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Cleaning vulture poop is a lofty ambition

Staff writer

Hanging 130 feet in the air to blast age and vulture residue off a water tower that last was renovated in the 1960s is an unusual weekend for most. Six men have this exact job lined up for four to six weeks in a row.

The city of Marion earlier this year contracted Suez Water Solutions to revitalize the town’s smaller water tower adjacent to Central Park — removing abandoned antennas, rebuilding part of a catwalk, fixing an overflow system, repairing the top of the tower, and blasting and repainting the tank’s interior and exterior. The project could last up to six weeks.

“A lot of it depends on the weather,” consultant Jim Jackson said.

Suez worked with Peabody earlier in the year, redoing exteriors of water lines. The company primarily deals in water towers and water quality equipment.

Marion decided to work on the water tower now because of the reduced water demand in cooler months. Draining the tower in summer would have given the company a smaller opportunity window and increased risk to the city if there were a fire or other emergency.

“In the summer, we need the additional capacity of the water tower,” city administrator Roger Holter said.

Not much can be done about year-round intense winds 100 feet or more above ground level.

“The biggest thing for all our guys is falls,” Jackson said. “You’ll see if you go by there: we’re all hooked up all the time.”

Baskets and harnesses have firmly wrapped the tower’s walkway for days now.

Vultures that like to roost on the tower are not much of a threat to workers, but the birds’ fecal matter can be an issue.

Workers had no trouble determining that vultures like to roost on the smaller tower.

“It’s amazing; there are certain ones across the state, where there’s two tanks, and they’ll get on one but not the other,” Jackson said.

Blasting equipment will be taking all the birds’ droppings off so crews can apply new, weatherproof coatings. On the interior of the tank, coatings will also improve the water quality.

“You want to make sure it’s in the best condition possible,” Jackson said.

Last modified Nov. 24, 2021

 

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