COST OF FURNISHING WATER WITH REFERENCE TO RATE MAKING
Discussion at the American Water Works Association Convention, New Orleans
The paper by Daniel W. Mead, on the above subject, read at the meeting of the American Water Works Association at New Orleans proved interesting, as shown by the number of those who took part in the discussion.
Stuart Wood, of Philadelphia, said: “A waterworks perhaps differs from any other industry in the fact that the proportion of capital employed to the operating expenses is greater than in anything else. I presume that there is no other large industry where approximately as much as one-half, or even in many cases more than one-half of the cost of furnishing the commodity is due to the costs and depreciation of the plant, as is the case with waterworks. Private waterworks companies, of course, are compelled to take this into consideration in establishing their costs; but that is always not the case with municipalities, and the accounts of the latter are not kept with the same objects in view. As a result I think it will be found that very often municipal operating costs are published which are made up simply of operating expenses, wages, fuel, and ordinary repairs. I have in mind myself one city which feels very well satisfied that it is making a profit on its waterworks, where they charge to cost of operation, interest on a little more than $1,000,000 of bonds, and the value of the works they claim to be about $10,000,000. Now of course published rates based upon such figures as that are very misleading if they are supposed to cover the actual cost of furnishing water; and to compare such rates with those of neighboring cities is very unjust. But such a practice is very often prevalent, and I think in consideration of this fact it should impress upon our minds the very great importance of a uniform accounting which will apply to municipal as well as private plants. Such in fact is the purpose of the present legislation in Wisconsin I think that any legislation for the benefit of waterworks ought in fairness to enforce that rule with regard to municipal and private plants alike.”
W. F. Wilcox, of Meridian, Miss., said: “I heartily agree with Mr. Wood. The reason why a great many municipalities say that they pump water for a certain figure is because their books do not show thoroughly every item of cost. I represent a municipal plant, yet I was raised a corporation man. I have had this to contend with in the management of a municipal plant, that the politicians want to show the people how little they are charging for water and how little it costs to furnish it. It is not fair to say that depreciation and similar items cost nothing. It is simply a political game. The municipal superintendent, therefore, finds himself in an attitude that is is antagonistic to the politicians whenever he attempts to state the true cost of pumpage. I think that Mr. Wood’s suggestion as to uniform accounts is a very timely and proper one. In our city we charge for everything the city gets from us, and we credit the city for everything we get from it. If we have the city engineer run out a line for us we pay the engineering department for it. If we have the board of public works repair a street, we pay them for it. If they get any water from us they us for it. We do not carry any fictitious charge on our books as to what the city owes us for water; but in fixing our rate we adopt what would be a reasonable charge if a corporation owned the plant. We also take into consideration what taxes that corporation would pay to the city. Deducting these taxes from what would be a fair charge by the corporation, leaves what we charge to the general city givernment, and we collect that every year in cash. Our plant supplies 30,000 people. Our total pumping cost at the station is $20.40 per 1,000,000 gallons, including filtration. Our water flows by gravity during a portion of the year; but in the dry season we haveto double pump water from the impounding reservoir. That runs up our cost a little bit. We figure the actual cost of operation, the interest on the bonds, and the depreciation charge. As to the latter we played a little politics on the politicians. We figured out what was the depreciation as nearly as we could get at it, and arranged so that that amount of our city bonds would come due every year. We pay off that portion of the bond issue every year to take care of the depreciation.
T. C. Phillips, of Chicago, said: I could explain the situation at Washington Heights, which is one of our suburban stations, located about nine or ten miles from the pumping station. The section line is a 16-inch main, which is used for the service pipe line also. The Washington Heights station pumps against 60-pounds pressure. We have found in the last few years at times we are not able to maintain 60 pounds pressure, because every now and then our small pumps were frequently a source of a great deal of error, and did not show the actual conditions. These pumps have since been replaced by others, and the figures as compiled for 1901 and 1902 show a total ordinary expense for pumping water for the city of Chicago to be about 3 cents per 1,000 gallons. Perhaps it would be well to explain that this does not include any fund for sinking fund purposes but includes the total ordinary expenses only. With regard to the question of rates some of us believe in the city of Chicago that the present rate is too low. For instance, by the time we have our water delivered to the consumer the cost of water might be nearer a figure considerably above our present meter rate, for the reason that a very small percentage of our water is actually delivered. The purification of the water is not taken into consideration at all, I believe.”
