Collapse of the Austin Dam.

Collapse of the Austin Dam.

The breaking away of the dam of the Bayless Pulp and Paper Mill at Austin. Pa., on September 30, destroying from 300 to 400 lives and about $4,000,000 worth of property, has brought out much comment that unfavorable to the owners of the dam. Austin, a town scarcely thirty years old, has had an awful history. It had narrowly escaped destruction in four big fires, the last one, in the first week of July. 1909, wiping out Main street. It has been surrounded by forest fires several times. Fire insurance companies threatened to cancel insurance policies some time ago, probably because they regarded the water supply protection as inadequate. The dam that gave way was less than a mile north of the town. Freeman Run flows through Austin, and the town is built straight down the stream, all the hotels, banks and important business houses were located along Costello avenue, which runs parallel with the stream. On January 23, 1910, the dam partially collapsed, or . slipped down stream about 18 inches, caused, it was claimed, by a defective foundation. A great scare was caused at that time. The repairs were made, but the consensus of opinion has ever since been that the dam was unsafe and a continual menace to the town. However, no protest was made because the Bayless Pulp and Paper Company Mill, supposed to be the largest in the world, was the life of the community. Following the repairs in January, 1910, when the dam was dynamited to let the water out, a wooden dam was built half a mile above the big one in order to minimize the pressure on the concrete structure. It will be observed by photographs on this page that a section of the dam moved downstream in the same manner as that in January, 1910. When the dam was originally built it was provided with an escape pipe, 30 inches in diameter, and a cap instead of a valve as directed by the engineer in charge of the construction. After this cap was dynamited off in January, 1910, the dam was again used without using the valve pipe drain, which was intended to let off the surplus water in case there was danger following a freshet. It is said that the owners of the dam, feaiing a break, consulted T. C. Hatton, the original designer as to what repairs should be made, but Mr. Hatton’s advice was never followed, it is claimed. The break came close to the spot whete it had been under repair, and a mighty mass of concrete, 100 feet across, and stretching from the top to the bootom of the dam, fell forward. As it struck the ground it was spattered into fragments, and was carried far down the stream by the rush of 500,000,090 gallons of water. Five other breaks occurred, and three of the segments detached were hurled forward, so as to form, as they lie. a rough semi-circle with a radius of 60 feet. It is noticeable that the concrete is very smooth, and it is possible to break lumps off from what now lies in the valley. It appears from the nature of the smash that the lines of cleavage are following the places where one day’s work had stopped and another had begun. Strong bars of steel were embedded in the concrete to strengthen these joints, and many of them remain fast in what still stands. They have been bent like twigs, and have broken away from the sections that fell. Replying to the statement of Engineer Hatton regarding the condition of the dam. President George G. ltayless has issued the following statement:


“Mr. Hatton’s recommendations were made with the idea of making repairs so that the water could he increased or so that if it ever became necessary to till it up the construction would stand the pressure. While we did not need fifty feet of water we had thought well to provide for it in case of emergency. This improvement we made by blasting out and removing a portion of the spillway, which was done in a manner to insure perfect safety, and we had no doubt that the dam would then sustain the heavy pressure of a larger body of water. We prepared to build another dam in order to make sure to relieve the pressure on the other side. Ordinarily we carried about forty feet of water, which was sufficient to furnish us needed power. Not having visited the place, 1 would not like to give my personal opinion as to how the break occurred. We are going to detail expert engineers to the scene at once, who will make a scientific investigation. 1 believe that will be the way in which to conclude just what caused the break. In the summer time, during dry seasons we kept a man at the gate constantly to regulate the amount of water and keep it at a height that was necessary. This man was not stationed there at the time of the accident, as it was past the time that he had usually been employed in that capacity, and it was not thought necessary to have him remain there. There were gates arranged so as to regulate the height of the water all the time, and 1 cannot yet understand the report that the water was higher in the dam than it had ever been before.”

The filtration plant recently completed for the municipal waterworks system at Temple, Tex., at cost of $35,000, is being given a thorough test and trial of 30 days’ duration before same is finally received and accepted from the builders, the Pittsburgh Filter Company of Pennsylvania. It is the first scientific filter to be built in connection with a waterworks system in Texas, and its operation is being watched with more than ordinary interest. The city derives its water supply from the Leon river, eight miles distant from the town, and whereas in former years a “rise” in the river was always reflected in the mains by the fluid changing to a dark chocolate color, since the installation of the tiller the water comes through the mains in a clear, sparkling and wholesome condition.


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