Methods That Keep Our Water Works Up to Snuff

Methods That Keep Our Water Works Up to Snuff

How Water Works of Worcester Is Administered—Hydrants Maintained Free of Charge—Emergency Organization to Handle Breaks

George W. Batchelder, Water Commissioner, Worcester, Mass.

WORCESTER, MASS., has no water works board, as such. It is governed by a water committee of the city council and its head acts as water commissioner, superintendent and registrar. The present incumbent of this office is genial George W. Batchelder, who is known to all the members of the American Water Works Association and who is the author of the following article on his city and its water supply system:

Worcester, third city of New England, located forty-five miles from the sea coast and having no large stream or lake to furnish its water supply has had no mean problem to solve. The early settlers had no idea that the inland village of the middle nineteenth century would grow to be the busy manufacturing city of nearly two hundred thousand inhabitants in the early part of the twentieth century and could not have connected with a sufficient water supply because none existed. The development has been gradual, the system consisting of nine impounding reservoirs storing the run off of the comparatively small water sheds on the hills lying westerly from the city.

The present storage capacity is three and three tenths billion gallons to which will be added three billion gallons more when Pine Hill reservoir now being constructed is completed and filled. It is expected that this reservoir will be available to collect the run off in the spring of 1925.

The High Pressure Service Reservoirs

The reservoirs are divided into two groups, there being five on the high pressure system, with a combined storage of one and one half billion gallons and furnishing a gravity pressure at city hall of one hundred forty-five pounds. There are three cast iron supply lines conveying this water to the city. They are 36, 24 and 20 inches respectively and they are sufficiently large to supply water with small frictional loss and furnish very valuable fire protection to the parts of the city reached by them. The highest of these reservoirs sits at elevation 1085 while the elevation at city hall is 481.

Three Low Service Reservoirs

There are now three low service reservoirs having a combined storage of one and eight tenth billion gallons to which will be added in 1925 the storage of Pine Hill reservoir previously mentioned.

There are two cast iron supply mains 48 and 30 inches running from these reservoirs to the city and a 40-inch line running from an equalizing reservoir which gets its supply from the high service reservoirs. These large supply lines together with a grid ironed distribution system of good sized pipes makes the fire protection sufficiently good to meet the approval of the National Board of Fire Underwriters.

Largest Fires Tax System to Utmost

The largest fires of recent years occurred on January 19 and 20, 1921, when twenty-one bell alarms followed each other in rapid succession. With these fires raging and all available hydrants in use the high service pressure was maintained at one hundred twelve pounds and would doubtless have held higher except for a broken six-inch sprinkler main which was discovered after the ruins had cooled sufficiently to make an inspection.

Hydrants Installed and Maintained Free

The hydrants in this city are installed and maintained by the water department without expense to the city though in all fairness the department should be paid for this service. No hydrants have failed to be ready for the fireman when wanted which is partly due to the fact that nobody except a fireman in the discharge of his duties is allowed to open any hydrant without previously securing a permit from the water office and making an immediate report when a hydrant has been opened, thus allowing the water department to inspect and repair if necessary any hydrant opened.

A systematic inspection of hydrants is made during the winter months. Every hydrant in the business district is inspected every two days and in the residential district every four days. Repairs are made at once if necessary and a record made on a card index.

Offices and Personnel of Department

The main offices of the water department are located in City Hall where the executive work is done. The officers are elected annually by the city council and consist of a water commissioner whose duties consist of general superintendence of the department with full executive authority under the direction of the mayor; a water registrar who has charge of the income division which means the assessing of the water bills and some other duties. It so happens at present that both offices are filled by the same person with considerable economy to the city and it is hoped no loss in efficiency.

The work shop and garage of the department is located fairly centrally and about eight tenths of a mile away from city hall. In this place are located the offices of the general foreman, assistant general foreman, timekeeper and bookkeeper. There is also a meter repair shop, a meter testing room, a paint shop, carpenter shop and a small machine shop. In the garage are fourteen automobiles, mostly trucks which are used in the activities of the department.

Emergency Organization to Handle Breaks Promptly

A feature of the water department service is the maintenance of an emergency organization to quickly handle breaks in main pipes or hydrants and to assist the fire department by reporting at every second alarm of fire ready to act in keeping pipe lines and hydrants in operation. The emergency organization is never reduced below six men with quick facilities for calling in other men for service.

Card Index Shows Location of Gates and Mains

An emergency automobile is always ready for service, equipped with tools for handling accident cases. It is also equipped with a card index arranged in sections so that in case of a broken main it is only necessary to take the sectional card from the box and on it is shown the location of each gate necessary to close to stop the leak. The frequent breaking of hydrants by automobiles makes this emergency organization of greater value than ever.

Method of Water Works Government

The city government of Worcester consists of eleven aidermen and thirty councilmen whose powers are legislative and who are called collectively the city council. The are elected in December, the aldermen annually, the councilmen biannually. The mayor is the chief executive, elected by the people in December each year. He has the power of veto over the acts of the city council and executive power in the various departments, the heads of which are largely elected by the city council.

There is no water board or commission in Worcester but there is a joint standing committee on water appointed from the city council consisting of three aldermen, one of whom shall he chairman and four councilmen one of whom shall be chairman on the part of the common council.

Petitions for Water Service Go to City Council

All petitions for water service are received by the city council, referred to the water committee and reported back to the city council with certain recommendations. If these recommendations are approved by the city council they are forwarded to the mayor for his approval upon which if approved they are sent to the water office for action. The present mayor, Michael J. O’Hara was chairman of the water committee in 1923.

Facts About Water Department

A few facts about the water department of Worcester. It is self supporting paying all costs of maintenance, interest, etc. It has: 334.8 miles of main pipes; 222.2 miles of service pipe; 2,740 fire hydrants; 4,659 gate valves; 23,334 water meters; 24,134 service pipes.

It is just completing a reservoir at an expense of nearly three million dollars. It has the extremely low minimum water rate of $4 per year. Its principal supplies are tributary to the Blackstone River said to be the most highly developed water power in the world. It has paid heavy water damages because of the foregoing and will soon begin reducing its net indebtedness materially each year.

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