John W. Alvord, C.E., said: “If anybody would say inside of the city limits of Chicago that our Chicago plant was not making money, I would not like to guarantee what would happen to him. The general impression is that our Chicago water plant is a great money winner. As Mr. Phillips has pointed out, for a number of years large portions of the money in the water fund has been used for other purposes connected with the purification and the maintenance of the purification supply. For instance, large conduits which are really sewage conduits which have no connection with the water system, but which are merely a protection to it in keeping the sewage out of the lake. The comparison is a very interesting one, something which I have wanted to see made for a long time. Do I understand, Mr. Phillips, that in this three cents the interest and the cost of the purification is included?”
Mr. Phillips: “No, sir.”
Mr. Alvord: “I understand that that is not included. That is where the whole thing lies. The distribution system of the Chicago waterworks is largely a resultant from special assessments. Having once built this through special assessments no further account is kept of the capital cost. As Mr. Wood has very well pointed out, the capital cost of furnishing and distributing water, with these fixed charges is one of the greatest items to be met and accounted for. Of course, not having to account for this item. Chicago, together with most cities, finds that its revenues are such that they can reduce the rates and have money to spend at times for other purposes. The fact has been alluded to here that so many municipal reports are unreliable, perhaps not always intentionally so, but because of the ignorance of the municipal accountants of the true principles and method by which all these capital accounts with their fixed charges should be treated for operative purposes. It seems to me there is in municipal reports such as have come under my observation for many years another curious psychological feature, if I may be allowed to term it such, the desire to make a better showing than a predecessor. This is a very insidious temptation, and while it does not always involve anything like falsification, it very often involves carelessness in going thoroughly into the matters involved. For instance, it was my lot at one time to examine the municipal business over a period of one year in one of the larger cities of our central west. Each annual report of the superintendent of that plant charged up a certain amount for coal to his engines for pumping; and it was remarkable how year by year each superintendent managed to pump water for a little bit less a year than his predecessor had done, and after each change in superintendents there was a remarkable change for that year. But, fortunately, vouchers for the purchase of the coal were also in existence and were possible of utilization; and after comparing these along from year to year it was seen that there was a considerable amount of coal which had apparently disappeared. I took a great interest in thus securing the actual account, and computing it year by year; and after adding it to the coal pile I found that during 40 years operation that the amount of unaccounted for coal produced a pile about three hundred and thirty feet high that would extend over a good sized city block.”
Charles B. Burdick, Chicago: “It is customary in making comparisons of the cost of furnishing water to base the comparison upon the cost per 1,000 gallons. That seems to be a good basis of comparison. It is true that the majority of our systems are not metered, and therefore the only place where the water can be measured is at the pump. It is also true that there is a very large discrepancy in every waterworks plant between the amount of water which leaves the main station and the amount which reaches the consumer. There are comparatively few of our plants now where all consumers are metered; and it has been found in plants that are considered as well regulated plants that all the way from 25 per cent, to 60 per cent, of the water pumped never reaches the consumer. Therefore, the important proposition in comparing rates for water on the basis of 1,000 gallons is to consider the percentage of loss of water in the mains and services. If the cost is based upon station pumpage the error of making a comparison of cost of that with the cost per 1,000 gallons supplied to the consumer is evident.”
W. F. Wilcox: “I want to call attention to one point: Municipalities in the south borrow money from 1 per cent. to 1 1/2 per cent. below what their private corporate competitors do. That is one of the unfortunate things that the private plants have to contend with. I believe I am right in stating that the majority of the private companies pay 6 per cent. We pay 4 1/2 per cent.; so you can see that we have a practical advantage of 25 per cent, in the time of interest.
Leslie C. Smith, superintendent, Cleveland: “In the discussion of this matter of the cost of furnishing water I cannot but believe that a vital part of it must hinge upon the cost under varying conditions. The cost of supply differs widely in different plants. But the matter of pumpage ought to be a common basis of comparison in all plants. So that, following the remarks of a previous speaker, it is not the cost of the water delivered that offers a correct basis of comparison between one city and another, but it is whether or not each individual department that has to do with the furnishing of this water will compare favorably with a like department in another plant. For instance, from the time the pumps take the water until that water enters the main we may call that the pumpage, and include labor, fuel, oil. waste, etc. These charges to be subject and amenable to comparison in every plant. Now if the matter of purification enters into that, that is another sub-division. If that added to the cost is to be taken as a comparative basis for another city, whether it be in softening, purification or whatsoever else, right there the figures must diverge and are unfair. So must the question of supply be considered. I find the only helpful part in a comparison is in being able to select the things that apply to my own individual situation as compared with like conditions in another city, to see if I am producing and pumping as much water, and if I am supplying and delivering as much water at the same cost as another city is doing it. If not, then there arises the question in my judgment of an improvement in some particular.”
