Press Releases

Statement On Metal Plates Used In Utility Maintenance And Repairs

By April 4, 2018 December 5th, 2018 No Comments

Columbia, SC – Updated April 9, 2017; Original April 4, 2018

During January and February, 2018, the Midlands region experienced extreme temperature fluctuations – cold snaps followed by warm weather – which placed strain on underground water lines. As a result of the significant ground shifting during that period, Columbia Water responded to over 400 water line breaks, approximately 200 of which required crews to place metal plates in roadways. These plates allowed traffic to continue uninterrupted while work was scheduled to make the final site repairs to the cut asphalt. The high volume of asphalt repairs coupled with continuing cold and wet weather meant many sites could not be repaired until March.

As of April 3, contractors and City staff had completed asphalt restoration on all but one of the sites. The remaining site at Howell Street sustained secondary leaks and is in the process of being repaired before the final road restorations can be made. Because Howell Street is a low-traffic area, the cut in the asphalt was filled with crush and run, a type of construction gravel, rather than covered with a metal plate. Based on the best available information, all plates have been removed from the winter temperature fluctuation break repair sites.
Columbia Water understands that residents continue to see metal plates, and many would like to know why. Metal plates are a useful tool for any construction or utility company that needs to work in the roadway. They let crews place a temporary top over a work area while still allowing safe traffic flow. Other groups also regularly place metal plates in the roadways, including:

  • gas, telephone, and electrical utilities;
  • other water and sewer providers;
  • contractors working on streetscaping projects; and
  • agencies responsible for roadway maintenance.

Columbia Water’s water maintenance staff keeps an inventory of 55 metal plates used by 10 digging crews. Crews regularly move plates on a daily basis as they complete work and begin new projects. Not all projects require an asphalt cut, and sometimes if they do, we are able to repair the roadway the same day. For projects that do require an extensive asphalt cut, crews may use any number of plates from one to 10 or more depending on the size of the work area. Projects that may require plates include:

  • installing new service lines,
  • creating new water taps for customers,
  • replacing older mains with new lines or adding new mains,
  • repairing damage caused to our system by people digging without a proper utility locate, or repairing breaks.

As with any tool, crews who use them on a daily basis are responsible for keeping track of their deployment and collecting them when they are no longer needed.

Columbia Water appreciates drivers’ patience on any project that requires roadway disruption. As always, you can report plates that have moved or unsafe conditions to our Customer Care Center 24/7 at (803) 545-3300. If your vehicle is damaged as a result of a metal plate on a City of Columbia project, Customer Care can also direct you to our third party claims adjustor.


Update: The April 4, 2018, statement incorrectly listed Hickory Knob Hill Road as an incomplete project with an asphalt cut. The project at Hickory Knob Hill Road was a line break in the shoulder. City forces were able to repair this leak without disturbing the nearby roadway.
Columbia Water is the drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utility owned and operated by the City of Columbia, SC. For more information, visit