PHILADELPHIA WATER BUREAU ANNUAL REPORT

PHILADELPHIA WATER BUREAU ANNUAL REPORT

The annual report of the operations of the Philadelphia, Pa., Bureau of Water for 1914, by Chief Carleton E. Davis, and addressed to the Director, Department of Public Works, bears on the front cover “Five Points to Remember” as follows: 1. Waste of water is the principal obstacle to further improvement of the supply. 2. Cost of operation and maintenance in 1914 was $450,000 less than in 1911. 3. Lowest typhoid rate of recent years proves the quality of water furnished by the filters. 4. Meter and fixture rates should be equalized and meters placed upon wasteful users. 5. Additions to the water system should be planned for 25 years ahead. The report states, in part, as follows:

Filtration.

The gratifying decrease in typhoid fever in 1914 certifies to the good quality of water delivered by the filtration system of Philadelphia, as well as to the general sanitary conditions of the city. The typhoid death rate was eight per 100,000 population, a substantial lowering of the best previous record of 13 per 100,000. West Philadelphia has the remarkably low rate of five deaths per 100,000, with a correspondingly small number of cases. Other sections were likewise below the average for the city as a whole, a concentration in two or three districts bringing the combined figures up to eight per 100,000. Daily tests of the water indicated that it was of uniform quality throughout the city. Public horse watering troughs were temporarily closed by the Board of Health in June, following an increase in the number of cases of glanders in the city. The Water Bureau cooperated in emergency steps taken by the interested humane societies and a number of citizens to provide substitute facilities whereby water for thristy horses could be drawn into individual pails. There seems to be a growing feeling among veterinarians that the old style of horse watering trough should be abandoned in favor of a fountain of the individual type, and certain of these were installed experimentally. Increased facilities along the Delaware River water front were provided to permit shipping to obtain water at any hour of the day or night. The Dock Department and Police Bureau have co-operated to keep a record of water thus drawn from public piers to enable the Water Bureau to make proper charges. Certain shipping is more or less elusive, and without the help of these other branches of the city service, there might be difficulty in collecting revenue for water furnished. The United States Government amended certain of its health rules with a view of insuring that vessels engaged in interstate commerce should use only water ow known purity; and as this applies to practically all shipping coming to Philadelphia, it makes the general question of water for such shipping of increased importance. Similar rules and standards were applied by the United Stats Government to the quality of water used by the railroads, all of which the city water fully met. Weekly reports giving the standard routine analysis of the filtered water made by the bureau were furnished to the surgeon of the League Island navy yard. These comprised analyses of the water as it left the filters, and as it was delivered in the mains at South Philadelphia, the latter being the same water that is furnished to the navy yard. These analyses satisfied the officials as to the quality of the water for potable purposes. The Schuykill plants were operated satisfactorily and proved equal to all demands. The regular force of men was able to give some time to the grounds, buildings, fences, etc., so that the appearance of the plants was improved. The extension of the preliminary filters at Belmont was begun, and at the end of _ the year was well advanced toward completion. A more detailed description of this work is given under another heading. While the Torresdale plant delivered all the water demanded of it, and while its product was of a satisfactory quality, it is increasingly evident that these filters with their present facilities are overloaded and need relief. The sedimentation basin, provided for at the November election, should be constructed and put in service as sooq as possible. The preliminary filters need a thorough overhauling, a part of the pipe system must be replaced, and all of the gravel and sand removed from the beds, cleaned and replaced. Experience seems to prove that such a general renewing of the preliminary filters is periodically necessary and must be included as a part of the routine work of the operation. The experience of the year in the final filters at Torresdale was unusual, and was apparently a culmination of the long period of necessary overloading and abuse to which these filters have been subjected during times of high turbidity in the river. In February and Marcch deep cleaning, practically to the gravel, was required in all the beds. The situation was aggravated by a series of storms in the first two months of the year, the turbidity of the Delaware going above 100 six times in January and four times in February, a maximum of 400 being reached on February 3. In December a choking up of the final filters and decrease in length of run was experienced, the immediate cause in this instance apparently being an excessive number of micro-organisms and bacteria in the river, rather than the ordinarily recognized turbidity.