S. J. Rosamond, Fort Smith. Ark: “In my city I am pumping 150,000,000 gallons of water every twenty-four hours, and in another city they are only pumping from three millions to five million gallons every twenty-four hours, the latter would certainly present different conditions. Then if there is a different head to pump against that would make a difference. I cannot see where you can draw a fair comparison based simply on rate figrues alone without taking into consideration the conditions under which the plant is operated, or the class of machinery that is used and that is necessary for that plant to meet those conditions, and all those various details that are included in the pumping stations under which the companies compared are operated. I have been up against this comparison business since 1905. It has caused me a great deal of trouble. I have had some of our aldermen quote rates from some city where the department takes no account of taxes and probably has no bonds out and have their plant paid for, and are taking no account of the capital investment, the only accounting being bare cost of fuel and salaries, which of course does not furnish a fair basis of comparison. I cannot see that such a basis could be furnished except by taking into consideration the difference in cost per 1,000 gallons for delivering water at the tap, and in ascertaining the cost of that the property investment must be considered, as well as all other proper items of cost.”
Dabney H. Maury, C.E.: “It seems to me that the whole question of comparison or rates ought to be viewed from two points of view. I think it ought to be admitted that if we are considering the rates in any one location those rates should be based upon the cost, distributed among the various kinds of services, such as public and private fire protection and the individual consumers; that there should be no free water to any one, but that each of these three classes, and as nearly as possible each consumer in each of these three classes should pay his just quota of the fairly distributed charges, no more, no less. A water department ought not to make a profit on one at the expense of the other. That ought, I think, to constitute a basis for fair rates. It follows that as the conditions vary in all plants it is absolutely necessary to consider all of the conditions involved in any specific case before you can decide what ought to be a fair rate. When you come to compare one plant with another, which is the second point of view for consideration in the question of rates, it seems to me equally indisputable that you consider the service which is furnished for the rates as well as the conditions by which the supply is surrounded. The basic question which was put up for solution in the National Civic Federation investigation of municipal ownership and operation, was the cost to the consumer of a comparable unit of service. Now a great many things enter into what constitutes a comparable unit of service. Sometimes everything is included in a rate. Very often that is not the case. It may sometimes even treble the amount of a rate in order that the service furnished for it may come up to the standard which may perhaps be fully covered by the water rate in some other towns. If a plant be built by a special assessment that does not appear in the water rate. If a plant be municipally owned and does not pay taxes, that does not appear as against the cost of production and is therefore not included in the water rate. If there be deficient protection against fire by reason of lack of pressure, that means extra appropriations for the fire department and extra insurance premiums; and that does not appear in the water rate. If the water be impure, and by reason of fear of disease large amounts of bottled water have to be bought by the community, or even other liquids have to be consumed, that does not appear in the water rate. If the pressure is insufficient to furnish the upper stories of houses with the desired supply, with the result that increased pumping is required which has to be put in in the most expensive manner in small installations on owners’ premises, and operated, therefore, at a very large unit of expense, that does not appear in the water rate. So that really when you get down to a final analysis and endeavor to compare what is being done in one city with what is being done in another, you have to take all these things into consideration, or otherwise you may be led into an unfair comparison.” J. D. Barnett, C.E., Stratford, Ont., Canada: “There is one point in this matter that has not been alluded to so far—namely, how long should your bonds run in order to be absolutely equitable? Is thirty years an equitable time, in view of not only the physical deterioration of the plant, but the function of deterioration that is steadily going on? I believe that the thirty years period was wrong, so that in the last report to the citizens I said that in the future our board in recommending the issue of further bonds for extensions, meter equipment, and such things, would not ask for bonds of any longer than a 15-year period.
