Tag Archives: water supply

September 16, 1999: Champlain Water District Receives Partnership Award; 1908: Hetch Hetchy Supply Investigated

Partnership for Safe Water Past-Chair, Steve Hubbs (Corona Environmental – L) and Jim Westrick (USEPA – R), congratulate Champlain Water District representatives, James Fay and Michael Barsotti

September 16, 1999: Champlain Water District Receives Partnership Award. On this date in 1999, Champlain Water District’s Peter L. Jacob Water Treatment Facility received the Phase IV Excellence in Water Treatment Award from the Partnership for Safe Water program. This prestigious award recognizes water treatment plants that have achieved stringent water quality and operational optimization goals, as determined through a utility peer-review process. The plant was the first of 14 facilities in North America to be recognized for this level of achievement in the Partnership for Safe Water program. Champlain Water District has maintained this level of optimized performance for the past 16 years and was recognized with the 15-Year Excellence in Water Treatment Award in 2015. The utility has been an active participant in and contributor to the Partnership for Safe Water program for the past 20 years.

The Partnership for Safe Water celebrates its 20th Anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1995, the program is an alliance of AWWA, USEPA, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA), the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), and the Water Research Foundation (WRF). The program was established “for utilities, by utilities” to help utilities assess and optimize water treatment plant and distribution system operation and performance. Over its 20-year history, hundreds of treatment plants and distribution systems, serving a total population of over 100 million, have employed Partnership for Safe Water tools to improve performance beyond regulatory requirements. More information about the program, including annual water quality reports, may be accessed at www.awwa.org/partnership.

O’Shaughnessy Dam which forms the reservoir for the Hetch Hetchy water supply

September 16, 1908: Municipal Journal and Engineer article. Municipal Party Returns from Sierras. “San Francisco, Cal.-The Supervisors and other city officials have completed their trip of inspection of the Sierra watersheds which it is proposed to acquire for purposes of a municipal water supply for San Francisco and neighboring towns. The members return with the conviction that the opportunity offered to secure water rights should not be allowed to pass even though no immediate use be made of the water. The quality of the water was found to be all that was expected and the quantity sufficient to supply the bay cities for the next hundred years.”

Commentary: And we all know what happened after that. The Hetch Hetchy water supply project was completed in 1934 and water was delivered to San Francisco and its wholesale customers.

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August 27, 1914: Providence, Rhode Island Water Supply

William P. Mason

August 27, 1914: Municipal Journal article. Experts Chosen for Providence Water Supply. “Providence, R.I.-Prof. William P. Mason, head of the department of chemistry at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, and X. H. Goodnow, chief engineer of the Massachusetts State Board of Health, have been engaged as experts to report upon the proposed Scituate source for an increased water supply for Providence, by the special City Council committee in charge of the matter. Messrs. Mason and Goodnow will begin work at once, and will report on the problem of quality and quantity of supply needed for this city, the best source for this supply, whether or not it shall be filtered, and any other problems in connection with the matter which the committee may put before them. An examination of all possible water supplies within the State will be made by them, in an endeavor to find whether or not there is another source which, for quality and quantity of supply, is as good as or better than the Scituate scheme. They will be given time enough to investigate all phases.”

Commentary: William P. Mason was President of AWWA in 1909. He also testified in favor of chlorination of the Jersey City water supply at Boonton Reservoir during the second Jersey City trial. Besides being a professor at a distinguished engineering university, he obviously had a thriving consulting practice.

August 15, 1915: Akron Water System Begins Operation; 1922: National Coast Anti Pollution League

Akron Water Treatment Plant, 1915

August 15, 1915: Akron Water System Begins Operation. “A century ago, Akron was a very unhealthy community. In 1915, 126 people came down with typhoid fever — with 25 deaths. The deaths and illnesses in Akron and other American cities were caused by contaminated drinking water. Akron’s problem started to disappear in 1915 when the city opened its new reservoir and new water-treatment plant in Portage County — plus lines to bring that water into Akron. The new system went into operation Aug. 15, 1915 — 100 years ago this Saturday. And before long, typhoid cases diminished. In 1920, Akron had eight typhoid deaths. By 1925, the death toll had dropped to two.

