Tag Archives: drinking water

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.

April 21, 1859: First London Drinking Fountain; 2012: Kirkwood Memorial Dedicated

April 21, 1859: London’s Oldest Drinking Fountain. “A rather humble looking fountain set into the railing outside the Church of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate at the corner of Giltspur Street and Holborn Viaduct, it’s easy to overlook this important part of London’s historic fabric.

But this free water fountain is London’s oldest and was installed here on 21st April, 1859, by the then Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Association. Established by Samuel Gurney – an MP and the nephew of social reformer Elizabeth Fry, the organization aimed to provide people with free drinking water in a bid to encourage them to choose water over alcohol.

Within two years of the fountain’s creation, the organization – which later changed its name to Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association in reflection of its expanded role in also helping animals – had placed as many as 85 fountains across London.

Such was the need for a clean water supply that, according to the Drinking Fountain Association, as many as 7,000 people a day used the fountain when it was first installed.

The fountain on Holborn Hill was removed in 1867 when the nearby street Snow Hill was widened during the creation of the Holborn Viaduct and the rails replaced but it was returned there in 1913. Rather a poignant reminder of the days when water wasn’t the publicly available resource it is today, the marble fountain still features two small metal cups attached to chains for the ease of drinking and carries the warning, ‘Replace the Cup!’”

April 21, 2012: Memorial to James P. Kirkwood dedicated by the St. Louis Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Kirkwood was the civil engineer hired by St. Louis, MO to investigate filtration of their water supply. He wrote the classic book Report on the Filtration of River Waters, which was the first book in any language to focus on the filtration of municipal water supplies. The book summarized his investigation covering 1865-69 where he described the filters and filter galleries he visited in 19 European water works. Kirkwood died on April 22, 1877.

Kirkwood Aqueduct, St. Louis, MO

April 16, 1914: Condemn All Wells in Bridgeport

April 16, 1914: Municipal Journal article. Would Condemn All Wells. “Bridgeport, Conn.-“Condemn every well within the city limits.” is the way in which Commissioners E. A. Lambert and Frank W. Stevens of the Board of Health expressed their views of one means whereby the illness and death rate of the city can be reduced. At a special meeting of the Board of Health the two commissioners, one a sanitary engineer and the other a physician, declared that from their studies of the subject, every well in Bridgeport should be condemned. “The danger of an epidemic is great,” they declared, and in neighborhoods where contagious diseases exist a nearby well would prove the breeding place for millions of germs. This action may take place before the present board goes out of existence. Already all four members are prejudiced against wells and are taking steps to get rid of the more dangerous ones.”

Reference: “Would Condemn All Wells.” 1914. Municipal Journal article 36:16(April 16, 1914): 542.

Commentary: This story is part of the broad movement away from shallow, contaminated urban wells towards central water supplies that had been going on in the US for 20 years. If Bridgeport added chlorine to their new water supply, death rates would have plummeted.

April 14, 1909: Champaign Urbana Water Works

April 14, 1909: Municipal Journal and Engineer article. Champaign Urbana Water Works. “Underground Supply-Wells Pumped by Steam, Electric and Belt-Driven Pumps-Iron Removal by Aeration-Most Services Metered. The Champaign and Urbana Water Company, of which Mr. F. C. Amsbury is superintendent, supplies two Illinois cities from which it gets its name. These have a total combined population of 23,000 or 24,000, and form practically one community. An underground source of supply is tapped by twelve eight-inch wells about 16o feet deep. Each of these wells has its own separate direct-acting pumping head. Both Downey and Luitwieler pumps are used, with long rods extending to valves at the bottom of the wells. A few of the pumps are single-acting, but most are double-acting.

Four of the wells are located along one side of the main pumping station. The pumps in these are connected by belts, running in tunnels underneath the ground, to a main shaft, also in a tunnel, and this in turn is driven from the main engine. Three of the pumps are run by steam heads, the steam pipes being carried in tunnels and thoroughly jacketed. The other five pumps are operated by electric motors which receive their current from a generator in the main station.

Water from all the wells is delivered to a 250,000-gallon reservoir. As all underground water in this section contains more or less iron, which it is quite desirable to remove, aeration is resorted to. From the reservoir mentioned above the water flows over a weir and down a sloping concrete slab which exposes it to the air in a thin sheet. From this it passes to a second reservoir of 750,000 gallons. This method of aeration is fairly effective, but does not accomplish all that could be desired, and it is proposed to provide other arrangements before long.”

Reference: “Champaign Urbana Water Works.” 1909. Municipal Journal and Engineer. 26:15(April 14, 1909): 625.

Commentary:  I am not surprised that the method of aeration is only “fairly effective.” The author was probably being kind. It would take a few more decades before efficient aeration devices were created to oxidize ferrous iron in groundwaters. Note the “security” fence around the reservoir.

