Tag Archives: reservoir

October 7, 2014: Death of Ed Geldreich; 2003: China Reservoir Poisoning

October 7, 2014:  Edwin Emery Geldreich, Jr., passed away on Tuesday October 7, 2014, after a brief illness. He was 92 years old. Born May 9, 1922, he was the only child of his late parents Edwin E. Geldreich, Sr. and Myrtle E. Geldreich (Tuthill) of Cincinnati. A graduate of Hughes High School (Class of 1940), he went on to receive Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the biological sciences from the University of Cincinnati. He served in the US Army in Europe from March 1944 to March 1946 during the Second World War. After the war, he joined what was then the Department of the Interior, working in a microbiology laboratory on issues related to drinking water. This research division was moved into the new Environmental Protection Agency when it was formed in 1970. There he became a world-class expert in the quality of drinking water, and travelled the world under the auspices of the World Health Organization to help developing nations improve the quality of their drinking water. For this work he received numerous awards, and authored several scientific books on the subject as well as many technical journal articles. He married Loretta M. Eibel of Covington, Kentucky, in 1950, and they remained married until her death on November 9, 2006 at the age of 85. He had many interests and hobbies, including being a licensed ham radio operator who built his own radios. He was also a skilled gardener, loved to play the organ, and enjoyed photography and travel.

Henan Province, China

October 7, 2003:  New York Times headline–China: Arrest in Reservoir Poisoning. “The police arrested a 27-year-old man in central Henan Province in the poisoning of a reservoir that provides drinking water to homes because he wanted to increase sales for his water purifiers, the official New China News Agency reported. No deaths were reported, but 64 people became sick, with 42 needing to be hospitalized.”


May 6, 1915: Sweetwater, Texas Waterworks

May 6, 1915:  Municipal Journalarticle. Sweetwater Waterworks System and Reservoir. “Sweetwater, Tex.-The city of Sweetwater is building a municipal waterworks system at a cost of $320,000. The sources of the supply are numerous springs in the headwaters of Sweetwater creek, and the runoff of fifty-four square miles of uninhabited rocky hills, in which is to be a billion and a quarter gallon reservoir eight miles south of the city. The city now has a population of 6,500 people with an average daily consumption of 250,000 gallons of water. The present conduit that is being constructed from the lake will reach the requirements of 20,000 inhabitants, while the lake will reach the requirements of a city of 40,000 to 50,000 people. The reservoir covers an area of 200 acres and will be more than fifty feet in depth at the dam. Its capacity is sufficient to supply the city’s present demands for a period of nine years’ continuous drought, with allowances for seepage and evaporation. A portion of the surplus water will therefore be utilized for irrigating some 2,000 acres of fertile land lying in the valley of Sweetwater creek between the lake and the city. The greatest elevation of the city is such that it will permit water by gravity direct from the conduit, but an elevated tank of 250,000 gallons capacity, in addition the present 70,000 gallon tank, will be provided for fire protection and the higher outlying districts of the city. The dam will be an earthen structure sixty feet in height and 1,150 feet long, with concrete and steel piling wall on bedrock fifteen feet below the channel of the stream to cut off the underflow. The spillway will be ten feet below the crest of the dam and 350 feet in length with concrete sills twenty feet deep connected by a concrete floor. The accompanying illustration gives a view of the work.”

Reference: “Sweetwater Waterworks System and Reservoir.” 1915. Municipal Journal. 38:18(May 6, 1915): 631.

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 6, 1916: Typhoid Lawsuit and Reservoir Damage Lawsuit

April 6, 1916: Municipal Journal articles.

“Three Sue City for Typhoid Deaths. Milwaukee, Wis.-Three suits brought against the city of Milwaukee as a result of the recent typhoid epidemic, have been filed in circuit court, by two men for the deaths of their sons, and by a woman for the death of her husband. They are for $10,000 each. The complainants claim that the victims contracted the disease from the use of lake water, alleged to be unfit to drink because of the sewage which is being constantly emptied into the lake. The suits charge negligence in allowing the water to become polluted and at the same time supplying it to drink. It is claimed that at various times during the last ten years the city officials have been notified of the condition of the water, but that no attention has been paid to the warnings.”

Lake Worth Spillway

“City Wins Reservoir Damage Suit. Fort Worth, Tex.-The second court of civil appeals has reversed and remanded the reservoir damage case against the city of Fort Worth, in which a jury in the sixty-seventh district court had awarded the plaintiff $39,867.88 for damage to her land flooded by the backwaters of Lake Worth and alleged damage to adjoining uplands. This is the first of four big reservoir damage suits that have gone against the city under the present administration to be submitted to the higher court. It was appealed on the grounds that the court erred in admitting certain testimony and of misconduct of the jury in considering matter that was not in evidence. The jury awarded $75 an acre for 361 acres of lowlands and $9 an acre for 839 acres of uplands. City witnesses appraised the lowlands at from $35 to $50 an acre and testified the uplands were not damaged. By the reversal the city also saves the interest on $39,867.88 from April 28, 1915.”

Reference: Municipal Journal. 1916. 40:14(April 6, 1916): 489.

Commentary: The typhoid fever epidemic in Milwaukee was caused by a city employee turning off the chlorine disinfection system for about 10 hours. The epidemic resulted in 513 cases and 59 deaths from typhoid fever. As filtration and chlorination became more widely installed to protect water supplies, it became harder for cities to claim that contaminated water supplies were not responsible for typhoid fever deaths. The combination of engineers wanting to do the right thing and lawsuits resulted in an accelerated introduction of the new technologies.