Today, Akron’s water system remains one of the city’s biggest assets. The city has invested $3 billion in the water system in the last 100 years, says Jeffrey Bronowski, Akron’s Water Supply Bureau manager. Akron’s efforts to overhaul its water system began in 1910. That’s when Mayor William T. Sawyer and City Council decided to create a whole new water system. On Aug. 28, 1911, an engineering team recommended that Akron buy land and build a reservoir north of Kent on the Cuyahoga River. That would serve as Akron’s main water source, with large pipelines running from the reservoir’s water-treatment plant to Akron. It was a costly $30 million step, but a major typhoid outbreak in 1911 resulted in 40 deaths in Akron that summer.

The recommendation came from two consulting engineers: Frank A. Barbour of Boston and E.G. Bradbury of Columbus, who played a key role in developing Akron’s new system. They were paid $10,000 by the city. They analyzed the city’s options, including the Cuyahoga River, the Portage Lakes, the Tuscarawas River, the Little Cuyahoga River and the Congress Lake area. They told Akron that the best water came from the Cuyahoga River watershed. There were fewer people there and less pollution. The watershed was also bigger and capable of producing more water. What they envisioned was a series of reservoirs away from the city, much like what New York City was planning.

Before the report was released, Akron Mayor William Sawyer and Service Director John Gauthier began buying options on more than 2,000 acres of land in the Cuyahoga River watershed for about $150 an acre. The two consultants were then hired by Akron to oversee building the new water system. Work began in 1913. A dam 280 feet long was built on the Cuyahoga River about three miles north of Kent. The 769-acre reservoir, called Lake Rockwell, was designed to provide Akron with 25 million gallons of drinking water per day. Steam shovels were used to dig the lake, but 18-horse teams with plows were used to cut through the heavy clay.

A parade of 200 vehicles traveling from Akron to Lake Rockwell celebrated the opening of the new $5 million water plant. Ex-Mayor Sawyer and current Mayor Frank W. Rockwell both claimed credit for the safe drinking water. Akron initially installed 70 miles of street mains to distribute the water. The city pumped about 12 million gallons that first year.”

Horses Hauling Cast Iron Pipe for Akron Distribution System

August 15, 1922: “In support of the National Coast Anti-Pollution League, the Philadelphia Ledger writes of a time, 20 years beforehand, when fish were common in the Delaware River: ‘How [can] any sane person deliberately go into such black and vile-looking water? … [Only twenty years ago] the haul of the shad net brings that thrilling moment when the encircled fish break water and the whole surface enclosed in the arc of bobbing corks suddenly bursts into silver flame as a hundred fine big fellows leap and churn in a last desperate effort … There’s a lot more than sentiment in such reminiscences as these… They mean happiness and health in an age when the tendency is to sleep away from the turmoil and the ‘twice breathed air’ of the city… The lack of such things means millions of dollars in good, hard cash, to say nothing of the less material considerations. Philadelphia, of all cities, should support the Anti-Pollution League and should welcome the election of Gifford Pinchot to its presidency.’”

Commentary: Four days prior to the Ledger article, the National Coast Anti Pollution League was formed by state and municipal officials at Atlantic City, New Jersey to stop oil dumping. The rampant industrialization of the late 1800s and early 1900s had terrible consequences for the water resources of the U.S. Philadelphia bore more than its share of contaminated water and vanished fisheries. It would be many decades before these trends were permanently reversed. Based on what I saw in China in May of 2013, they should form a National Coast Anti Pollution League immediately and tackle their severe air and water pollution problems.

Gifford Pinchot, Forest Service head, Pennsylvania governor and president of the National Coast Anti-Pollution League

July 27, 1976: Legionnaire’s Disease in Philadelphia; 1905: Consideration of Owens Valley Water Supply for Los Angeles

Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia

July 27, 1976: Outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease in Philadelphia. “On July 21, 1976, the American Legion opened its annual three-day convention at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. More than 2,000 Legionnaires, mostly men, attended the convention. The date and city were chosen to coincide with America’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia in 1776.

