THE first public water supply of Elmira, N. Y., was introduced in 1859. At this period the hydraulic engineer was a rarity, and the demand for his services was very rare indeed. Works at that time were mostly designed and built by the engineer of a sawmill or some kindred spirit. The knowledge that water ran down hill and, when confined in pipes, would seek its own level—friction being an unconsidered quantity—was about all the knowledge necessary.


The first water supply of Elmira was furnished through wooden pipes, consisting of about six miles of eight-inch supply main from Seeley creek, and under a head of sixty feet. Friction, of course, soon reduced the pressure so much that a larger portion of the town had no water. Another reservoir, at a greater elevation, was built on Carr’s creek to supply that portion of the town lying north of the river—the old supply being used for the southern portion, till the erection of tanneries rendered the water unfit for use.

The Carr’s creek reservoir, with a capacity of 4,500,000 gallons, now used as clear water and distributing reservoir, was supplied from a spring located along, and in the bed of Carr’s creek, which is a small mountain stream, running for the most part through a densely wooded territory, with a watershed of about nine square miles above the intake.

The works were owned by the proprietors of the Wyckoff patent for wood water pipe, so this class of pipe was exclusively used. The first conduit—that of the Seeley creek line—was constructed to turn corners by long curves, the pipe bending at the joints. Afterwards cast iron specials were used at street intersections. The wood pipe, after being bored out with a hollow auger—the core from large-size pipes being utilized for making smaller pipe—was banded spirally with hoop iron. It was then coated with tar and rolled In sawdust—two or three coats being applied to protect the bands. A wood thimble was used on the spigot-end; the other, or bell end, being recessed to admit the thimble. Hand tools were employed for cutting the recesses in the bell ends, in case it was necessary to cut a piece of pipe on the ditch. The pipe was tapped by inserting a long taper-screw and corporation cock into the pipe far enough to hold, but not so far as to pierce the shell of the pipe, which was from two to three inches thick. A short piece of wrought iron pipe was then screwed on, having a stuffing-box on the outer end, through which the end of a long bit worked. With this a hole was drilled through the shell of the pipe; the bit was withdrawn; the corporation cock turned off; and the tapping machine was removed. The cock was then screwed firmly into the pipe. Certainly a simple and easy method of tapping.

The Elmira Water company was chartered in 1869 by a special act of the legislature. In 1870 the storage reservoir was begun on Carr’s creek, above the small Carr’s creek. A. Fteley, then chief engineer of the Roston waterworks, was its designer. An earth dam, with puddle core, was constructed across a narrow valley throngh which a small stream flowed. The dam is 700 feet long on top and thirty-eight feet high at centre slope; 2 1/2 to 1 riprapped; outer slope, 1 1/2 to l sodded. The capacity of the reservoir is 113,000,000 gallons. Inlet gates are provided, and a storm-water canal has been constructed to carry off muddy water at flood time. There is also a large flush pipe under the dam, controled by gate-valves. The drainage area supplying this reservoir is about four and one-half square miles, and is very sparsely settled. At the time the reservoir was built it was largely wooded, but much of the timber has since been cut down; the result being heavy flooods and a dry stream most of the year, thus making the supply from this source very uncertain. The water thus obtained is perfectly soft and of good quality, though subject to attacks of algae, which at times render it unfit for use—until filtered.

The first pumping engine was installed in 1874,when two direct driven, rotary pumps were built. These engines were not in the high-duty class, and were far from being economical. As one of the inspectors of the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection company remarked, “Why, man! you might as well squirt steam on an overshot waterwheel as use these pumps.” In the fall of 1876 a Knowles pnmping engine, with a capacity of 3,000,000 gallons per twenty-four hours was constructed; this, with the gravity supply from the storage reservoir, supplied the city till 1889, when a 6,000,000-gallon high-duty Worthington engine was installed; a tweuty-inch force-main was laid to the distributing reservoir; and the boiler plant was overhauled and remodeled at the same lime. In the fall of 1890 a 10,000,000-gallon Worthington high duty pumping engine was ad led to the plant, the pump cylinders being, however, bushed down to a 7,500,000gallon capacity, as that amount of water is all that can be pumped economically till a larger force-main is laid. The engine, with ouo hundred pounds of steam, operates the reduced pumps to good advantage, giving over 120,000,000 foot-pounds duty. One hundred and forty five pounds steam pressure will be used when the pumps are enlarged. The pumping plant occupies historic ground, as it stands on part of the land occupied by the Confederate prison during the war of 1861-65.


A filter gallery was constructed parallel with, and about one hundred feet from the river, which proved as great a failure as the majority of such galleries have proved to be. A twenty-inch pipe was afterwards laid to the river, the end being protected by an iron grating and pile bulkhead. In 1000 a crib was constructed near the middle of the stream, in six feet of water at extreme low water, and connected with a thirty-inch pipe to the filter gallery. At times of high water when the river water was turbid and bad, the entire supply was drawn from the gravity supply in the storage reservoir. This always provided good water until the consumption outgrew the gravity capacity, when during a springflood the water had to be used as it was in the river at high-water, which proved very distasteful. The result was that a filter plant had to be installed in 1897; but, owing to litigation, it was not put into service till 1898. Since that lime the city has always had good water, no matter what the condition of the river or reservoir. The illustrations herewith are different views of the filler plant after construction.

