Knoxville Owns Well-Equipped Water Plant
Knoxville, Tenn., has owned its own water plant for three years. The plant was purchased from the Knoxville Water Company, composed chiefly of Boston capital, in September, 1909, the purchase price being approximately $1,250,000. That the deal was a good one on the city’s part has been well demonstrated each year since the city took over the holdings. Extensive improvements and additions have been made to the plant, and thus it has been enhanced in value since coming into the hands of the city. The plant is under the direction of George P. McTeer, commissioner of parks and public property. Major H. M. Aiken is general superintendent of the plant. Knoxville’s water system consists of more than 118 miles of mains, exclusive of the laterals that extend from the street lines to houses or curb lines. These mains extend into every part of the city and many of the suburbs and are so constructed that there will be no stagnation therein. The water supply is taken from the Tennessee river, which is fed by hundreds of branches, creeks and smaller rivers carrying the water shed from mountain sides throughout East Tennessee. The water plant pumping station is on the eastern limits of the city. An intake tower, upon the northern bank of the river, collects the water which is then pumped into the mains to the reservoir, which is located in east Knoxville, upon the highest eminence in the city. The most modern and improved equipment is installed in the pumping station. New boilers have recently been installed, and every part of the plant’s machinery is in the very best condition. The station has two pumps, one with a capacity of 10,000,000 gallons in 24 hours, and one with a capacity of 6,000,000 gallons every 24 hours. The city and suburbs are now consuming about 6,000,000 gallons of water daily, the amount that can be forced from the river daily by the smaller of the two pumps Two mammoth 24-inch mains extend from the pumping station to the reservoir or settling basin. There the water is put through a filtration process before it is permitted to enter the standpipe, distributing reservoirs or mains over the city. The filter is made from a sand shipped from Maine. This sand is especially adapted to this sort of work. The water is free from foreign and bacterial matter after it has gone through the sand. These filters are cleaned twice each day by flushing, thus being kept in good sanitary condition. Sometimes they are cleaned of tetter than this if it is found necessary. Analysis of the water supplied inhabitants of Knoxville and suburbs are being made continuously from samples of water direct from the reservoir and standpipes. A chemist is employed at the station, whose duty it is to make these analyses and report on the water’s condition. It is shown by the laboratory records that 99.5 per cent, of the foreign and bacterial matter is removed from the water, thus about only one-half of 1 per cent, of foreign matter being allowed to get into the mains. This means that Knoxville has practically pure water. It is considered an exceptionally good record by water experts. Chemists and bacteriologists who have tested the water from the Tennessee river say that it cannot be included in the list of “polluted” water.
The system has two standpipes—one on reservoir hill in East Knoxville and one on a hill in West Lonsdale. These standpipes have the same elevation. They are about three miles apart. A main from reservoir hill to the Beaumont standpipe in West Lonsdale supplies the latter with water, which is distributed over that or reservoirs into the standpipes, and also in West Knoxville. When necessary the entire water plant is put under high pressure. On account of the undulating topography of Knoxville, it is impossible to have a uniform pressure. The average reservoir pressure is estimated at 50 pounds, though it varies from 45 to 00 pounds, according to the sections of the city and the height of buildings. The minimum pressure, 45 pounds, is considered sufficient for all commercial and domestic purposes. In case of fire the high pressure is put on. ranging from 90 to 120 pounds. At the reservoir is a large steam pump, which has a capacity of 4,500,000 gallons daily. This pump forces the water from the filter tanks section of the city near the standpipe. When an alarm is rung in over the city’s electric fire alarm system, it registers at the reservoir as well as at the fire stations. The entire system is automatically thrown under high pressure, starting the pump if it should be idle, and forcing water into the standpipes. These tanks, which old 500,000 gallons of water each, are kept full all the time. With the splendid equipment at the plant, there should never be a shortage of water, even in case of very serious fire. The city is protected from fire by more than hydrants, scattered throughout the entire city. In addition to these there arc more tnan 100 by drants in various suburbs and private plants, increasing the total number of hydrants attached to the local water plant to more than 450. These hydrants are kept in good condition at all times. The same water that is used in the homes feeds the hydrants and is also used in cleaning the streets and flushing the sewers, so that nothing but filtered water is allowed to run through the mains. More than 10,500 connections are now made with the water system into as many homes, business houses, offices and other places where water is needed. Until January 27 of this year the water plant was in control of the Knoxville water commission, a body authorized by State law and perpetuated by the city council. Upon the new charter becoming effective the plant was placed in the hands of the commissioner of parks and public property. The purchase of the plant by the city resulted after much speculation as to what would become of the property, and after years of negotiation with the former owners, composed principally of Boston men. The first water franchise in Knoxville was obtained in 1883 by the Knoxville Water Company, which was chartered by Gen. R. N. Hood, Capt. John M. Brooks and others. The franchise was obtained for 30 years and would have expired in 1913. As the time for the expiration of the franchise drew nearer, there was much debating as to what steps should he taken as to a water plant. The question of extending the franchise met popular opposition. Sentiment in favor of municipal ownership crystallized to such an extent that in 1905 a bill was passed by the general assembly of the State authorizing the city of Knoxville to issue $750,000 in bonds to buy or build a water plant. Surveys were made, plans outlined and a contract awarded for the construction of a plant in Knoxville to cost $680,000. This contract should be void if the city purchased the Knoxville Water Company’s plant.