Arlington manholes cause injuries, county urges caution

ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) - Two weeks ago, Melita Harris injured her thigh after stepping on a manhole cover that gave way on Columbia Pike in Arlington. And she isn’t alone in situations like this.

Shawna Sobers of Bowie says she was walking on North Lynn Street in Rosslyn in mid-March, when she stepped on this seemingly secure manhole cover – never imagining it would fall through.

She ended up hurting her ankle and had massive bruising, even injuring her jaw from screaming. After seeing our story about Harris, she is now wondering whether this is a major – and somewhat common – problem in Arlington.

But engineer Dave Hundelt with Arlington County Environmental Services says manhole covers are designed not to cave in.

"It's pretty rare," he says. "Get it in there right and get it set, and it should stay put...shouldn't be able to rock or move or do anything."

Hundelt also says to give Arlington County or any other place a call if anyone ever sees one that looks unsafe. He adds that in rare cases where the covers actually cave in, someone usually messed with it beforehand.

"We highly discourage anybody from doing anything like that," he says.

Newer manhole covers are designed to be difficult to open, but in Arlington there are still a few old ones with an actual handle. It was one designed like that that Harris fell into after a friend says workers had been working on manholes in the area. That company has not returned our calls.

After finding out about what happened, Arlington County has now put up cones to warn people about this manhole cover, and have also put a wooden board over it. They say they will definitely replace the cover underneath here, but they might even – if necessary – replace all of the concrete around it as well."

As for Sobers:

"Now after this incident, I don't step on manholes. Not at all."