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Telecommunications Equipment on Elevated Water Storage Tanks...How to Protect Your Investment

January 15, 2017

Telecommunications Equipment on Elevated Water Storage Tanks...How to Protect...

January 16, 2017

By Jamie Connor, Protective Coatings and Welding Speicalist, Bolton & Menk, Inc.

It is common during our travel through different cities and rural towns to look up at the crest of the elevated water storage tank or “water tower” and observe an array of telecommunication or “telecom” equipment. This may not be aesthetically appealing to the city and public, but in the right location, it can result in a very attractive financial return.

Cities of all sizes are approached by telecommunication providers requesting to lease space on their elevated water storage tank and property at ground level adjacent to or directly under the structure. When negotiations are complete and the lease is signed, it may appear that everything is set in place to smoothly take its own course. However, there are unanticipated issues that arise more times than not.

Prior to the lease completion, it is important the lease is reviewed by an individual knowledgeable in the telecom industry. One important item that will save the city financial burden and cost is to assure the provider retains total responsibility and cost for the removal of all equipment during the water tower rehabilitation and coating reconditioning inclusive of other necessary maintenance.

Shortly after the lease is final, the city may or may not receive a set of detailed construction documents from the telecom providers. Next, the city receives a call from the provider requesting access to the water tower and site. The subcontractors arrive to the site and the installation process begins.

The installation may detail and require structural bracing, steel posts, and various supports be attached to the water tower by welding. The heat induced by welding will most likely damage the protective coating of the tower on both sides of the steel plate. It is important to assure a structural analysis has been performed by the provider for the water tower and proposed telecom equipment to be installed.

The installation will most likely require the use of clamps and connectors for attachment of coax, cables, and other equipment. Without proper installation of these attachments, it will result in damage and possible failure to the protective coating of the water tower.

The installation will require various tools, hardware, wiring, and other small parts. These items inclusive of trash left at the site have been observed abandoned on the exterior (roof and balconies) and interior portions of the water tower. These abandoned materials could easily result in water tower equipment damage or human injury long after the contractor has vacated the site. Some of the tower locations are adjacent to schools, parks, and other public attractions causing concern of potential falling objects.

It is not uncommon for the telecom antennas and equipment to interfere and block the “line-of-sight” to the tower lettering and/or logo. This is normally an unpleasant condition left for the public to tolerate.

The installation may include an equipment shelter as part of the lease. The site should be monitored for abandoned earth and concrete spoils as well as complete and proper site restoration.

The return of income resulting from leasing water tower and adjacent land space can be easily collected without discomfort and little effort provided by the city. The site review and construction management can also be easily accomplished without any cost to the city by properly preparing a lease that will both benefit and protect the city from unpleasant installation conditions. The simplest way to assure the installation is properly designed, planned, detailed, and executed while maintaining the structure’s original condition, is to retain the services of a knowledgeable third party consultant.

Depending on the size of the water tower, the cost for a water tower protective coating rehabilitation can range from $250,000 to $1,000,000 (approximately every 15-20 years) depending on the extent of necessary rehabilitation. Any damage caused by unsatisfactory installations could cause damage resulting in additional cost and shortened time span between tower improvements.

The bottom line is to “protect your investment” while successfully leasing to telecommunication providers.

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