Contamination of the Passaic.

Now that the question as to the immediate need of determining upon a new source of water supply for New York city is becoming urgent, there arises another as to the freedom from actual and future contamination of whatever watershed and water may be decided upon. The recent outbreaks of typhoid fever in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Ithaca, and elsewhere in this State, and at Paterson and other cities in New Jersey show that extreme care must be exercised, and the aid of firstclass analytical chemists invoked, before any one source is chosen. So many streams, lakes, and ponds are polluted by sewage, factory or gasworks refuse, and residents on their banks that the use of their waters is impossible, unless a very costly system of filtration is resorted to— and this, too, m.t unfrequently with the full knowledge of the State authorities. The loss that has occurred to the community from this source is therefore, a matter to be reckoned with, and prevented by the absolute prohibition of the discharge of contaminating matter into any watercourse, lake, or pond That can be done by any State within its own limits Outside of these, however, it is powerless, as there is no Federal law affecting the question of interstate pollution. There is, therefore, no remedy against such an evil. In the case of New York city and its future addition to its existing sources of water supply, the difficulty is intensified. The rivers in the metropolitan area which can be drawn upon are chiefly in northern New Jersey, southern New York. Connecticut, and the western part of Massachusetts.


To take New Jersey first. The largest is the Raritan, with a drainage area of 1,105 square miles, made up of 275 square miles of highland area. 100 square miles of sandy plain, and the remainder of red sandstone. Its only extensive storage reservoir is Budd’s lake, one and one-half miles long and threequarters of a mile wide. As only about thirteen per cent, of its area is in forest, and the storage facilities are limited, and the trap-work surfaces are extensive and steep, its liability to floods, with excessive flow, is extreme. The river is navigable for ten miles (up to New Brunswick), and is tidal for four miles beyond that mark. It has as tributaries the South river, which is extensively used for power purposes and although small storage reservoirs might be erected at well selected points, the cornbined supply thus afforded would be useful only for small towns. Another tributary is the north branch of the Raritan, whose drainage area occupies 191.6 square miles in the northernmost portion of the Raritan basin. It is sharply divided into the highland area and red sandstone plain. The former, which is the larger, is 800 or 1,000 feet above tide water; thirty per cent, of it is forest; the average population is seventy-two per square mile. While, of course, its horsepower can be largely developed, its water supplies in the basin can be developed much more extensively. The Latnington river, its main affluent, with an area of 31.4 square miles above the 500-toot contour, can yield 21.000,000 gallons daily if developed. In the same way, there is a drainage of 29.1 square miles above the junction of Peapack brook from which 19,000,000 gallons may be derived daily, and at other points in the basins there may be economically gathered a total of about 25.000,000 gallons per day.

The South Branch of the Raritan, at the head of which lies Budd lake, drains 276.5 square miles of highland area and red sandstone plains—the latter occupying the larger part of the basin, with an average elevation of about 40° feet. Its horsepower has been extensively developed, but, as a source of water supply the daily capacity of the entire basin is about 100,000,000 gallons, with seven inches storage. Budd’s lake, with a watershed of 4.5 square miles, at an elevation of 933 feet, will supply 3.000.000 gallons per day. The drainage basin of the Raritan has not yet been sufficiently developed—except, perhaps, in the lower part—to be damaged to any great extent by sewage, and the water in the highland area is not polluted to any great extent. The river for fourteen miles up being tidal, the pollution from New Brunswick is washed out to sea and no damage accrues from that source to that city’s water supply. Above New Brunswick are Bound Brook, Somerville, and Raritan, with an aggregate population of about 11,300. Their presence would necessitate filtration of the water, if used as a source of supply. Above Raritan are numerous small villages of a few hundred inhabitants, which may be looked upon as unimportant as agencies of pollution. Except, therefore, in a limited area round its mouth, the Raritan basin furnishes a water that is fit for immediate use as a public supply.