February 19, 1914: Large Steel Water Tank in Youngstown, OH

February 19, 1914:  Engineering News article. “A steel tank 100 ft. diameter and 50 ft. high, with a capacity of 2,938,000 gal., is being built at Youngstown, Ohio, in connection with the water-supply service. The design is shown in Fig. 1. There are ten rings of plate, with double-strap butt joints for the vertical seams. These have ten rows of rivets (staggered) in the first two rings, eight in the third, six up to the eighth ring, four in the ninth and two in the tenth or top ring. There is a 20-in. inlet pipe with lead- and oakum-calked joint in the bottom plate, and a 24-in. overflow pipe of 3/8-in. riveted plate….

The tank is built without a roof, but has around the top a steel balcony with hand-rail. This balcony not only serves as a walk but also acts as a horizontal girder to stiffen the top of the tank.

The riveting is done with a large compression yoke riveter, except that the riveting of the bottom and the balcony is done with air hammers. The yoke riveter is suspended from a stiff-leg derrick, as shown in Fig. 3. The mast of this derrick is pivoted in the center of the tank and each stiff-leg is mounted on a small truck riding on a circular track, so that the boom and derrick frame can revolve through a complete circle. The power plant, air compressor and hoisting engine are located just outside the tank. The estimated weight of the tank complete is approximately 500 tons, and there are about 70,000 field rivets.

Reference:  “A Large Steel Water Tank.” 1914. Engineering News 71:8(February 19, 1914):412-3.

Commentary:  Note the lead and oakum-caulked joint. Lead would still be used in water works facility construction for many decades after 1914. Also, note that the reservoir did not have a roof. Uncovered finished water reservoirs finally suffered their death blow with the USEPA regulation—Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule. This story interested me because of the yoke riveter (on right center of Fig 3 with man standing on top) and derrick. This technology is long gone (I think), but it is interesting to see how they built reservoirs 99 years ago.

#TDIWH-January 30, 1913: Reservoir Lining Failure

January 30, 1913:  Engineering News article–Partial Failure of Reservoir Lining. Johnson City, Tenn. By D. R. Beeson. “A portion of the concrete lining of a new reservoir just put in service for the water-supply of Johnson City, Tenn., blew out on Jan. 10 and allowed the contents of the reservoir to escape. No one was injured in the accident nor was any property other than the reservoir proper damaged by the outflowing water.

The new reservoir is to be used for emergency storage, being a part of the new city water-supply system from a set of springs 13 miles away from town. It is located on a ridge south of the city at an elevation about 145 ft. higher than the general level of the residence section of the city. As shown in Fig. 1, it is 200 ft. square on top and 20 ft. deep, with sloping sides on a 1% to 1 slope. When full to the overflow, 1 ft. below the rim, it has a capacity of 4,000,000 gal. The bottom and sides of the reservoir were lined with concrete, 8 in. thick, reinforced with 5/8-in. twisted rods 18 in. c. to c. both ways.”

Commentary:  In the early days of the 20th century water utility business, water professionals were finding out what worked and what did not—sometimes by trial and error. It was the failures that probably held the greatest lessons of all.

Reference:  Engineering News. 1913. “Partial Failure of Reservoir Lining.” 69:5(January 30, 1913): 234.

December 11, 1843: Birth of Robert Koch; December 11, 1913: Abolish Common Towel and Cup…and other amazing stories

December 11, 1843: Birth of Robert Koch “Robert Heinrich Hermann Koch (11 December 1843 – 27 May 1910) was a German physician and microbiologist. As the founder of modern bacteriology, he is known for his role in identifying the specific causative agents of tuberculosis, cholera, and anthrax and for giving experimental support for the concept of infectious disease. In addition to his innovative studies on these diseases, which involved experimenting on humans, Koch created and improved laboratory technologies and techniques in the field of microbiology, and made key discoveries in public health. His research led to the creation of Koch’s postulates, a series of four generalized principles linking specific microorganisms to specific diseases that remain today the “gold standard” in medical microbiology. As a result of his groundbreaking research on tuberculosis, Koch received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1905. The Robert Koch Institute is named in his honour.”

December 11, 1913: Municipal Journal Articles. Below are some interesting articles from over 100 years ago about water supply and water safety.

Abolish Common Towel and Cup. Harrisburg, Pa.-Common cups and towels have been banished by the State Board of Health. Anyone violating the new regulation is liable to a fine of $100. Glasses that have been used must be washed in boiling water, and towels must always be freshly laundered. Dr. Dixon, State Commissioner of Health, states that many communicable diseases can thereby be avoided.

Open Water System. South Orange, N. J.-The Village of South Orange, with its 6,000 inhabitants, is obtaining 1ts water supply from its new municipally-owned artesian wells and pumping plant. The ceremonies marking the opening of the system were in charge of Village President Francis Speir, Jr….The plant includes a number of artesian wells in the valley below First Mountain, from which the water is carried by large pipes to a reservoir on top of the mountain. The reservoir is hewn out of solid rock and holds 50,000,000 gallons.

Reservoir Dam Breaks. Abilene, Tex.-A break has occurred in the dam at Syth Lake Reservoir, effecting a great gap through which 600,000,000 gallons of water escaped. A large section of the land bordering on the reservoir was badly flooded. The city of Abilene had to go without water and for that reason the electric power plant was forced to shut down its boilers. The manufacturing plants were also unable to operate.

Hydrants to be Standardized. Oak Point, Cal.-An important improvement was ordered for this district by Commissioner of Public Works E. M. Wilder. Wilder has directed that all hydrants be standardized so that the same size wrench or spanner may open any of the hydrants in this district. Recently many complaints have been filed on account of broken nuts on the hydrants, caused by the use of different kinds of wrenches.

Reference: Municipal Journal. 1913. 35:24(December 11, 1913): 800.