April 24, 1913: Cairo IL, Wrecked Standpipe

April 24, 1913: Engineering News article. The Recent Standpipe Failure at Cairo, Ill. By G.C. Habermeyer. “The standpipe of the Cairo Water Co. fell at about 2: 15 a.m., Feb. 11, 1913, as noted in Engineering News of Feb. 20, 1913. The standpipe was close to the pumping station and filter house, as shown in Figs. 1 and 2. It was built in 1885 by W. B. Maitland & Son, contractors, at that time of Peoria, Ill….

To sum up: The bottom angle of the standpipe was of very poor steel and at the time of the failure, due to fracture and corrosion, probably had almost no strength. The large opening left for the inlet pipe was a source of weakness, especially when the stones along the edge of this opening settled. The foundation was in poor condition. The settling of the foundation gave the standpipe a slightly leaning position and the uneven surface caused by the unequal settlement produced higher stresses in some anchor rods and side plates than would be indicated by the amount of leaning. The west side of the foundation was probably highest and at this point the original rupture probably occurred. Some plates, especially those about 50 ft. from the top, were seriously weakened by corrosion. Some rivet heads were eaten almost away. It is concluded that unequal bearing, slight leaning and the weakness of the bottom angle caused a rupture at the base.

The standpipe had deteriorated seriously before the failure. A careful inspection would have revealed its critical condition. It would be of great advantage to water companies if standpipes and elevated tanks were inspected by competent persons at regular intervals.

Reference: Habermeyer, G.C. 1913. “The Recent Standpipe Failure at Cairo, Ill.” Engineering News. 69:17(April 24, 1913): 825, 829.

Commentary: It appears that just about everything that could go wrong with this standpipe did go wrong. In the early part of the 20th century, water companies were still learning a great deal (the hard way) about how to design, construct and maintain their infrastructure.

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