Dow R. Gwinn, Terre Haute, Ind.: “Personally I feel under obligations to Mr. Mead for having prepared the excellent paper which has brought out this discussion this morning. I was especially interested in the points made by Mr. Maury with reference to the question of service. I had occasion last summer to visit an eastern city where they furnish water to the metered customers at a rate of 5 cents per 1,000 gallons. That rate is frequently quoted to private companies as an argument to private companies to furnish water at the same price. I asked a friend in that city about his water rate. He told me it was very cheap indeed, very low. I said, What about your drinking water? He told me how much they had to buy and it figured up to $3 per month, or $36 per year. I asked him if it would not be cheaper if he paid a higher rate and got a better quality of water and would be relieved of buying drinking water outside. I am glad to see a growing disposition on the part of the courts to take into consideration differences arising from locality and their different conditions in the cost of producing service The legislatures are looking at it also in that light, and it is time that they did. But in Kansas the legislature recently passed a law which provides that the city commissioners, where the government is under the commission form, can fix the water rates, and gives them full power to fix the rates to be charged by a company not only to the citizens but to the city as well for fire protection; but they are not allowed to make those rates lower than such as to enable the company to earn 10 per cent, on its investment after paying operating expenses, cost of maintenance, taxes, etc., which I think is very fair indeed. It allows for cost and also for maintenance. That seems to be one of the fairest laws that I have come against for some time.”
A. H. Wehr, Baltimore: “It was such considerations as have been mentioned which the committee on uniform reports and accounts have had in mind, and which emphasized the importance of the work which has been begun by the committee. The various points which have been raised in this discussion have all been carefully considered by us and also by the Census Bureau at Washington, in the at tempt to arrive at some scheme of accounts which would make it possible to present for consideration all the various factors entering into the service of water supply in connection with a comparison of rates. I have in mind one matter that has always struck me as very wrong and unjust—namely, the water rates charged by the municipal department of the city of Baltimore. My company operates in mediately on the outskirts of Baltimore, and a comparison is often made between the city rates and our own. After going through the old records for as much as twenty-five years back in searching through the city archives I found the extraordinary fact that a resolution had been adopted upon the recommendation of the then mayor of Baltimore, that in order to encourage the introduction of manufactures into the city large factories and consumers of water should be given an especially low rate; and in accordance with the recommendation the Baltimore city council passed an ordinance directing the water board to install metered services for manufacturers and other large consumers of water; and instead of giving them the fiat rate charge they were given the very low rate of 6 cents per 1,000 gallons, and that price is what they are charged today, whereas other consumers are now charged a less rate. Under the schedule rates to domestic consumers the average rate paid in Baltimore by them is less than 4 cents per 1,000 gallons, whereas manufacturers to whom it was originally intended to give an exceptionally low rate to encourage them to come to Baltimore, are paying 6 cents per 1,000 gallons. No one seems to know the difference; no one stops to inquire why that condition exists, and it is apparently not ob served except by those of us who are interested in the proposition as waterworks men. When we began to analyze the figures we found that the only charge that is made based upon the cost of water is to cover coal expenses, the operating department and the interest on the bonded indebtedness. No depredation charge has ever been made. A sinking fund is providd by direct taxes, and every year or two there is a special appropriation in the budget to cover the deficit in the various departments. That is a condition I think that is not rather unusual. It occurred to myself as one member of this committee that that city should be informed that there is no department or company that is fixing its rates today upon the proper basis. We know the amount of work that has been done in connection with the fixing of gas rates and electric light rates. We have heard of a sliding scale, the Boston sliding rate, the Dougherty rate, and a number of other rates in connection with gas and electric light. It was impossible for us to embody all the various schemes of rate making and apply them to water rates fully. Before one could do that the conditions must be substantially the same in all plants. The biggest capital investment should be considered, also the capacity of your plant and whether that capacity is used in full or only in part; and the rate to my mind should be divided at least into two factors, one being fixed representing the approximate demand, and the other being variable, representing and embodying the consumption and the customer cost. The demand cost is that cost which is fixed, based and predicated entirely upon the capacity of the system; consumption cost is that cost which varies with the quantity of water consumed. The customer cost depends upon the number of customers, and runs up by jumps. As your customers increase several thousand you have to increase your force, and the customer cost in creases accordingly. It has occurred to me that the proper method, or one that might be tried until found wanting, would be a fixed fiat rate based upon the number of feet of the distribution system which is occupied by the premises of each and every consumer. This is fixed without regard to the quantity of water in use. When a flat rate covering these costs is once established you will find that the meter rate covering consumption cost will be very low. In that way a low rate is automatically applied to the large consumer of water, and a relatively higher rate to the smaller consumer. The entire question of rate making, it seems to me must have some basis of this character in order to be just to yourself and absolutely and fairly give you a proper comparative basis as between municipalities and private plants without regard to their location, but having regard only to the conditions under which they operate and to the variable service they furnish.”