In order to take care of both the river and reservoir supplies, the filler was located at the distribution reservoirs. The force-main runs direct from the pumps to the filters, the filtered water flowing into the distribution reservoir, thence to the city by gravity.

There are now fifty-five miles of distribution mains, from six to twenty-inch diameter; 4,000taps—lead, lead-lined, and galvanized pipe lielng used for services. Four hundred and fifty-five hydrants and 800 meters ore in me, and the present pressure is about forty-four pounds per square inch. Steam fire engines are employed at all fires.


When a filter plant was found neccessary, careful investigation was set on foot to determine what kind of a filter would best serve the purpose—all attempts to find a pure supply or prevent the pollution of the present supply having proved futile.

In the fall of 1896 bids were asked for a mechanical filtration plant of a capacity of 6,000,000 gallons per twenty-four hours, and the contract waa awarded to the Morrl non-Jewell Filtration company, for a Jewell type, open tank, g-ravity filter, not because they were the lowest bidders, but because that type was decided to be the best adapted to the requited conditionsThe butldlngs and foundations were started in October, 1896, as was also the laying of a twenty-inch forcemain direct to the filter plant. The main supply pipe In the Alter building Is twenty-four-inches, and all the piping Is designed to increase the plant to a capacity of 9,000,000 gallons per twenty-four hours.

The work, of erecting the Alters was begun in December, 1896, and they were completed and ready for use in the latter part of January, 1897. About the middle of February, after a run of just three weeks, we were served with an Injunction restraining us from using a coagulant with the filters—thus making them practically useless and compelling 80,000 people to use impure water, instead of Altered water, nearly perfectly pure. Offers of bonds to cover damages In case the infringement suit prevailed were refused, and the company waa unable for a full year to furnish the citizens with pure water, though over ⅜90,000 had been spent to provide it.

As is always the case with lawsuits, the matter dragged along—the case being put over from one term to another, and would, probably, still be dragging its weary way through the courts, If it had not been settled outside. Early in June, 1897, an expert test, lasting one week, was made, and this brought to Elmira an array of experts, whose portraits are seen in one of the illustrations of this article For the New York Filter Manufacturing company, the prosecuwere Professors Chandler, Main, Stillman, and Austin, and for the defence, Professors Leeds, Mason, and Ravenel, with Dr. Bourgougnon as chemist. Messrs. Jewell, Morison, Bull, and Davis, of the Morlson-Jewell company, and Mr. Kendrick, of the New York company, were also present with a large corps of assistants.


This test took place during the Denver convention of the American Water Works association, and was quite a rival to that gathering, as we had present six members of the association, two past presidents, a former secretary, and the chairmen of two of the standing committees.

The test made wus a very thorough and exhaustive one—the Morison-Jewell company trying to disprove the direct application of coagulant, and to show that the work of the coagulant was done in the settling tanks attached to each Alter, and, though the results proved that the settling basins did about Afty-Ave per cent. of the work, no decision could be obtained by the defendants. In February, 1898, the consolidation of the Alter companies happily ended our troubles, and we began, and have ever siuce continued to supply pure water in every way satisfactory to the citizens, while the typhoid rate has greatly decreased.

Today our Alter plant is our great pride, and expense is not spared in making it efficient as well as attractive. It is at all times open to visitors, and Superintendent Bunting and his courteous associates will always be found ready to explain the plant to all strangers. We think ourselves fortunate In the the session of Mr Bunting, who is as proud of the plant as any of us. keeping it always scrupulously clean, and In summer making the grounds attractive with neatly shaven lawns and Aowerbeds, all of which entails willingly given work on the part of the superintendent and his assistants.

The illustrations accompanying this article show: (1) The test of Alters at Elmira in June 1898, at which were present the following, marked by Agures m the cut: 1—Prof. Main; 2—Mr. Arnold; 8—Prof. Leeds; 4—Dr. Ravenel; 5—Prof. Austin; 6—Prof. Chandler; 7—Prof. Mason; 8—Dr. Bourgougnon; Stillman; 10—Mr. Davis; 11—Mr. Kendrick; 12—Mr. Diven; IS—Mr. Morison; 14—Mr. Bull; 15— Mr. Jewell; 16—Mr. Bunting, with assistants of the Says Filtration company,the New York Filter Manufacturing company; and the Elmira Waterthese works company; (2) view of Alter plant, showing effluent Aume and Clearwater reservoir; (8) Alter plant, showing Aume and controlers; (4) Alter plant, showing working Aoor.; (5) Alter plant, showing undershot waterwheel operation of two pumps, lime-mixer, etc.; (6) Alterhouse (exterior); (7) Alterhouse (exterior) ; (&) Alterhouse (exterior), showing clear water reservoir effluent in right foreground; (9) Alterhouse, showing effluent Aume and clear water reservoir; (10) pumping station, 1888; (11) pumping station, as remodeled in 1899; (12) storage reservoir, capacity 113,000,000 gallons; (18) distributing reservoir, showing crib work.


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