Long-Lost Ring Discovered in New Jersey Collection Systems

February 26, 2019

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Operator reunites a resident with an heirloom that sat in a manhole for 9 years

Ted Gogol, Somers Point (N.J.) public works crew chief, holds a ring that he found in a manhole during a routine inspection. Photo courtesy of Gogol.

Ted Gogol, Somers Point (N.J.) public works crew chief, holds a ring that he found in a manhole during a routine inspection. Photo courtesy of Gogol.

Collection systems employees at the City of Somers Point, N.J., found the proverbial needle in a haystack, or more precisely, the ring in a sewer system.

In November, Ted Gogol, wastewater operator and Somers Point public works crew chief, was conducting routine inspection of a manhole when he noticed something shiny. That bit of shine turned out to be the ring a local resident had lost 9 years ago.

Somers Point has 1100 manholes. Since Gogol’s crew consists of only three other workers, he has made it a personal goal to routinely inspect all the city’s manholes himself. After running the calculations, he figured out that if, on average, he can visit 20 manholes a week, Gogol will have seen all of those in the system within 2 years.

“One of my biggest things is manhole inspections,” Gogol said. “I feel that’s important, you get a lot of information from the manholes.”

The strategy has helped him catch issues before they turn into big problems for the public.

Eagle Eye Saves the Day

Gogol’s dedication to Somers Point wastewater collection systems and his eagle eye were key to returning the long-lost ring to its owner, Paula Stanton.

Because Somers Point is a small town, Gogol knew the Stanton family. In 2016, the Stantons talked to Gogol while he was working on their street doing routine maintenance. Paula asked if he ever finds anything in the collection systems and explained that she lost her ring. Gogol replied that it was unlikely to find something so small, but “we’ll keep our eyes open.”

Almost 2 years later, Gogol went above and beyond that promise.

“I happened to be on her street around Thanksgiving,” he said. While inspecting inside a manhole about 70 m (230 ft) from the Stanton’s house, he noticed something in the mud and debris on the bench — the platform area on either side of the wastewater flow. “Something caught my eye. It was glittering,” he said.

Using tools to reach into the manhole, Gogol discovered that the object was a ring. He called his partner who was a couple of blocks away to come assist in retrieving the item that was about 1.8-m (6-ft) underground.

Gogol (center) stands with other members of his crew Steve Hornig and TJ Sweet. Together the crew inspects and maintains the collection systems for the City of Somers Point. Photo courtesy of Gogol.

Gogol (center) stands with other members of his crew, Steve Hornig and TJ Sweet. Together, the crew inspects and maintains the collection systems for the City of Somers Point. Photo courtesy of Gogol.

While his partner held a flashlight, Gogol used a fiberglass pole with spring-loaded grip to retrieve the piece of jewelry. Both were excited to see that the diamond-encrusted, engraved ring was in great shape. That was when Gogol realized the ring must belong to the Stantons.

Gogol went to their house. Since they were out of town for the holiday, he left a note on the door and got a call back from Paula several days later. Gogol met Paula one day after work to reunite her with the ring. Paula explained that the ring had gone missing 9 years ago.

Gogol suspects that soon after the ring entered the sewer main, his crew must have been scheduled to clean the system. They routinely take out a truck that pushes a high-pressure stream of water through the pipes to remove any blockages. He believes this high-pressure water flipped the ring up onto the bench of the manhole, where just enough mud and debris settled on top to keep it there.

“It’s an educated guess because I know the action of that jetter tool that we put into the pipe,” Gogol said. “It throws stuff everywhere.”

But Gogol calls this instance of not only finding the ring, but also recovering it in near “pristine” condition, as “crazy,” and amazingly lucky. He has only found other bits of broken jewelry and coins in the systems during his more than 20-year tenure in this position.

“That ring just didn’t want to leave that family,” Gogol said. “It was sitting there for 9 years waiting for one of us to go down there, and see it, and find it.”

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

Lost and Found: Send Us Your Stories

Have you found something odd or unique in your collection systems or water resource recovery facility (WRRF)? Or, did you help a customer find something they lost? Tell us what you’ve found in your wastewater treatment systems. Contact Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights editor, at jfulcher@wef.org to share your story, and follow the series by searching for phrase Lost and Found.

Learn about other unique items found in WRRFs in the WEF Highlights articles

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