In direct contrast to it is the Passaic river, whose drainage system comprises a territory of 941.1 square miles, in which are situated the drainage area of the Passaic proper (including the upper and lower valleys), the Saddle, Ramapo. and Wanaque rivers, which extend into New York State on the north. and the Pequanac, Rockaway, and Whippany on the west. This territory comprehends eight square miles of lakes and twenty-six square miles of swamp land. The Pompton river, which joins the Passaic at Two Bridges, above Little Falls, combines the flow of the Ramapo. Wanaque. and Pequanac. representing a combined area of 379.9 square miles. The river itself rises in Morris county in a region adjacent to that from which the North Branch of the Raritan is derived. It passes in its irregular course to Newark bay through, or adjacent to six counties— a distance of about twenty-five miles in a direct line, or over eighty as the river flows. The influence of the tide affects it as far as a point nearly opposite Passaic, to which, also, the river is navigable. Four miles above this is Dundee dam (illustrated herewith)—the lowest power site in the main river. The crest of this dam is twenty-seven feet above mean tide. The dam itself is 450 feet long; it impounds a lake of 224 acres, directing the entire flow of the river in dry season. It concentrates and holds back all the sewage of Paterson. From this point there is a rise of thirteen feet in 7.5 miles to the foot of the Great Falls at Paterson (shown in the accompanying illustration, one from the crest, the other at the foot), which is an imposing cataract, sheer seventy feet in height. In a distance of four miles from the top of Great Falls to the foot of Little Falls, there is a rise of eight feet, and the series of falls and rapids, together with the height of the dam at the crest, make a total rise of forty feet. At this point is united the drainage from an area of 772.9 square miles, the elevation being about 158 feet above mean tide, and the distance from tide water only fifteen miles. At Two Bridges, a short distance above Little Falls, Pompton river enters the Passaic. Above Two Bridges the Passaic follows a winding channel twenty-two miles long, through a large meadow area, until at Chatham, at an altitude six feet above Two Bridges, the bed takes a sharper grade. From this point to the source of the stream, a distance of eighteen miles, there is a rise of seventy-two feet.


The power site at Great Falls, Paterson, is one of the oldest large waterpowers in the United States. Above the head of the falls is a low stone dam, affording, however, sufficient pondage to concentrate the entire dry season flow into working hours. The conservance of water from the upper Pequanac area for the city of Newark and the large draughts upon the river at Little Falls for the supply of Paterson, Passaic, and Jersey City, however, have, increased the uncertainty of the power at this place. The Rockaway area is now being set apart for the use of Jersey City’s water supply. The East Jersey Water company is supreme here, and has an intake on the north side of the river a little above, and a short distance from the dam. This stream forms a nucleus for a water supply which in capacity and quality can not be excelled in the metropolitan district, and from the manner in which it is now being developed it is probable that at no distant date that part of the river between Little Falls and Passaic will lose much of its value as a source of power.

Through the Great Piece Meadows flows Rockaway river, draining 138.4 square miles, and farther up the Whippany, draining 71.1 square miles. Each of these areas forms by itself a gathering ground from all of which, except the latter, can be diverted water supplies equal to almost any emergency which the great cities of northern New Jersey are likely to encounter during the next century. The Rockaway and Pequanac are set apart for the supply of Jersey City and Newark. The Ramapo is under the control of a New York corporation. This river empties into the Passaic by way of Pompton river; but belongs largely to New York State, as about seventy per cent, of the 160.7 square miles of drainage area are in that State. About seventy-five per cent, of this area is forested, and the population is aapproximately sixty per square mile. At Pompton. 1.5 miles above its confluence with the Pompton river, the Ramapo has a fall of twenty-nine feet. The lake, which is traversed by a seven-foot dam, is about 202 acres in extent. In many ways Ramapo river is a favorable gathering ground for a city water supply. This portion, however, has not been included as a source of supply in the plan that was presented to the city of New York. The river yields, without storage, at Pompton, 14,500 gallons daily. With a storage equal to seven inches upon the watershed, the available supply would be approximately 120,000,000 gallons daily.

The Saddle river is the lowest and least important branch in the Passaic system. It rises in Rockland county, New York State, flows south for seventeen miles, and empties into the Passaic about twelve miles from the mouth. The drainage area contains 60.7 square miles, underlain by the red sandstone common to the main basin. Tt has eight square miles of drainage area in New York State, and the population in 1894 was about 122 per square mile. It is fairly good gathering ground for a limited water supply, and might be developed as an auxiliary to be used in an emergency. With a storage of 7.5 feet upon the reservoir it would yield 14,000,000 gallons daily.

