With guyed structures making up one quarter of the more than 4,000 towers it owns and operates, corrosion control on the anchors that provide stability is very important to UScellular. The safety of its employees, contractors and the general public depend on it.
“As one of the largest tower owners in the U.S., we feel it’s our responsibility to have corrosion control on the anchors of our guyed towers,” said Alan Johnson, Senior Director of Access Operations at UScellular. “It provides UScellular with confidence that our tower structures are sound. We see it as a smart and strategic business decision to protect our assets, aside from being the right thing to do.”
After completing its due diligence, UScellular decided that cathodic protection was the answer for guarding the anchors of its guyed towers against corrosion. VIKOR and AnchorGuard are the most knowledgeable in that regard, according to Mike Lindsay, the engineering project manager who manages the carrier’s cathodic and guy anchor protection programs.
For the last five years, UScellular has been partnering with VIKOR to deploy cathodic anchor protection and corrosion monitoring systems to keep its guyed towers safely tethered to the ground.
“At the core, we share the same values. We both want to keep people safe,” Lindsay said. “It has been a great partnership. It’s been a pleasure for me to work with their team.”
Lindsay advises every owner of guyed towers to have some type of corrosion control, and he believes in the science of cathodic protection. “This is an issue that companies with tower assets should be aware of and understand for their business,” he said. “For us, this solution works best for our needs.”
VIKOR founder and CEO Craig Snyder had only been in the industry a little while in 1990 when he was on a site inspection and an anchor broke right next to him. As a result, a 350-foot guyed tower was sent crashing to the ground with two climbers attached to it. The climbers survived, but Snyder, who is the founder of AnchorGuard, was determined to discover the cause and prevent it from ever happening again.
“We found out there was corrosion on the anchor, about seven feet below the surface,” Snyder said. “The anchor shaft had corroded down to less than the size of a pencil.”
Snyder and his team at VIKOR decided to take a deep dive to find out why the corrosion occurred and how to mitigate it. The corrosion was found to be the result of a chemical reaction between the steel guy anchor and the copper grounding rods, facilitated by very corrosive soil in between.
VIKOR found the age-old method of corrosion control known as cathodic protection. The process involves installing sacrificial material in the ground, which degrades instead of the guy anchors that it’s protecting. In 1996, cathodic protection was listed as a way to prevent anchor corrosion in Revision E of TIA-222, the Standard For Towers And Antenna Supporting Structures.
“We introduce another metal in the ground, either zinc or magnesium, and that metal corrodes, while the steel stays in good shape,” Snyder said.
Once the cathodic protection is installed at the site, its effectiveness can be routinely monitored. Each year, UScellular’s team of maintenance technicians goes to each guyed tower and takes readings at each anchor to confirm it is still being protected.
“Having a corrosion monitoring program in place at our towers gives us peace of mind,” Lindsay said.
VIKOR offers tower companies a way to both protect and monitor their assets, maximizing their life expectancy and preventing potential tower failure. As a wireless infrastructure construction company with 30+ years of experience, the company is well-equipped to ensure the utmost safety, according to Snyder. VIKOR’s services include site assessment, anchor protection and dig to block inspections.
As featured in Inside Towers.
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