A. A. Reimer, East Orange, N. J.: “It seems to me a great deal has been said about the weakness of the municipal ownership system, and I think that it deserves a little word of commendation. In our plant in East Orange we still hear rumblings of comparisons between the old rates established by the private water company from which the city purchased and the present rates. Fortunately for us those rumblings are becoming less and less numerous, for we have given every one a chance to invstigate to the fullest extent the department management, the financial system in use, the system of revenue, etc., and there seems to be general contentment now. We account for everything, or try at any rate to account for every department in our water supply system. We account for the interest on the bonds; we account for the sinking fund. We pay it all ourselves. We get no help whatever from the municipality for fire protection, for water furnished to the various public buildings, for any service rendered to the municipal department. We get nothing. Therefore, in order to show the citizens what I believe to be the fair condition of the department, each year we make an estimate of the cost to the plant as it stands at the end of the year, allowing for what would be the amount of taxes if it were a private plant based on the full city rate assessed against any private consumer on his property; we charge that off. Then we take credit for water supplied to the city, at no time exceeding the immediate rate charged to the largest consumers; so that the city gets the full benefit of everything that we give to them, and we take as much benefit as we can fairly take under that statement. The question of fire protection has been thoroughly threshed out, because the system is right up to the mark on fire protection, there are no weak points in it at all; and I feel that the rates that are established now, which have just been revised I might add so far as meter charges are concerned, represent the lowest working point that we can adopt for the time being. We have just made a reduction of 14 per cent. on the meter charges. Now I mentioned this simply to show that a municipal plant can take account of everything and still show a profit at the end of the year. We have to provide, however, for a possible contingency in the future. The state law of New York, as we are informed by our state attorney, forbids our making a cash charge and collecting actual cash for any service rendered the city. For that reason we have to make an assessment charge which we do not report as an actual cash item, but simply show as an addendum to our financial report, in order to give the public the correct idea of what the department stands for in its expenses. Our flat rates are 10 per cent. lower than those charged by the old private company and the meter rates are about 40 per cent, less than those charged by the private company formerly; yet, as I say, we show a profit after accounting for everything.”
Annual Water Report of Springfield.
The year 1909 was the second in succession of very small rainfall and it was fortunate for Springfield that the Little river source of supply was available. This, by adding 2,596,000,000 gallons to the storage capacity, averted what might have been a serious state of affairs. The low service has now been entirely eliminated and all the mains in the city are now connected directly to the Ludlow and the Little river supplies. The distribution systme has been extended sufficiently to ensure greatly improved fire service and the present year should see the main circuit entirely completed. The Ludlow supply will always be kept in a thoroughly sanitary condition and ready for immediate use, so that the opening of one gate will bring its pressure to bear immediately upon the city’s mains. It will also be possible to use the Little river supply in connection with the Ludlaw supply at a somewhat reduced pressure. The aggregate storage supply, available for the estimated population of 88,397 in Springfield and Ludlow, is 4,030,518.000 gallons, of which the impounding reservoirs in Ludlow and Belchertown, fed by natural streams, springs and surface water, furnish 1,434,218,000 gallons, the Westfield Little river system furnishing the balance. There is also available an auxiliary supply for emergency use by pumping from Chapin, Five Mile and Loon ponds, but in spite of the dry season, this was not resorted to during 1909. Of the total population it is estimated that 85,000 draw their supply of water from the city’s mains, and the total consumption for the year is estimated at 3,871,788,600 gallons, of which 1,522,206,324 gallons, a proportion of 39.32 per cent., passed through meters. The average daily consumption is estimated at 10.607.640 gallons, which allows to each consumer 125 gallons per day. The total cost of supplying water, figured on total maintenance, is $24.26: or including interest on bonds, $39.47 per 1,000,000 gallons. In the distribution system are included 174.87 miles of mains with 3,240 stop gates. The number of hydrants is 1,367 and the pressure in mains on the Ludlow supply was formely 90 to 120 pounds, the new supply from the Little river system, which has taken the place of the above being about 135 pounds on the Main street level and about 70 pounds in the Hill section. There were at latest accounts 12,134 service taps in use and 6,876 meters, besides 141 indicators on elevators and motors. The proportion of services metered was 57.83 per cent.; of receipts from metered water 66.04 per cent. The total income from water supplied to domestic consumers was $298,449, with $58,080 received from municipal departments. The sum of $197,114.11 was received from consumers for metered water. The sum total maintenance expenditures charged for 1909 was $93,948.68. Chief Superintendent Alfred E. Martin, in his report recommends that some action be taken to prevent the opening of hydrants by any but properly authorized persons.
