October 1, 1896: Standpipe Failure; 1896: Philadelphia Filtration; 1913: Water Year Start

1001 Stand Pipe Failure at Garden City KansasOctober 1, 1896: Engineering News article. A Stand-Pipe Failure at Garden City, Kan. “Sir: A brief note in regard to the failure of the Garden City stand-pipe, another addition to the already large number of failures of these structures, may be of interest to the readers of Engineering News.

This stand-pipe was built by Palmer & Son, of Kansas City, Mo. It was located about one-fourth mile from the Arkansas River, and a few feet above its bed. It was 10 ft. in diameter, 130 ft. high, and was supported on a masonry foundation on a level with the surface of the ground…

About four years after erection a crack appeared on the west side of the pipe, in the angle iron connecting the bottom to the first course. This was soldered but continued to leak and about 21/2 years before the failure a new piece of angle, about 5 ft. long, was put in. Four of the six brackets had their legs broken about this time, and were repaired by bolting to them a strap of iron which passed down around the anchor bolt.

On April 30, 1896, during a very high wind from the northwest, estimated to have a velocity of 60 to 70 miles per hour, with occasional gusts of 90 miles, and which wrecked many of the windmills in this vicinity, a crack appeared on the north aide of the bottom angle iron. This crack increased in size for 11/4 hours, until it was 5 ft. long, with the water rushing out rapidly. Suddenly the angle iron to which the north guy was fastened gave way and the pipe blew over in the southwest direction. The pipe was about one-fourth full at the time of failure with both pumps delivering into it at nearly their full capacity.

The bottom angle iron broke at the angle all the way around except where the new piece was put in, where the first course failed along the rivets. All the brackets were broken, and the bottom was broken somewhat at its center around the entrance pipe.

It seems quite clear that the failure was due to three causes: (1) The weakness in the angle iron connecting the bottom and first course; (2) to the brackets not being long and strong enough; and (3) to the fastening of the guys being weak.

  1. C. Murphy, Hydrographer U. S. Geological Survey.”

Commentary: Sometimes we need to remember our failures as well as our successes. It was through an analysis of these failures that eventually water standpipes were properly designed and constructed in the U.S.

1001 Philadelphia Water Source ContaminationOctober 1, 1896: Engineering News article. Filtration of the Philadelphia Water Supply. “A vigorous crusade against the further use of Schuylkill River water, without filtration, is being led by the Woman’s Health Protective Association of Philadelphia, and the subject is being actively discussed by the press of that city. All admit that the present supply is impure, and that the water from this river is blackened with coal dust or made yellow by mud at every high stage In the river, and that it is liable to contamination from six cities upon its banks above Philadelphia, whose aggregate population Is 350,000. An entirely new supply, from a distant source of permanent purity, is undoubtedly the most attractive solution to the difficult problem presented, and for years put extensive surveys and investigations have been made with that end in view. But the enormous cost of such an undertaking, coupled with the lack of available means in the City Treasury and the disinclination to permit a private company to control the water supply of Philadelphia, have so far prevented any of the many projects of this sort which have been brought forward from being carried out.

Filtration has been often suggested, in Philadelphia. Several years ago certain parties backed by the city press, seriously recommended the location of filter-beds or filter-galleries In the River Schuylkill itself, an absurd scheme, which was dropped as soon as computations were made of the area required for the quantity of water to be filtered, the cost of construction, and the difficulties and risks of maintenance. But since the success of sand filtration as a means of purification of water has become generally understood, the intelligent citizens of Philadelphia have become strongly in favor of the construction of a system of filter beds. Our readers will recall that an appropriation to build a single filter-bed was before the Philadelphia Councils some months ago, and was only defeated by a close vote.

Recently the agitation for filtration has been started anew by the publication of a report upon the project of filtering the city’s water supply made to the Woman’s Health Protective Association by Mr. Allen Hazen, of the firm of Hazen & Noyes, of Boston.”

1001 Philadelphia TyphoidDeathRateCommentary: This article is important for several reasons. It highlights the struggle to choose between finding a “pure” upland source of water versus treating water supplies that were available locally. The fact that a citizens group got involved and hired Allen Hazen is notable. In the late 1890s, hundreds of cities were dealing with the same problem—contaminated water supplies. However, most of them did nothing for a long period of time and many people died. Philadelphia had a lot of trouble getting the political muscle organized to make it happen. An excellent website created by the Water Department historian highlights the struggle over filter construction. “Between 1900 and 1911, Philadelphia built a system of five [slow] sand filtration plants on high ground along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers…Costing $28 million, the filtration system was the largest public works project in the city up to that time and the largest filtration works in the world.”

Reference: Engineering News. 36:14(October 1, 1896): 218-9.

1001 US-GeologicalSurvey-Seal.svgOctober 1, 1913: October 1 is the first day of a water year. “A water year is term commonly used in hydrology to describe a time period of 12 months. It is defined as the period between October 1st of one year and September 30th of the next. The water year is designated by the calendar year in which it ends. (the year within which 9 of the 12 months fall). Thus the 2010 water year started on October 1, 2009 and ended on September 30, 2010. Use of water year as a standard follows the US national water supply data publishing system that was started in 1913. This time interval is often used by hydrologists because hydrological systems in the northern hemisphere are typically at their lowest levels near October 1. The increased temperatures and generally drier weather patterns of summer give way to cooler temperatures, which decreases evaporation rates. Rain and snow replenish surface water supplies.”


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