April 13, 1918: Ft. Madison, Iowa Replacing Its Water Treatment Plant

April 13, 1918: Municipal Journal article. Reconstructing Water Plant Without Interrupting Service. “Fort Madison, Iowa, Replaces Old Pumps, Boilers and Buildings with New, One Item at a Time—Also Builds Storage Reservoir and Filtration Plant, and New River Intake. The building of a new water works plant on the exact site of an old plant, and entirely removing every vestige of material and equipment of the old plant and replacing it with new and without interruption of service, calls for an unusually close study of the engineering features and a careful handling of the construction work and material. It is not an unusual thing to replace an old steel bridge with a new one without interfering with traffic, but in bridge work you at least have a few minutes interval between trains; but in supplying a community of fifteen thousand people with continuous water service, a single interruption, even for a minute, not only jeopardizes the property of the city, but the safety of the citizens as well.

Many municipalities and water companies hesitate about carrying out improvements because of the fear of interruption of service and the criticism that this interruption might bring. However, in the case of the Fort Madison, Iowa, water works, criticism had already reached an alarming stage because of the quality of the water and insufficiency of the fire pressure, and it became incumbent upon the city to provide a more satisfactory water and a better fire service. The city was without bond power to provide for a municipal plant, consequently twenty-five of the leading citizens organized the “Citizens’ Corporation,” which was granted a franchise, and they immediately took over the old property and began the reconstruction of the entire water works plant, involving an expenditure of about three hundred thousand dollars. The criticism and suspicion arising from the operation of the old plant was a lesson which caused the new corporation to exert every effort to avoid the errors of the past and to rescue, if possible, an unprofitable business and to adopt measures of economy and efficiency that would make the new project profitable. The consulting engineers, in preparing the plans and specifications for machinery and equipment for the .pumping plant, power plant and filtration system kept in mind the previous unprofitable business and exerted every effort to provide an equipment that would not only give the very best of service but do this at a minimum of expense.

Reference: “Reconstructing Water Plant Without Interrupting Service.” 1918. Municipal Journal article 44:15(April 13, 1918): 293.

April 12, 1958: Death of Edward Bartow

April 12, 1958: Death of Edward Bartow. “Edward Bartow (1870–1958) was an American chemist and an expert in the field of sanitary chemistry. His career extended from 1897 to 1958 and he is best known for his work in drinking water purification and wastewater treatment. He was well known as an educator, and his many students went on to leadership positions in the fields of sanitary chemistry and engineering….

He began his career as an instructor of chemistry at Williams College about 1896. His first academic appointment was as an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Kansas. He taught there from 1897 to 1905. While in Kansas, he worked with the U.S. Geological Survey analyzing the waters of southeastern part of the state.

His next position was as Director of the Illinois State Water Survey. He also held the title of professor of sanitary chemistry at the University of Illinois from 1905 to 1920. He led efforts to eliminate typhoid fever by developing treatment methodologies for water purification. In 1914, he began the first large-scale investigations of the new sewage treatment process called activated sludge. A bronze plaque was placed on the grounds of the Champaign-Urbana Sanitary District to commemorate the work on this process done by Bartow and his colleagues. The Illinois State Water Survey became well known for producing high quality work and the fourteen volumes of bulletins and reports published during his tenure are classics in the field of sanitary chemistry and engineering.

From 1920 until his retirement in 1940, he was professor of chemistry at the University of Iowa. He significantly enhanced the department and when he left, the number of PhD degrees awarded totaled 240 in chemistry and chemical engineering….

Bartow received many honors including an honorary D.Sc. from Williams College in 1923. Several societies honored him with life memberships. In 1971, he was inducted into the American Water Works Association Water Industry Hall of Fame.”

Commentary: This posting is from another one of the biographies of inductees into the Water Industry Hall of Fame that I wrote for Wikipedia.

April 10, 1913: Small Water Treatment Plants in Illinois

April 10, 1913: Engineering News article. Conditions of Small Water Purification Plants in Illinois. By Ralph Hilscher. “In Illinois there are about a dozen water purification plants with rated capacities of about 2,000,000 gal. per day, or less, which involve the use of coagulants, settling basins and filters. Of these, with possibly two or three exceptions, It can be said that none produce an effluent that attains at all times the standard of purity that any municipality should demand for Its public water-supply. Some of these plants yield an effluent during the major part of the time, which is of quite satisfactory quality, but fall far short of successful operation during periods of excessive turbidity and color in the raw water. Others produce an effluent at no time that is of good appearance and satisfactory from a hygienic standpoint.

The poor results realized are due largely to certain faults in design and operation, which are more or less common to these small installations. Many of the plants are of obsolete design and in practically all the plants, too great economy was attempted in building and certain essential features were omitted. The operation has usually been deficient due to lack of experience and expert advice In such matters. Certain faults largely responsible for the short-comings of these plants will be discussed [in the larger article].

Reference: Hilscher, Ralph. 1913. “Conditions of Small Water Purification Plants in Illinois.” Engineering News article 69:15(April 10, 1913): 707.

Commentary: The image of the double-plunger angle blowoff valve has nothing to do with the article about small water treatment plants. It was just a cool drawing in the same issue of Engineering News.