New Water System of Los Angeles.
Begun four years ago and now over two-thirds completed, the $23,000,000 Los Angeles water system constitutes one of the most remarkable engineering feats of American history. The system is 234 miles long and crosses two mountain ranges and two deserts. The water runs the entire way in tunnels or closed cement conduits, the longest tunnel being over five miles long. Originally planned to supply Los Angeles with water for irrigation and domestic purposes, it later became apparent that only ten per cent, of the volume of water handled would be required for these purposes. The enormous balance could best be utilized as water power, and to install a plant to sell power to the surrounding towns the people of Los Angeles at the last election voted an additional bond issue of $3,000,000, as proof of their confidence in the feasibility of the project and the ability of Chief Engineer William Mulholland and his assistant, W. Brown Smith, to accomplish the work. This vote for an additional bond issue, carried by a three to one majority, after watching the progress of the work for four years and in the face of all the political influence of the power interests, is pointed out as a tribute to the business acumen of the community. Later, if an electric lighting plant is desired, an additional $3,000,000 bond issue will be necessary. It is expected that 130,000 horsepower will be developed, and figuring only on the sale of 100,000 horsepower to other towns and manufacturing industries at the rate of one cent per kilowat an annual income of $600,000 will be derived which may be used to lower water rates. This rate for power is about one-fourth the present charge of private corporations. The $23,000,000 appropriated for the water plant pays for the right of way, the original surveys, estimates, the land over which the conduit runs, the land on the water sheds, three small power plants for generating power to carry on the work, all of which will become part of the big power plant system, a cement plant where will be manufactured all the cement used, all power transmission lines and the actual excavations and constructions. Moreover, it is estimated that from $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 will be saved out of the original appropriation. With the exception of a few small unimportant contracts which were let out the city has done its own contracting. In spite of the prevalent idea that a city government cannot be trusted to do this branch of the work without graft creeping in, Los Angeles has actually carried out the work at lower cost than the bids submitted by private contractors, and although the fund handled was immense no charge of graft has been made. These facts were brought out in refutation of statements to the effect that Los Angeles would eventually be involved to the extent of $50,000,000, made by the Denver (Col.) Union Water Company in an effort to discorage municipal ownership, and constitute a remarkable example of the possibilities open to a city of strong initiative and self-confidence.
Greenfield Water and Fire Service.
The Greenfield Fire District Waterworks, organized to supply the town of Greenfield, Mass., and vicinity with water and afford it protection from fire, ministers to the requirements of a population of about 10,000. The district owns the waterworks and the fire department equipment, its management being vested in a prudential committee and board of water commissioners, with Philip Partenheimer as chief engineer and practical head of the fire department, the technical direction of the waterworks being in the hands of George F. Merrill as superintendent. The sources of water supply are Glen brook, Leyden and Green rivers, by gravity and emergency pumping, the reservoirs having a capacity of 44,000,000 and 24,000,000 gallons respectively. Distribution is effected by 41 miles of pipe, of 1 inch to 39 inches in diameter, and the fire district owns 218 hydrants. The fire department has a manual strength of seventy members, including the chief engineer, three assistant engineers, three captains and three lieutenants. organized as two hose and one hook and ladder companies. The apparatus consists of two hose wagons, each carrying 1,000 feet of hose and each equipped with a 35-gallon chemical tank, pony chemicals, Eastman deluge sets and perfection holders with complete outfit of minor tools and ladders, one modern hook and ladder truck, with chemical attachments and 12 to 60-foot ladders, two hose reels and an Eagle hand engine in reserve. During the past year the department responded to 8 box alarms and 34 still alarms. The Springfield Fire District is equipped with a Gamewell fire alarm system, including two 8-inch whistles, a four-circuit storage battery switchboard, a combination gong and indicator, three strikers and thirty-four fire alarm boxes. There are three outside and one house circuit in the line, which contains about 12 miles of covered iron wire. The system is in charge of L. H. Streeter as superintendent of fire alarm. The expenses of the fire department for the past year, including salaries, running expenses and care of apparatus, amounted to $7,764.73.
The Water Supply of Fitchburg.
