Water stop tap in the street - questions


Doing a kitchen refit and need to turn off the water out in the street due to where the water pipe comes into the house (i.e. right where you'd want to put a sink unit, and too far out from the wall to cut a slot in the unit base without significantly weakening it).
Opened the lid and the soil level was nearly up to the top. An hour and many handfulls of soil later I finally hit the bottom a full arm length down. The tap probably hasn't been shut off since the house was built around 20 years ago and I was expecting it to put up a fight but I gave it a bit of a twist and it seems to turn fine.
My questions are:
1. What are they made of/how are they made, to survive being buried for 20 years without any ill effects? It might help that we have clay soil around here so it has probably been sealed.
2. Is there anything I can/need to do to keep it in good operation now it is exposed again?
TIA Midge.
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I was told to never leave them (or any stop tap) turned hard "on" but to back off half a turn.
Mike
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Muddymike wrote:

Correct Mike, I just forgot to say that - it must be old age getting to me now. :-)
Cash
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Thanks for the advice guys. Never thought about the stop tap possibly feeding other houses - I'll check.
Midge.

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New ones have a plug of expanded polystyrene inserted in the hole to reduce chance of the tap and pipe freezing if there's a long cold spell.
--
Andrew Gabriel
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Looks like we all have our own stop taps for each house so I haven't upset the neighbours!
I might try and sort out some sort of plug if only to keep those damned ants out of their favourite nesting place....
Midge.
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