Carleton E. Davis, Chief of Bureau of Water, Philadelphia, Pa.

Distribution.

The water pressure throughout a large portion of South Philadelphia was materially increased by a rearrangement of the distribution mains between the Corinthian Reservoir and the East Park Reservoir. Since this rearrangement was effected, the pressure on the ground floor of the district officie at Twelfth and Reed Streets has very rarely fallen below 20 pounds in the daytime. It reaches 40 pounds in the night time under normal conditions. While still leaving much to be desired along the lines of a satisfactory pressure, this increase is a step in the right direction. An appropriation of $500,000 for the general improvement of the South Philadelphia water supply was voted on favorably at the November election. The work to be done under this appropriation will be discussed later in this report. No radical improvement need be looked for, however, in South Philadelphia, or any other section of the city, until a material curtailment in the waste of water is brought about. An entire readjustment of the water works facilities at a prohibitive cost for both construction and operation is the only alternative. The general growth of the city and the development of the suburban sections was indicated by the fact that the Water Bureau laid 25 1/2 miles of distribution mains in 1914, considerably more than in any recent year. In addition, several miles were laid by contract. Under the present ordL nances, owners put in, maintain and are responsible for service pipes, from the main in the street to their properties. This means that private individuals dig up the streets when the pipes are originally laid, as well as subsequently when breaks or leaks occur. In 1914 there were more than two thousand leaks in service pipes within paved roadways. This is about the average number for an ordinary year. At present the Water Bureau cannot even repair a leak, and this frequently results in an anomalous situation. To illustrate: a report comes to the Water Bureau of a leak in the street, probably endangering traffic. The Water Bureau men proceed to the spot and dig up the street to locate the leak. If it is in the main pipe, or the ferrule in the main, the Water Bureau men can make repairs and finish the job. If it is in the service pipe leading to a private property, they cannot make the repairs. The householder is notL fied, and if the leak is such as to cause damage or endanger property or traffic, the water is shut off at the main thereby depriving the property of water. The hole is then filled up so that traffic may not be interrupted. The property owner secures the services of a plumber, who proceeds to City Hall to take out the necessary permit, after which he returns to the leak and re-excavates the hole which the Water Bureau has filled up. After making repairs, the plumber notifies the Water Bureau and an employee is sent to turn on the water. The plumber then fills up the hole, and the Highway Bureau subsequently repairs the pavement. This procedure could be very much simplified if the Water Bureau were authorized and equipped to make repairs in service pipes as soon as a leak is uncovered. This would save expense and annoyance to the householder, cause less interruption in traffic, and simplify the work of the bureau. An ordinance permitting this to be done has been prepared and will be introduced in Councils. Another step in simplifying service pipe procedure would be for the city to lay, own and maintain all service pipes, at least from the main to the stop at the curb. This practice has much to commend it; the only question is whether public sentiment is ready for the step. It would increase the cost of running the bureau, but the property owner would be better served than at present. At the present time no control can be exercised over the quality of the service pipes, over the nature of yard hydrants, or of plumbing in general inside a property. To relieve the situation permanently requires the co-operation of householders, real estate men, plumbers, other interested parties, and a change in the present policy. Superficial remedies can be applied with only temporary results, but the seat of the trouble will not be reached until the proper pipes and fixtures correctly laid can be insisted upon as a requisite for obtaining city water. The city can demand that leaks in plumbing be repaired, but improper fixtures may start leaking again almost as soon as a repair is made, and in a general way the taxpayer who puts in poor plumbing is making his neighbor pay part of the bill. Trouble from electrolysis became evident at certain points during the year. Some damage has already occupied, and only constant watchfulness and the aid of such public service corporations as are possible offenders can prevent serious results. The Electrical Bureau rendered efficient service in detecting the existence of currents on the water pipes and bringing it to the notice of the Water Bureau. Material progress was made on record plans of the distribution system, particularly street intersection plans for use in the local work of the districts. Some two thousand intersections have already been accurately mapped and blue prints filed ready for immediate use. The general scheme of mapping pipes and valves in the distribution system provides three general features: 1. Data used chiefly for controlling and regulating the amount and pressure of water throughout the system, or in other words, data used in operating the supply. Under this head are maps defining the limits of the several distinct distribution areas, which maps are accompanied by data showing the sources of supply for each area and a list of valves controlling the supply; likewise general maps showing all large mains, reservoirs and pumping stations, together with detail maps of the piping system and operating valves at the pumping stations, filters and reservoirs. 2. Data used chieflly for repairs and maintenance. Under this head are detail maps showing the complete gridiron of distribution pipes on which the location of all valves and hydrants is indicated. The detail of such maps is expanded by intersection plans showing on a larger scale the situation at each street intersection. Each street intersection is mapped on a separate plan of a size convenient for use in the field. 3. Data used chiefly for the business relations between the consumer and the Bureau of Water. Under this heading come data relating to service pipe connections, such as the location, depth, size, date of insertion, kind of pipe, etc. This data is listed in a card index and filed by streets and numbers. The system likewise proposes under this head full plans of all pipes in important establishments which may have a special supply for sprinkler systems or other fire protection. These plans will indicate the relations between pipes carrying city water and private pipes which may carry a possible polluted water from a private source, introduced for the purpose of fire protection or manufacturing. The necessity for the complete severance of these dual supplies can be readily seen. The growth of the city towards the northwest made it desirable to establish a branch distribution office in Frankford. Temporary quarters were secured in a disused fire house on Church Street. The ability to locate a group of men in this section, near the centre of a district requiring considerable work, has cut down the time lost by transportation, and made the men more available in case of accident, as well as reduced the incidental carfare expenses to the men themselves.

