Governments' Lighter Side

Lords of the rings

Municipal workers often make headlines as heroes – firefighters rescuing residents from burning buildings, police officers catching criminals - but every so often, a municipal worker achieves hero status for an extremely unusual accomplishment. 

Take the crew of Lancaster, Penn., Sewer Authority for example. Recently, employees went above and beyond to retrieve a diamond ring accidentally flushed by a local woman’s young daughter.


"I was horrified," Cindy Vriens, the owner of the ring told local paper, the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal. "I couldn't even speak."

The ring, which featured a 1-karat diamond surrounded by four blue sapphires in an antique setting had been given to Vriens by her late grandmother, according to the paper. "I'm going to say it's between 75 and 100 years old," Vriens said. "The monetary value is meaningless to me. It's the fact that it came from her that makes it so special."

Virans lost the ring on Sept. 5 – a Friday. Over the weekend, one of Virans’ relatives suggested she call the sewer authority. She did on Monday; however, Vriens told the paper, she wasn’t holding out much hope.

Maintenance Director Albert Knepp told Virans he wans’t optimistic, but the sewer line the ring went into wasn’t heavily used. "I figured it was a least worth a shot," Knepp told the paper.

Knepp sent three workers – Rik Pabon, Tim Millhouse and Brian Kendig –  to a manhole, about 75 feet away from where the ring was flushed. After a 30-minute search through the “materials” in the line, the ring was located. 

"They were very, very lucky," Knepp told the paper. "These situations usually don't turn out this way."

"This was above and beyond the call of duty," Vriens told the paper. "In this day and age, for them to even go look for it - I would have been so thankful to them even if they didn't find it."

Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time this year a ring has been retrieved from the abyss. This past summer, Anderson, Ind., Sewer Department Foreman Rich Kelley found a local man’s class ring which had been missing since 1966, according to local ABC affiliate RTV6.

The ring was found when repairing a damaged sewer line beneath a residence. The high school ring was inscribed with a date of 1966 and the initials “R.S.” After some social media snooping, the ring was returned to the owner within 24 hours, the TV station reports.

Kelley told the TV station it’s unusual to find anything of value in the sewers. "Usually, we don't find anything people actually want back," he said with a laugh. "This was definitely a cool experience."


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What's Governments' Lighter Side?

It is an irreverent take on local and state government news.


Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...
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