The 52,000 Pound Valve

LEILA SUMMERS Assocaited Press Writer - September 21, 2009 WOODLAND, Wash. (AP)

LEILA SUMMERS Assocaited Press Writer — September 21, 2009

WOODLAND, Wash. (AP) — A Woodland company has created one of the world's largest valves: It's 34-feet tall, 11 feet wide and weighs 52,000 pounds — and it may open the flood gates for more work funded by federal economic stimulus dollars.

The valve fits a 96-inch diameter pipe for a Chicago storm and wastewater treatment plant.

The end-product proved so massive, the company rented a "90-ton crane to lift it up to get it on the truck" when it was shipped recently, said Robert Nye, operations manager for Lined Valve Company Inc.

The humongous pipe-stopper — made of carbon and stainless steel — is the third of its kind trucked this year from the Woodland company to Chicago.

Lined Valve received about $1.5 million for the valves, which are part of a project Chicago is paying for with municipal funds, Nye said.

Lined Valve Co. had a competitive edge in landing the project because it's one of the few custom valve manufacturers to use American-made materials and not outsource labor overseas.

The company is remaining busy with regular projects but expects stimulus funds to help too.

"As time goes on we are absolutely expecting activity for these stimulus funds jobs are going to ratchet up considerably," Nye said.

It's work that kept the 25-employee operation running steady in an otherwise sluggish economy, said company president Jeffrey Bowman. This is the first year the company hasn't grown since it opened in 1995, he said.

It could take a few years for Lined Valve to start hiring on more employees, but Bowman sees plenty of growth potential. Cities across America, particularly expanding communities and urban areas with aging infrastructure, will need valves for sewer and water systems, he said.

Bowman said the success of their 96-inch valves will help get the company noticed on a national level.

"It gives us some clout in the industry," Bowman said.

"This is a big opportunity for our company. ... A lot of people just haven't heard of us," Nye added.

All three valves were designed, engineered and built in Bowman's 25,000-square foot shop, located behind Woodland's Coca-Cola distributing center.

Normally, projects of this size are assembled at shipping yards or "places with large lifting capacity" to maneuver heavy materials, Nye said.

The company opted to keep the project on site to reduce costs, he said.

To create the valves, called a "knife gate" valve because the gate drops straight down to stop water, each unit was divided into three parts for fabrication: the body (which connects around a sewer pipe), gate (which stops the water) and a bonnet (which holds the raised gate and surrounds the gate to keep water contained in the system).

It wasn't until the valve was completely assembled that Nye fully realized how massive it is. All the employees gathered in front of the product for a picture, which will be on their company Christmas card this year, he said.

The valves are projected to last at least 50 years, he said.

Each valve took two months to fabricate, Nye said. The other valves were completed in March and July, with the last one being shipped off recently.

Bowman said he's pleased to have the project finished on time and looks forward to the future.

"We expect to grow because of this."