Montreal Faces a Dangerous Dilemma by Collapse of Water Conduit
Montreal, Quebec, on Christmas Day, was forced into a very perplexing situation by the bursting of the main conduit which supplies the city with its water. The city was at once brought face to face with a water famine and typhoid epidemic, aside from being helpless in case a fire should break ont. The break occurred in the concrete intake conduit leading from the St. Lawrence river. Zero weather prevailed at the time, and many buildings, including hospitals, were compelled to extinguish their fires because of no water for their boilers. Water in tank cars was frozen before it reached consumers. In the hospitals doctors and nurses wore fur coats and extra blankets were heaped upon the patients. Many business places and offices were closed from lack of heat.
Mayor Lavell’s advice that the manufacturing plants shut down temporarily was generally followed. The railroads had trouble getting, water for their locomotives. The hotels bought up the supply of distilled waters and dealt it ont in pitchers with the request that guests drink as sparingly as possible. In most of the hotels, baths were unthought of. A mile of hose stretched to the St. Lawrence river saved the city from a conflagration. On account of the break in the intake pipe the hydrants were all but useless. The fire destroyed a block of stores and houses at St. Hubert and Ontario streets and caused $200,000 damage before it was checked. With only one weak stream of water at its disposal the fire department was obliged to depend upon chemical extinguishers. Dynamite was sent for, but before it arrived coupled hoses brought plenty of water from the river and the explosive was not used. Two three-story buildings and 60 automobiles were destroyed while the firemen were devoting their efforts successfully to preventing the flames from reaching a 2,000-gallon tank of gasoline.
Repair work was rushed with large gangs of workmen and a large staff of engineers. Three hundred and fifty feet from the actual break a manhole three and a half feet in diameter was opened and fifty workmen were started carrying buckets of burning tar through two feet of water. The grouting around the steel sleeve which had been fitted to replace the broken conduit was stopped by means of bricks and tar.
In the meantime the Montreal Water and Power Company opened the valves which it has connecting with the city system, and it is from this company that Montreal is now getting what water it has. This company can supply certain parts of the city, but it is said that parts of the upper level may be without water, as the company is faced with the problem of providing 335,000 people more than usual. As the precaution against fire, the lower level reservoir on McTavish street was held back, and there are 20,000,000 gallons of water there. The higher level reservoir and the upper level reservoir are open and are ready to assist those districts where the greatest difficulty is in providing water. The total daily consumption of the city is about 50,000,000 gallons at the present time, and the supply is wholly dependent on the one conduit between the river and the over level pumping station, where all the valves are shut, making the city dry, so far as the civic plant is concerned. The insurance companies are having their interests protected by the Canadian Fire Underwriters’ Association, whose inspector was on the spot preparatory to making a report which will be distributed to the companies.
Description of the Water System
The accompanying map shows the source of Montreal’s water supply. The intake is on the river bank about six miles west from the lower level pumping station at the end of Centre street, Point St. Charles, where are situated the valves and seven pumps, which have a daily capacity of 60,000,000 gallons. Between the intake and the pumps is a nine-foot oval concrete conduit, which runs in a bank, and is the city’s only source of supply for the distributing system. The system is one of direct pumping through 36-inch, 30-inch and 24-inch mains, to all parts of the city, while the surplus water is taken by seven mains to three reservoirs. The largest reservoir is the lower level at the head of McTavish street, 207 feet above the lower pumping station level, which has a total capacity of 37,000,000 gallons, but at the present time has only one tank filled. Two hundred feet higher is the higher level pumping station, with a capacity of 2,000,000 gallons; this reservoir feeds the high pressure loop, which is a main connecting to all the large buildings of the city, giving extra high pressure in case of fire. In case of emergency, like this, the whole city can be cut off by closing the valves at the Point St. Charles station, though Outrement, Westmount and Maisonncuve are unaffected, as these cities are fed by tbe Montreal Water and Power Company. This company has a total pumping capacity of 83,000,000 gallons, but much of the pumping capacity is duplicated, and it will be all that their pumps can do to give the necessary pressure to all districts.
