Philadelphia’s Water Supply

Philadelphia’s Water Supply

The expected report of the commission appointed by Mayor Moore of Philadelphia to consider the water situation of that city has been made and in spite of its rather broad recommendations has evoked no surprise from those who have knowledge of water conditions in the Quaker City. The rather desperate situation that the city finds itself in respect to its water supply is not a matter of sudden discovery. Rather it has been a slow deterioration covering years, resulting from a mistaken policy of false economy where the expenditure of a small amount yearly with proper foresight would have saved the city millions. Furthermore, this policy has not been the result of ignorance on the part of the powers that be, for one who should know better than any one else the necessary steps to be taken—Carlton E. Davis, chief of the Water Bureau—has not ceased to raise his voice in warning and pleading for broader and more sensible action before it was too late. The commission—composed of some of the country’s most prominent engineers—now has confirmed Chief Davis’ predictions as regards the results of fatal delay in moving for an improved water supply and has recommended the steps imperatively necessary to relieve a very dangerous situation and to put the city on a basis of ample supply of pure and wholesome water. While the sum of $134,900,000 looms large as a lump sum to spend for a city water supply, it will probably be eventually an economy as the longer the move to place the city’s water system upon a solid foundation is delayed the more the cost will be, owing to deterioration. The recommendations of the commission for the half-century period of improvement are based upon an estimated population of 3,250,000 at the expiration of that time. Referring to the source of supply the commission says in part:

“Water from the distant mountains always appeals to the sentiment of the general public. This is seldom, if ever, so, and in the present case it is a highly idealized sentiment and far from the facts, although the mountain sources have many points of excellence, and they are admittedly superior to the supply recommended when both are considered in an untreated condition. The upper Lehigh and its branches and the Delaware river tributaries above the Water Gap could furnish a very soft, generally clear and hygienically safe water, which would, however, at times be turbid, have a high color or vegetable stain, and would be subject to occcasional dangerous pollution. To make it as satisfactory as the water which Philadelphia now is using would require treatment to remove the color, turbidity and disease germs. We go so far as to express the opinion that with rare exceptions no surface water should be consumed without filtration or other treatment. The cost of a water supply of a given quantity is roughly proportionate to the distance between source and point of use, other things being equal. Therefore, for economical and business reasons, a city should seek successively, as it outgrows its supply, the available source nearest at hand and reduce to a minimum the abandonment of its existing useful plant. Cities rarely discard on a wholesale basis their existing water supply facilities, but from time to time reach out and make additions to their supplies.”

PHILADELPHIA’S WATER SUPPLY.

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PHILADELPHIA’S WATER SUPPLY.

The startling statement that Philadelphia is in danger of having a large part of its water supply suddenly cut off was made by Director Hicks and Major Gillette, after they had accompanied the councils’ committee on water on its annual tour of inspection of the pumping stations at Fairmount Park, Spring Garden, Queen Lake, George’s Hill and Belmont. More than seven hours were spent in looking into the workings of the pumping machinery. Evidence of the inefficiency of the engines and pumps was everywhere apparent. It was shown that many of the engines are in such bad condition that the least mishap will be enough to cut off the entire water supply of the districts which they serve. Bad en gines, poor boilers aful inaccurate pumps were pointed out by Director Hicks, who strongly de non need the manner in which the department allows its equipment to run down. Major Gillette, also, declared that there are very few of the employes who know how to attend to the engines and pumps they are supposed to care for. The first station which the committee visited was the old Fairmount waterworks. It was pointed out that this station is in very good condition after many years of service, but that its rated pumping capacity of 33,000,000 gallons a day has never been realised. According to Chief Fuller, its capacity does not really average more than 15,000,(XX) gals, daily, and it is shut down from one to three months every year because it cannot get enough water from the Schuylkill river to keep its pumps going. At the Spring Garden station, which has a rated capacity of 170,000,000 gals, a day, Chief Fuller told Director Micks that the average supply w’as 110,000,000 to 115,000,000 daily. An expert employed by Major Gillette, however, contended that no more than 100,000,000 gals, was ever pumped there in a single day. The Queen Lane station was considered to be in a worse condition than any other. Here several of the big wheels attached to the pumps were out of plumb; journals in the machinery were not true; and the structural work of the station vibrated so much that Major Gillette declared that it was liable to break at anv moment and com pletely paralyse the plant. The pumps have a rated capacity of 80,000,000 gals., but the records show that they never have pumped more than 57.000,000 gals, a day.