Pumping Stations.

The most imminent source of danger to the water supply of the city was abated when the new Torresdale chimney was put in service. This chimney is working satisfactorily, and in addition to being a reliable structure is a distinct improvement to the architectural appearance of the station. The new chimney was built and the old stack removed without accident, and without shutting down the station for more than two hours. An additional pumping unit at Lardner’s Point, preferably of the turbo-centrifugal type, which can be installed at moderate cost for both equipment, foundations and housing, is urgently needed. The station will be badly crippled without such a reserve unit in case of a major accident to one of the present pumps, which might require the securing of new parts and an extensive dismantling of the machinery. Many incidental improvements tending to increased economy and efficiency in operation were installed; notable among which is a better use of the coal handling. apparatus, whereby coal placed in the outside storage yard can be handled at a cost of about ten cents a ton for unloading and reloading, instead of a former cost of forty cents a ton. A readjustment of the feed water heating system materially raised the temperature of boiler feed water and resulted in a substantial saving of coal. The station in 1914 burned 54,817 tons of coal as against 60,974 tons in 1913, which year had shown a material decrease from the coal consumed in 1912. An appropriation was made for new sand washing pumps at the Torresdale pumping station to replace an old pump which had seen service at other plants before being installed at Torresdale. The Shawmont pumping station was operated satisfactorily. Closer attention to firing, and some minor changes in boiler room equipment, resulted in a material saving in coal. The station in 1914 burned 22,183 tons as against 23,100 tons in 1913. The reconstruction of the last Queen Lane pump was completed, and the new boiler plant and accessories were substantially finished. During changes and alteration, the boiler room efficiency dropped, but at the close of the year had been brought up to a point materially better than that reached in any previous years. An acceptance test of the Badenhausen boilers showed an efficiency of 71.5 per cent, and these boilers appear to have normally a high evaporation efficiency. The Belmont pumping station passed through the year satisfactorily. Contracts were let and work started on the reconstruction of this station.

Reservoirs.