Located on the Nashua river, in Worcester county, Fitchburg, Mass., has an estimated population of 18,000, engaging principally in the varied manufacturing industries, from which the city derives its importance. The water supply is derived from brooks, ponds and other surface sources, collected in a territory extending 2 to 8 miles from the business centre and impounded in storage reservoirs, from which it flows by gravity to the city. The works, completed by the city in 1873, furnish annually 1,095,000,000 gallons of water of good quality, the average daily consumption being 3,000,000, which allows 86 gallons to each consumer. In the distribution system are 76.5 miles of mains, of 2 to 30 inches diameter, with 708 stop gates; the average high service pressure is 165, low service 86 pounds. There are 631 hydrants in use and 5,067 services; the number of meters in use being 3,504. The receipts from metered water were $67,604.56 the net total revenue of the department being $81,475.84. Of the meters in use the city owns 655 and consumers 2,849. The cost of maintenance was $44,337.31, $37,138.53 having been turned over to the city treasurer.
During the year the city suffered the loss, by death, of Thomas C. Lovell, who. since 1875. had been superintendent of the waterworks and who also at different periods served Fitchburg as water commissioner and city engineer. To succeed him the commissioners elected A. W. F. Brown, formerly water register.
Water Shortage in Hartford.
The imminence of a shortage in the water supply of the city of Hartford, Conn., is giving rise to no little alarm, and at a recent meeting of the Landlords’ and Taxpayers’ Association the subject was discussed at considerable length. Various suggestions looking to an increase in the city’s available supply were offered, among them an increase in the number and capacity of reservoirs so that water that is now being wasted could be saved for use, the addition to the sources of supply of a system of artesian wells and providing the supply for manufacturing, street sprinkling, fire and similar purposes, by means of a separate and independent pumping outfit. This brought up the question of the use of Connecticut river, which the meeting opposed with striking unanimity, Nepany water, well water, or water from any other source being advocated in preference to the Connecticut water, which, it was urged, was not only unreliable as to Quantity, but which had been emphatically condemned on the score of quality by competent water experts.
Novel English Fire Escape.
Description of a new horse-drawn fire escape is given in a recent issue of the London Fireman from which the following is taken:
“The fire escape is of the self-supporting type, and comprises a hose tender, fire escape and water tower. The body of the machine consists of a four-wheeled tender with accommodation for 1,000 feet of canvas hose and other gear. The escape ladders, which are three in number, and extend to a total height of 50 feet, are of the makers’ standard pattern, with detachable rungs. They are pivoted at the rear of the tender, and rest horizontally on the carriage while traveling, but can be rapidly raised to the vertical position when required for use. A special feature of the escape is its adaptability for use as a water tower for directing a jet into the upper floors of a burning building; for this purpose the ladders stand entirely self-supported, with a fireman at the top to manipulate the jet. The ladders are fitted with patent bowstring girder trussing of light steel tube, giving great strength and rigidity without adding materially to the weight. At the foot of the ladders are two sliding iron bars, the pointed ends of which are dropped on to the ground when the machine is in use, thus increasing the stability of the machine. Plumbing gear is fitted, by means of which the ladders can be adjusted vertically when working on a hill-side or uneven ground. The ladders can be extended at a low angle to “bridge” over a forecourt or area, and can be automatically adjusted to any window within reach, with the utmost precision. A bell is fitted on the main ladder, which automatically rings as the rungs are brought opposite each other when extending. By this means the ladders are readily adjusted with the rungs in the most convenient positions for mounting, an advantage which will be specially appreciated when the escape is being operated at night.
“Pole and sway bars are fitted for a pair of horses, as well as a pair of shafts for single horse. The wheels are of the artillery pattern, with metal hubs. The footboards are covered with pyramid rubber and edged with polished brass bead. Accommodations is provided for eight men, including driver and officer.”
The dimensions and weight of the machine are not given, but it may be estimated that in order to ensure stability not less than 6.000 pounds would be necessary while the extreme extension, as stated, does not exceed 50 feet.
Three-Alarm Fire at Newark.
