hope to hear from you.

"Does anybody have a sure-fire way to keep people from putting signs on all our utility poles? Sure gets tiresome to have to keep tearing them off every day."

You'd think people would be smart enough to realize that you're going to be tearing them down every day but, from my experience, they don't think that far in advance. In one community where I worked, we tightened up the sign ordinance within our codes ordinance to cover posting signs on poles, as well as on the right-of-way. While this sounded like a good idea, it really didn't accomplish much. We found most of our violators were "out of community" people who didn't even come back to see if their sign was still in place. However, we did spend a day or two calling all the phone numbers listed to tell them their signs were offensive and distracted from the image we were trying to create for our community. Those folks didn't return but like my daddy always said, "They left behind pups" and new violators took their place. Probably a no-win situation. Of course, you could look at it as job security or work assignments for community services workers!

Ask Ann...

Questions are welcome.

Please address all inquiries to:

Ann Daniels
Director of Technical Services
APWA, 2345 Grand Blvd.
Suite 500
Kansas City, MO 64108-2625
Fax questions to (816) 472-0405