Repairs made to the East Park Reservoir in 1913 have proven satisfactory. These repairs were a result of leakage, serious sliding occurring on the outside slope of the south bank of this reservoir. Repairs were made by placing a heavy rock fill over the bank, together with some surface and underdrainage. Repairs on a small scale were made at Belmont Reservoir and George’s Hill Reservoir, where leakage had produced incipient slides. In general, these repairs consisted of trenches dug into the face of the bank and filled with stones, the object being to intercept leakage and carry it away harmlessly to the. toe of the slope before it reached the surface in sufficient quantities to cause sliding. What might have been a serious leak in the west bank of the East Park Reservoir was found before damage resulted. As this break occurred near the water line, repairs were easily effected after the water in the reservoir was lowered. Ordinarily repairs were made to the Queen Lane Reservoir, Wentz Farm Reservoir and Upper and Lower Roxborough Reservoirs. The inside slopes were weeded, fences repaired, and in general the appearance of the basins was improved. A contract was let for repairing a slide in the Fairhill Reservoir, which occurred after the construction of a fire house near the toe of the slope.

High Pressure.

The high pressure fire system was operated satisfactorily and in every case responded to the demands of the firemen. Standard practice at both high pressure stations is to build up pressure to 175 pounds immediately upon the receipt of an alarm of fire within the zone covered by high pressure pipe. The pressure is held at 175 pounds until changes in pressure arc ordered by the firemen at the point of the fire. In addition to the regular force of Water Bureau employees operating the equipment, firemen are detailed at each station to receive alarms, and transmit orders from the fire chiefs in the field to the Water Bureau employees at the pumps. Pressure was built up during the year for 327 fires, though the system was called into use only 57 times. The record plans of the high pressure distribution system were completed.

Revenues.

The revenues of the Water Bureau were $5,242,081.31, an increase of $231,571.49 over those of last year. These revenues were derived as follows: Collected by Receiver of Taxes, Bureau of Water Rents: Water rents—Applied rates, $4,150,044.55; penalties— 1914, $47,996.92; water rents—delinquent, $78,715.62; penalties—delinquent. $12,097.12: liens, $15; interest on liens, $113.30; permits—fractional rents, $124,744.62; meters, $668,566.94; pipe frontage, $105,871.60; special, $3,229.73; total, $5,191,395.40. Collected by miscellaneous tax office—fees for searches, $2,515; collected by city solicitor—pipe frontage, $31,956.68; collected by Tax Office for highways— ferrules delivered, $7,893; collected by Department of Supplies for material sold, $S,321.23; total, $5,242,081.31. Approximately 335,000 separate accounts were carried on the books of the bureau in 1914, of which 15,930 were metered accounts. The meters set during the year brought the total number of accounts to be carried under meter rating in 1915 up to about 27,500, thus making still more important the question of an adequate charge for water sold by meter measurement. The established rate of four cents per thousand gallons, coupled with the minimum charges for metered connections, is too low and materially under the cost of furnishing water. On the other hand, ordinary dwelling house charges by the schedule or flat rates are too high, provided there is a reasonable use only of water in such dwellings and no undue waste. As a suggestion, fair charges for Philadelphia would be 12 cents per thousand gallons, 8 cents per thousand gallons, and 4 cents per thousand gallons for domestic, intermediate, and manufacturing rates respectively. Twelve cents per thousand gallons should be charged for the first 500,000 gallons or any part thereof; eight cents per thousand gallons should be charged for the second 500,000 gallons or any part thereof, and four cents per thousand gallons should be charged for all consumption over one million gallons. Under present fixture ratings, the minimum charge is $5, for which a hydrant and sink are allowed.

Expenditures.

The total expenditures of the Water Bureau, excluding interest and sinking fund charges, but including materials furnished through the Department of Supplies, were $2,380,749.49, a decrease of $67,042.09 from those of last year. These total expenditures include outlays for improvements as well as the expenditures for routine operation and maintenance. They likewise include two payments, totaling $55,290.12, in settlement for claims on account of work done in past years under Bureau of Filtration contracts. Excluding these two payments, the decrease in total expenditures becomes $122,332.28. The separation of the operation and maintenance cost for 1914 is given below: Operation. $1,548,892.76; maintenance, $285,861.40. Total, $1,826,754.16. The cost of coal consumed for pumpage was materially below the cost for 1913, as shown by the table herewith: Cost, 1913, $527,802; 1914, $509,145. Tons, 1913, 183,686; 1914, 179,736. It should be noted that the cost of coal consumed as given by the Water Bureau figures is the only adequate record of the actual outlay for coal burned in any one year and may or may not agree with the annual appropriation items for the purchase of coal. For instance: The Water Bureau started the year 1914 with coal bunkers practically empty. It closed the year with several thousand tons of coal on hand.