A strong contingent of the Newark, N. J., firefighting force was called out when three alarms were rung in for a fire that destroyed the Art Metal Works in the center of the factory district of that city recently. The list of casualties to the firemen reads like a report from a battlefield. The working force had just left for the day, only the clerks in the office being in the building, when fire broke out in the plating department in the second story. Word was sent to the near-by quarters of Engine Company No. 2. and an unsuccessful attempt made to reach headquarters by telephone. Engine 2 was on hand immediately, and Captain Robotham at once sent in a second alarm which he followed almost directly with a third. This brought 12 engines— 1 extra first-size, 4 extra second, 1 second and 1 extra third Amoskeag, l first and 1 second-size Metropolitan, 1 first-size and 2 extra secondsize LaFrance-—three large aerial ladder trucks, one large city truck, a high-pressure equipment wagon, a water tower and reserve and supply wagons, with Chief W. C. Astley, the deputy chief and several battalion chiefs. Before the firemen arrived the fire had a good start and was burning freely in three stories when they reached the scene. Although they speedily had 23 streams playing on the flames, 17 from engines and 6 from high-pressure hydrants, the fire spread rapidly and burned three hours before the firemen got the upper hand of it. For fighting the fire there were plenty of four-inch and six-inch and highpressure hydrants available, spaced about 200 feet apart and furnishing all the water needed for engine supply and hydrant streams, under 60 to 145 pounds pressure. Nine thousand five hundred feet of hose was laid and 1 1/4 to 2-inch nozzles used, with one Hart turret pipe. The four-story brick building, about 150×75 feet, and built about fifty years ago, was unprovided with partition walls and had no means of interior fire protection except a few extinguishers and pails, an open elevator shaft contributing to the rapid spread of the flames. The firemen were, however, successful in confining it to the building where it started, although this necessitated hard and well directed work. The character and location of the fire spurred them to extraordinary efforts to obtain control and scvral were hurt as a consequence. Three were quite badly injured when a ladder broke and threw them to the ground, two were hurt by the slipping of a badly balanced ladder, and one, a salvage corps man, was overcome by smoke while covering goods. The automobile recently purchased for Chief Astley had its first official run at this fire and was pressed into service to transport the injured men to the hospital. The value of the buildings involved was $125,000, and of the contents, consisting of art metal articles and machinery, used in their production, $100,000. The loss on buildings is estimated at $20,000 and on contents at $40,000. Considering the headway the fire had before the department arrived and the fact that they were obstructed in their work by overhead electric conductors, the comparatively small loss is creditable to the chief and his men, and evidence of the efficiency of the firefighting equipment at their command. Immediately adjoining the scene of the above fire is the building of the Riley-Klotz Mfg. Co., in which a disastrous fire last December caused the loss of several lives.
International Fire Engineers.
To ensure beyond question a large gathering, commensurate with the extensive preparations being made, Secretary McFall, of the International Asociation of Fire Engineers, is sending broadcast notices of the thirty-eighth annual convention of the association to be held August 23 to 26 in Syracuse, N. Y. Besides the bulletin to members a letter is being sent to municipal authorities pointing out the advantages of having the local chief attend; another notice to chiefs not members urges the value of the business anti social sessions, while a separate invitation is extended to members of the New York State Association, who hold their meeting in Syracuse August 22, to remain for the sessions of the International. Manufacturers and dealers in fire department supplies are also requested to notify Chief Quigley in regard to the amount of space they will require.
The program as laid out provides four days of exceptional interest for the fire chiefs. The first day will be devoted to the formal opening, a business session, and memorial services for members deceased the past year. Wednesday is exhibitors’ day. Troop D armory on West Jefferson street having been secured for the exhibit hall. In the evening there will be a social session at the Elks’ hall. Thursday morning the Syracuse department will be seen on parade, the afternoon and following day to be devoted to business sessions. The topics include papers on motor apparatus, high-pressure service, benefits derived from inspections and tests by the underwriters, automatic sprinklers, fire cisterns, etc. Everything points to a most profitable meeting for the men, while a theatre party, trolley and automobile rides and shopping tours will make the occasion a memorable one for the ladies.
The Waterous Gasoline Engine.
To avoid disaster something more is needed in the average village or town than a bucket brigade. There must be a system of pumpage, and for communities that have outgrown the hand pump the gasoline engine would appear to be a desirable substitute. The Waterous Engine Works Company, of St. Paul, Minn., is distributing a catalogue giving full details as to the merits of this method of pumping. Waterous gasoline engines of all descriptions up to 800 gallons capacity, both horse and hand drawn, are depicted with records of their performance in action. The “Pioneer” auto engine is also shown. This is a most valuable piece of apparatus for the larger town or where a wide extent of territory must be covered. This company also manufacturers trucks, hose carts and reels, extinguishers and sundries of every nature for fire protection. The catalogue is free on request.
Chief Gleason Serves Thirty Years.
Thomas C. Gleason has just completed his thirtieth year as chief of the Ware, Mass., fire department, having been first elected to that position May 10, 1880. Since that time the department has responded to 420 alarms, only five of which fires were missed by Chief Gleason. The total amount of insurance involved amounted to $1,385,473 and the losses paid to $218,647.