The large mains of the city run from the pumping station via Atwater avenue, along St. James street, Atwater avenue, along St. Antoine street, Craig street, up St. Urbain street to Demontigny street as far as Delorimier avenue. St. Catherine street is fed by two 24-inch mains from Atwater avenue, and these run nearly to Blcury, the line being continued by a line which runs up Blcury and then east. A 30-inch main runs from Atwater avenue on to Sherbrooke street east to Papineau and Delorimier avenues. What is known as the high pressure loop runs from the high level reservoir by a 12-inch line along Sherbrooke street west to Atwater avenue, and east on St. Catherine street to Bleury. up which it runs to Sherbrooke street and turns east as far as Park Lafontaine. The line continues on the west side of Park Lafontaine as far as Rachel street, where the pipe enlarges to a 16-inch main and runs to Papineau avenue and on to the booster pumps in Rosemount ward.
Statement by the Contractor
Patrick McGovern, of Patrick McGovern & Company, of Boston, the contractors who built the Montreal aqueducts, said that when the work was under construction he had protested to the Montreal authorities that the specifications called for in the design were inadequate and that the structure consequently would be weak He said his protest was overruled by George Janin. chief engineer for the city, who claimed that from a scientific standpoint the conduit as designed would stand pressure. Mr. McGovern then decided there was nothing to do but carry out the specifications. When he came to the heavy trenches he said he put in more concrete than was actually called for, because he knew the foundations would be too light to stand otherwise. He wanted no come-back on his side, he said, and so instructed his own engineer and superintendent. It is his opinion that the bursting of the conduit was caused by the new work on the canal which runs parallel to the acqueduct. This canal is being deepened and he thinks the operations so close to the conduit caused a slide which placed a burden on one side of the concrete structure and weakened the other. If there was no such disturbance, he believes, the structure might have held. If there was a job in Canada which was built according to the plans and specifications prepared it was the six-mile aqueduct leading into the Montreal pumping station I criticised the design when it was presented to me, because I thought the specifications railed for were inadequate I put in more concrete than was called for all along the line I was apprehensive of its strength and thought the whole thing was too light to stand any extraordinary pressure. I pointed out to the chief engineer for the rity, George Janin, some bad ground and asked him to change the plans to make the structure stronger. He told me he had figured out that the conduit as designed would stand any pressure and would be all right from a scientific standpoint. He thought it would stand any load put on it. Our own engineer also criticised the design. I could not go over the head of the authority put in charge of the work by the city of Montreal, and it was up to him to art on the suggestion and take it up with the water commission to change the specifications. When they were not changed there was nothing else for to do but go ahead on the design prepared. I knew that in the heavy trenches the structure would be too light and cautioned my own superintendent and engineer to keep the concrete on each side several inches thicker than the plans called for. I was anxious and did not want anything to happen. Our skirts are certainly clean in the matter. The materials used were absolutely the best that could be got. They were there, too, for them to see and inspect. I used more than was called for, for the smiple reason that I was afraid I would get tied up if anything happened and did not want the blame to rest on me. At any place where there is a break I am willing to have the concrete taken out and tested and measured to see if there is not as much and more concrete put in than was called for in the specifications. That goes for any place along the whole six miles from one end to the other. It is my opinion that the break, wherever it is, may have been caused by the new work going on close to the aqueduct and parallel to it. The canal there is being deepened and the aqueduct may have been weakened by these operations. What probably happened is that a slide occurred near the concrete structure, placing an unbalanced load upon it so that when the pressure was increased on one side and reduced on the other the conduit collapsed.
It is Mr. McGovern’s opinion that the effect of this canal work was not anticipated by the engineers who designed the aqueduct, although it was going on at the same time.