On July 27, three days after the convention ended, Legionnaire Ray Brennan, a 61-year-old retired Air Force captain and an American Legion bookkeeper, died at his home of an apparent heart attack. Brennan had returned home from the convention on the evening of July 24 complaining of feeling tired. On July 30, another Legionnaire, Frank Aventi, aged 60, also died of an apparent heart attack, as did three other Legionnaires. All of them had been convention attendees. Twenty-four hours later, on August 1, six more Legionnaires died. They ranged in age from 39 to 82, and, like Ray Brennan, Frank Aventi, and the three other Legionnaires, all had complained of tiredness, chest pains, lung congestion, and fever.

Three of the Legionnaires had been patients of Dr. Ernest Campbell, a physician in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, who noticed that all three men had been at the Legionnaires convention in Philadelphia. He contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Officials at the American Legion also began getting notices of the sudden deaths of several members, all at the same time. Within a week, more than 130 people, mostly men, had been hospitalized, and 25 had died.”

Commentary: I was in Florence, Italy writing my PhD dissertation when this happened. The only way I could communicate with my advisor, Mel Suffet, at that time was by telegram [no internet, no email, no phone, mail took a month]. Sometime in August I got a strangely worded telegram from Mel that he and some graduate students had gone into the Bellevue Stratford Hotel and sampled drinking water and had taken the activated carbon filters out of the drinking fountains to look for toxic chemicals. The disease was a big mystery at the time. However, the telegram was so weirdly constructed that I initially thought that Mel had contracted the mystery fever. Fortunately, that turned out not to be the case. There is a terrific podcast from 99% Invisible that describes the outbreak and discovery of the causative organism.

Owens Lake before becoming a dust hazard

July 27, 1905: Los Angeles Board of Engineers meet to consider Owens Valley supply. “The Board of Engineers who were to make that recommendation met on July 27, 1905. From an engineering standpoint, the project was viable. One of the commissioners had previously met with [Stafford Wallace Austin, the Land Register for the Owens Valley] and made sure discussions about the project gave serious consideration to his protest. However, the economic feasibility of the project was in question. The Board saw Los Angeles’ ownership of the Long Valley Reservoir site and 50 miles along the river as a great impediment to proceeding with a Reclamation Service project.

The Secretary of the Interior, the cabinet member responsible for the Reclamation Service, made no decision until much later.

[William] Mulholland returned from a car trip to the Owens Valley not two days after the Board of Engineers had met. His statement, “The last spike is driven…the options are secure,” was the City’s verdict on the project.

It seemed irrelevant that the Reclamation Service had made no decision when on July 29, 1905 the Los Angeles Times headlines bannered ‘Titanic Project to Give City a River.’”

July 16, 1914: Acquisition of the East Jersey Water Company

Wanaque Reservoir

July 16, 1914: Municipal Journal article. To Decide on Joining Water Supplies. “Trenton, N. J. In a resolution the State Water Supply Commission requested that Newark and the eight other municipalities which have made application for a joint water supply signify within sixty days whether they favor the acquisition of the properties of the East Jersey Water Company or the alternative plan of developing the watershed of the Wanaque River. The commission will hold a final conference with representatives from the nine interested municipalities at the city hall, Paterson, in September. The municipalities included are Newark, Paterson, Elizabeth, Montclair, East Orange, Totowa, Glen Ridge, Nutley and Passaic. The action of the commission was the outcome of a resolution recently adopted by the Board of Works of Newark urging that action be taken to provide an additional water supply for that city without further delay. It is understood that Newark is opposed to the purchase of the East Jersey Water Company plant, but is more than willing that the Wanaque watershed be constructed.

It is further said that the attitude of the State commission is that Newark’s need for more water is imperative and that should the other municipalities fail to come to some agreement by September 11, the State should enter into a contract with Newark and proceed with the Wanaque development. The resolutions adopted by the state commission review at length the negotiations between that body and the nine municipalities, including the authorization of the appraisal of the plant of the East Jersey Water Company.”

Commentary: Ultimately, the Wanaque water supply was developed by Newark and the East Jersey Water Company was rolled up with other private water companies into a regional water agency that became known as the Passaic Valley Water Commission. The Commission is still operational today. The cornerstone of the Commission water supply is the treatment plant built on the original site of George Warren Fuller’s revolutionary mechanical filtration plant at Little Falls, New Jersey.