Stores.

The storehouse system and the stores accounts have worked satisfactorily and demonstrated their value in added convenience and economy. A record of all stores, materials and supplies of every nature, shape and description is kept at a centralized point, thereby providing an element of elasticity in the distribution of articles, obviating unnecessary duplication and securing immediate delivery on the occasion of an emergency at any point of anything which may be in stock, regardless of the particular place at which it may be kept. Storage yards for pipes and specials have been systematized and kept in condition commensurate with their importance. Progress has been made in the installation of a satisfactory accounting system for all work done in the bureau.

Consumption.

The total consumption, as gauged by the water actually delivered into the distribution system, was 105 billion gallons, substantially the same as in 1913. This is equivalent to a per capita daily rate of 173 gallons for a population of 1,655,000. The corresponding figures for 1913 were 178 gallons for a population of 1,611,000. Pitometer work was continued, as well as house to house inspection. With the present methods, further reductions in the per caita consumption must necessarily be at a slow rate; to hold the ground already gained may be all that can be hoped for. The next step forward must come through some method of reaching the large consumers, where the carelessness of one individual may cause the waste of more water than the neglect of several hundred persons in private dwellings.

Improvements.

Contracts were let for new equipment at the Belmont pumping station. This equipment includes the following. Two 20-milliongallon turbo-centrifugal pumps, six 500-h. p. boilers, blast fans, boiler feed pump, water softening tanks, piping, miscellaneous auxiliary pumps, coal and ash handling apparatus, alterations to boiler house and miscellaneous incidentals. As indicating an advance in the development of centrifugal pumping apparatus, a satisfactory guarantee was obtained in the above contracts that the main pumping units, when operating under a head of about 130 pounds, would give 145 million-foot pounds duty per thousand pounds of steam at 200 pounds pressure and 100 degrees superheat. The change of equipment, while the Belmont station is in operation, presents some obstacles interfering with rapid work, but good progress has been made. A contract was let, and work advanced toward completion, at the Belmont preliminary filters for an extension, adding about fifty per cent, to the filtering area. The plan provides for turning the coarse coke and sponge beds, which have never been efficient even as strainers, into gravel and fine coke filters similar to the effective portion of the preliminary plant. A transfer table is provided, permitting either one of the two Blaisdell Washing Machines to be moved into any bed. The piping system will enable a certain amount of pressure washing to be done through the underdrains. Plans were practically completed for a sedimentation basin at the Torresdale filters, the construction of which was acted upon favorably at the November election. The improvement of the water supply of South Philadelphia, likewise acted upon favorably at the November election, was taken up and material progress was made upon the development of plans for laying the large mains on the general perimeter of the southern district, the first step toward an increased pressure in South Philadelphia. While these new large mains will aid local distribution, additional feeder mains from the filters must be provided by a further appropriation to supply the increased demand for water which improved conditions and higher pressures will create. It is probably a safe prediction that eventually the per capita consumption of water in Philadelphia will be materially reduced, and the effective usefulness of the present plants correspondingly lengthened. Meanwhile the city is face to face with the problem of increasing its filter and pumping station capacities, or having a shortage of water. But entirely apart from the question of the present extravagant use, or rather waste of water, is the necessity of insuring the integrity of any supply and a reasonable safeguarding against cutting off water from a large section of the city in case of accidents. A large storage reservoir is needed, with reserve pumping stations and filters and independent pipe connections. Any large new work for the water supply, such as the improvement for South Philadelphia, should be planned as an integral part of such a future system, and with due regard to the expansion of the city into the undeveloped sections.

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