Tag Archives: 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 19, 1882: Founding of NEWWA

April 19, 1882: First meeting of the New England Water Works Association. “In an informal meeting between Horace G. Holden, Superintendent of the Lowell MA works, Frank E. Hall, the Worcester Superintendent and Robert C. P. Coggeshall, the New Bedford Superintendent, a decision was made to pursue the idea of a New England organization. The fact that they were informally meeting in Lowell to compare experiences suggests their strong interest in sharing knowledge, especially in light of the difficulties of making a journey across the state in those days. That same day, they visited with and enlisted Henry Rogers, Superintendent of nearby Lawrence MA into their group and began the process of soliciting interest from others. The original 4 men later enlisted James W. Lyons to their cause and broke down New England into 5 areas. Each directed a letter soliciting interest to all of the known water supplies in their respective area.

The first meeting was held at Young’s Hotel in Boston on April 19, 1882. Attending were representatives from the following communities: From Massachusetts-Fitchburg, Springfield, Worcester, Fall River, Brockton, Plymouth, Lawrence, Cambridge, Lowell, Leominster, Malden, Medford, Salem, New Bedford; From Connecticut-New Haven; From Rhode Island-Pawtucket; From New Hampshire-Manchester.

Also present were two meter vendors, one steam pump vendor, and one former governor of New Hampshire (a friend of the Manchester NH representative and an advocate of water supply). As the first business of the new organization, they appointed staff to develop a Constitution and chose Boston as the site of the next meeting in June. There is some brief record of water discussions on topics such as wrought iron pipe, fish becoming stuck in service lines, eels in pipes and growth of sponge, algae and clams in reservoirs and pipes, all normal issues for the day. They then adjourned for a hearty dinner and lighter conversation.”

April 18, 1912: Hypochlorite Treatment at Trenton

Dissolving Tanks for Calcium Hypochlorite Feed System

April 18, 1912: Municipal Journal article. Water Purification at Trenton. By Howard C. Hottel. “As a result of investigations made by the New Jersey State Board of Health, the city of Trenton, on November 9, 1911, started to purify its drinking water supply, raw Delaware River water, by the use of calcium hypochlorite.

Previous analysis of the water had shown that there was more or less constant pollution, liable to increase under certain weather conditions, and at the time that the plant was ready to start operation there was a typhoid epidemic in progress at Trenton.

The chemical purchased when tested was found to have 35 per cent available chlorine and treatment was begun with a strength of about 0.4 to the million of available chlorine. This was found to be insufficient and on November 28 the dose was raised to 0.8 and has since then varied from 0.8 to 1.0 part per million, with a daily pumpage of about 20,000,000 gallons. In commercial terms this means that from 20 to 25 pounds of calcium hypochlorite are being added to every million gallons of water that is being pumped.

After the chemical had been increased the intestinal bacteria began to disappear, as shown by tests made by the State Board of Health. Inasmuch as the pipe area is rather large it took some time before the tap water gave negative tests for B. coli.

There has been considerable complaint from the taxpayers, who claim that the chemical gives a slight taste to the water. In fact, some would seem to prefer taking chances with typhoid rather than purification by treatment with calcium hypochlorite. The treatment, however, will probably continue until a permanent purification plant is established. Plans are already being drawn for the erection of a mechanical filtration plant, with the expectation of having the same completed within a year.

Shortly after the hypochlorite treatment was begun the typhoid dropped abruptly and a few statistics may prove interesting. During the month of November, 1911, there were 82 cases of typhoid reported, and during December 49. For the first three months of 1912 there has been a total of only 15 cases; in 1911 for the same three months there were 52; in 1910, 47.”

Reference: Hottel, Howard C. 1912. “Water Purification at Trenton.” Municipal Journal

Solution Tanks for Calcium Hypochlorite Feed System

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 15, 1923: New York City Harbor Pollution

April 15, 1923: New York Times headline. Pollution of City’s Harbor Growing Peril to Health. By George A. Soper. “After having been apparently forgotten for some years there are signs that the pollution of New York Harbor may again receive official attention. The Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, which took a leading part in bringing about the construction of the first rapid transit subway, the Catskill water supply and the Port Authority, has been inquiring into the state of the harbor waters with a view to the adoption of remedial measures. On Nov. 3, 1921, the Chamber passed a resolution urging municipal authorities in New York and New Jersey to take such steps as might be necessary to bring about a study of the matter, and on March 30, 1923, the Merchants’ Association sent a letter to Mayor Hylan calling attention to the polluted condition of the harbor.”

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.