July 11, 1908: Filtered Water for Springfield, MA

July 11, 1908: Engineering Record article. The Little River Water Supply for Springfield, Mass. “The present water supply of Springfield, Mass., is derived from the Ludlow Reservoir, and has for many years been the source of much trouble on account of the growth of anabaena during warm weather. Repeated investigations and reports had been made on the causes of the growth and the best means of rendering the water, as delivered in the city, free from objection, with the result that a decision was reached to abandon the Ludlow supply altogether and develop the Little River watershed, an entirely new source. While the construction of the new work is under way, the Ludlow Reservoir water is being rendered usable during the anabaena season by a temporary intermittent filter plant.

The supply from the Little River is as good as other waters used in a raw state by Massachusetts cities, but in this case, in recognition of the advancing requirements of quality, it was decided to filter the water, and, accordingly, sand filters of a nominal capacity of 15,000,000 gal. per day will be built to filter the entire supply. The watershed will be developed in part only at the present time, as the run-off is far above the immediate needs of the city. The Little River is a branch of the Westfield River, and the catchment area is located almost directly west of Springfield, the intake dam being about 12~ miles from the city. From this dam the water will flow through a tunnel, not quite a mile long, cut through the rock under Cobble Mountain. The sedimentation basin and the filtration plant will be located near the end of the tunnel and the pure water will flow through a steel pipe line a distance of 74 miles to a covered reservoir on Provin Mountain.

Commentary: Stubborn opinions by sanitary experts in Massachusetts stalled the efforts for many years to install filtration on water supplies in the state. The prevailing view was that water supplies should only be taken from sources fully protected against contamination and that it was wrong to treat marginal or substandard water supplies. With the “recognition of the advancing requirements of quality” at least this Massachusetts city was able to insure the delivery of safe and palatable drinking water. This wrong-headed water supply viewpoint was promoted by Thomas Drown, William T. Sedgwick, George C. Whipple and other professors and graduates of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1909, some of these same individuals testified against the first use of chlorine on the Jersey City water Supply at Boonton Reservoir.

July 2, 1914: Denver Threatens to Seize Private Water Plant

1914 photo shows Cheesman Dam with water going over the spillway. This was a common sight until drought and growth of Denver made inroads on the storage supply.

July 2, 1914: Municipal Journal article. Threatens to Seize Water Plant. “Denver, Colo.-The Denver City Water Company is trying to prevent the city from building its own plant, but has so far lost almost every legal fight. It is now trying to sell the plant to the city. The city is willing to buy, but the officials insist that the figures are too high. To complicate matters the plant broke down in the last few days. For several days portions of the city were without water and at the mercy of fire. Two conduits gave way, and investigation showed that they were worn out. Temporary repairs have restored an almost normal supply, but the opponents of the company say that the weakness of the plant has been exposed. The voters are opposed to the water company’s scheme to sell out to the city, and the city commissioners are supporting the public. Public opinion was disclosed last February at a referendum election, when the taxpayers, by a vote of more than 2 to 1, decided to buy or build a municipal water plant, and voted a bond issue of $8,000,000 for the purpose. It is estimated that if the city should buy the old plant for $8,000,000, or a lower price, $3,000,000 additional would have to be spent to put the plant in fair shape.

A new municipal plant can he built for about $9,000,000. ‘If the water company isn’t giving the city the service it should give, or if it uses any extreme methods, such as cutting off water on the people who are unable to pay for service six months in advance, then we shall exercise the police power imposed in this city and take such steps as may be necessary until the service is restored and the water company employs reasonable methods in the collection of its rates,’ said City Attorney I. N. Stevens.

Finally, by unanimous vote the city commissioners recently agreed to extend indefinitely the provisions of the resolution providing for seizure of the company’s plant if its service shall at any time be adjudged insufficient for the city’s needs. This decision was reached after Commissioners Nisbet and Thurn had declared they believed the company was supplying the city with all the water possible with its present plant. The adoption of this resolution means that no action will be taken at this time by the city to interfere with the water company. It means also that the water company must maintain the present standard of service or risk action looking toward taking control of its system out of its hands.”

Commentary: The final selling price was $14 million which is interesting given the discussion in the article above. Throughout this period, there was a struggle between public and private ownership of water systems in the U.S.