Article from My San Antonio: Cell revolution’s underside: tower bird droppings

Written By: MARK RANZENBERGER, Morning Sun (Mount Pleasant)
Published 08:41 a.m., Monday, June 6, 2011

UNION TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — It’s a dirty job, but later this summer, a crew of steeplejacks will help Isabella County’s Union Township deal with the unintended consequences of the mobile communications revolution.

The crew from Fedewa Inc. of Nashville, Mich., will climb atop the township’s water tower at Broadway Road and U.S. 127 with high-intensity power washers. That tower, located strategically along the freeway near Mount Pleasant, is valuable “vertical real estate” for mobile communications providers, and a forest of antennas sits atop of water tower’s bell.

Those antennas are great places for birds to roost. They’ve also left behind substantial signs that they’ve been there in the form of, um, organic material, according to township Public Works Coordinator Kim Smith.

“We should clean there every three to five years,” Smith said.

Five years’ worth of bird droppings can start to damage the paint on the water towers, Smith said. Painting a water tower isn’t cheap; typically, it might cost $100,000.

Zapping the stuff off all three of the township’s three water towers will cost $10,100.

“We want to stretch that paint job out,” said township Treasurer Pam Stovak.

All three the Union Township’s water towers are due for cleanings. It’s not just the stuff that collects on top that can harm the protective paint — it’s the stuff that grows on the underside the bells, too.

A water tower is full of cold water. And just like a glass of cold beer on a hot day, it sweats — condensation forms from the atmosphere.

The lower side of the bells is usually damp and doesn’t get much sunlight, making it a perfect place for mold to grow. The mold is clearly visible on many water towers as dark, streaky stuff that looks like dirt.

It’s not dirt.

“Even though it only looks like it’s dirty on the underside, it’s not dirt,” Smith said. The towers are molding.

“The spray does include a fungicide,” Smith said.

An exact date for the work to be done hasn’t been set.

“We have to give 30 days’ notice to the cell phone companies on the Broadway tower,” Smith said.

Fedewa specializes in water tower maintenance, and has cleaned and painted Union Township’s towers in the past.

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Information from: Morning Sun, http://www.themorningsun.com/

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