The Wanaque river is situated on the line between New York and New Jersey, and extending into New York State about three miles, and Sterling lake, entirely within New York State, afford excellent pondage. Greenwood lake has an elevation of 621 feet, has six miles of surface, and receives the drainage of twenty-eight square miles. Its storage capacity is 134,000,000 gallons, and it will supply 18,000,000 gallons daily throughout the year. Sterling lake has an area of 321 acres and a watershed of 4.69 square miles. It will supply throughout the year about 3,000.000 gallons daily. The river forms another excellent source of city supply. It has already been stated that there is a pondage representing the drainage from thirty-three square miles. For the remaining run-off water there are good sites for conservance, and, with a total utilisation of fourteen inches upon the watershed, there would be afforded a supply of 75,000,000 gallons per day. Of the watershed, 28.2 square miles are in New York, and eighty per cent, of the entire area is forested.

The Pequanac river, with the Ramapo and the Wanaque forms the Pompton river just below Pompton. Its drainage area lies high on the Archeati highlands. For nearly its whole course it flows transversely to the ridge and valley structure of these highlands, thus differing from the Ramapo and Wanaque, which flow through deep valleys. The headwaters of the Pequanac are at an elevation of nearly 1,500 feet, while the mouth, at Pompton, is only 170. The watershed is six or seven miles wide by sixteen miles long, and the branches are quite uniformly distributed along the course of the main stream, mostly coming in from the northeast. Forests cover seventy-eight per cent, of the area. Newark and Jersey City between them now control nearly the whole of this river, and the whole drainage area will doubtless eventually be set apart for water supply purposes.

The Rockaway river is forty miles long from source to mouth and has a drainage area of about 140 miles, which will supply Jersey City.

The Whippany river’s area is not well developed to become a source of water supply. The population on the watershed is large and furnishes a large measure of the pollution of the Passaic river, into which every day arc discharged 70.000,000 gallons of sewage below the Great Falls at Paterson, which the river cannot assimilate.

The Hudson river has a drainage of 13,366 square miles, of which 8,034 are above Troy. Its tributaries extend into New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Vermont, and the minimum flow past Poughkeepsie is said to be about 1,500,000,000 gallons daily. The waters being occasionally brackish up to Poughkeepsie prevents any use of them being made for water supply. Its pollution below that point, therefore, need not be considered. Above that, along the middle or navigable section of the river, pollution is unavoidable, even if city sewage were altogether excluded from the river. Up to Troy, therefore, as commerce and transportation cannot be cut off, no water for domestic purposes can be supplied, unless, of course, after filtration. The towns in that section up to, and including Troy, with an aggregate population of 204,196, all sewer into the river, and civic pollution becomes more important above the confluence of the Mohawk, where the flow is considerably less and the danger is that, as the cities increase in population, there will arise conditions similar to those on the Passaic. As it is, the sewage from Waterford and Cohoes is accountable for the high rate of mortality at Albany and Troy. Of the eastern tributaries the most important is probably the Hoosic drainage basin which extends through Massachusetts, taking in some towns of considerable importance as manufacturing centres—North Adams, for instance, with some 25,000 inhabitants—and Vermont, comprising an area of 730 square miles. Of the western tributaries, the Rondout creek, into which the Wallkill discharges, takes in the sewage of several large towns—Middletown alone discharges 865,000 cubic feet of sewage daily. Its waters, therefore, except at the head waters, which are inconsiderable, cannot be utilised, except, perhaps as part of a chain of storage reservoirs in connection with the Catskill creek, the Esopus creek, and the Shawangunk creek.

The Mohawk river is by far the most important of all. Its drainage area is 3400 square miles, but any of its tributaries that would be likely to be utilised—such as the Schoharie, for instance. The sewered population along its banks amounts to 152,000, and the only cities that have attempted to draw their supplies from the Mohawk are Rome, Schenectady, and Cohoes. Above Rome the supply is fair to middling; Schenectady has given up using the river water; Cohoes is still content to drink diluted sewage. As to Saratoga lake: The uses to which it has been put as part of a great summer resort, render it altogether undesirable as a source of supply.

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