C. E. Davis on Situation in Philadelphia
Carleton E. Davis, chief of the Philadelphia, Pa., water works bureau, continues his efforts to place the system upon a “safe and sane” basis, losing no opportunity to bring the facts of the situation to the attention of the citizens. At a recent luncheon of the City Business Club, Chief Davis laid special emphasis upon the condition of the Torresdale pumping station and said in part: “With the present degree of wastage in Philadelphia, there is actually not sufficient water to supply adequately all the needs of the city. That situation would be exceedingly critical if anything went wrong with our present system and a great fire were to break out in the city. The concentration of 60 per cent, of the water supply of the city in a single system, unprovided with ample reserve storage reservoirs, is not safe, particularly when that system necessarily lacks even reasonable elements of duplication.
“The present works must be extended in a way to provide additional security against accidents. Such extension will serve the two-fold purpose of increasing the safety and adding to the volume and pressure of water now available in certain inadequately served districts. I consider the universal introduction of meters absolutely indispensable as an accompaniment of an added supply as a step toward the protection of that supply and the prolongation of its effective life.
“Now is the time to solve permanently the water supply question which has been a disturbing factor in this city for a hundred years. It seems needless to emphasize the indispensable nature of the water supply. Our water works in Philadelphia are not equipped with reserve reservoirs. We have a few small basins, but not of sufficient size to be of service in case of a serious accident. The continuity of the supply depends upon the continuous operation of a number of pumping stations, 60 per cent, of the total supply coming through the Delaware chain of works in which the Torresdale pumping station and the Gardner’s Point pumping station are successive links.
“A tremendous responsibility rests on the single Torresdale station, and an analysis of that plant indicates similar tremendous responsibility upon many of its various elements, for there is lacking much of the duplication essential for safety. The plant has one chimney, one boiler room, one crowded engine room, one inlet for the water from the river and one pumping main from the station to the filters. The equipment is growing older, it is worked beyond its safe capacity and a number of accidents have just stopped short of being disastrous. To a certain degree this same situation is produced at Lardner’s point. Accidents have occurred there which have put the plant out of commission for twenty-four hours and accidents have occurred in the distribution mains which have deprived a large portion of the city of water for several hours.”
Mr. Davis made an appeal to create public opinion for the improvement of the system and for the obtaining of the funds.
In a communication to the Chestnut Street Association, Mr. Davis recently declared: “Our present plant and equipment is now being operated beyond its safe capacity. It is delivering more water than should be required of it with due regard for safety, and because of this overworked condition breakdowns are frequent and the bills for maintenance and operation are higher than would otherwise be the case. Nevertheless, the city insists that the tax rate be kept down, and as a consequence appropriations are limited without respect to the needs of increased appropriations for such a vital factor as the water supply. As far as I can ascertain, one cent added to the tax rate would have permitted a sufficient additional allotment to the Bureau of Water to make the difference between adequate operation of the works and inedaquate operation.”