THE WATER QUESTION AT PHILADELPHIA.

THE WATER QUESTION AT PHILADELPHIA.

MAYOR ASHBRIDGE, of Philadelphia, it will be remembered, appointed a commission of experts to investigate the problem of that city’s water supply, with a view to its extension and improvement. The commissioners have issued a preliminary report, from which we gather that they have the work well in hand. They state that they have visited the watersheds available for supply in the Schuylkill, the Perkiomen, the Lehigh and Upper Delaware valleys, as well as various points along the courses of the Schuylkill and Delaware. They have also observed the nature of the country, its cultivation, its population, and the sources of pollution to which its waters are subject. They report that they are prepared to give proper consideration to some other possible sources of supply to which attention ims been called, and to continue their investigations of various processes for the purification of the water. One of these processes is an infiltration method of purifying the water of tiie Delaware river opposite the pumping station atLardner’s point, which is only a modification of that pursued at Lawrence, Mass. It is based on the principle that two bodies of water, separated by a bank of material admitting the passage of water through it or through a layer of material underlying both bodies of water, will remain at equal height, if an area were excavated at the side of the Delaware river,protected from the overflow of the river by an embankment the layers of gravel and sand underlying both the river and shore at that point would permit the flow of water from the river to the excavation, filtering it as it passes through these layers. When the excavation is full, the flow will cease, but, as the water is pumped out, it will fill again. The objection to this method is that experience ims shown its impracticability in some cases, owing to the filtrating layers becoming clogged with the matter screened out of tiie water. Such a case occurred in France, where two canals were built side by side, the water passing from one to the other. The filt ration layer soon became impervious to water, and the plant was abandoned. The character of the matter filtered out would have much to do in determining the utility of the method. It isclaimed, however, that this objection does not apply to the conditions at Lardner’s point, since the flow of the river would carry away the matter arrested at the river’s bottom. But it is not altogether certain that this would be the case, as much of the finer matter susI*ended in the water would be carried into the filtrating layer of sand, and must eventually close the passage. It is a question, also, which has not been definitely settled by filtration experts, whether the constant removal of the “bacterial jelly’’ at the surface of the filtration bed by the flow of the river would not destroy the vital element in true filtration.

THE WATER QUESTION AT PHILADELPHIA.

0

THE WATER QUESTION AT PHILADELPHIA.

PHILADELPHIA’S water difficulty has reached an acute stage. A large party both in councils and outside is anxious to let out the contract for the city’s water supply to a private company for a term of fifty years at an annual rental of $1,150,000 a year for 400,000.000 gallons, with added compensation of $1.85 cents per million gallons of filtered water for cleansing the filters. At the end of fifty years the whole plant is to become the property of the city. ‘The company proposes to build storage reservoirs and basins in the Schuylkill and its tributaries, to be formed by impounding dams between Reading and Norristown; to construct two filtration plants, one in the Schuylkill and the other in the Delaware; and to bring this filtered water by conduits to the several pumping stations owned by the city. The company does not ask the city to advance it one cent until it is prepared to carry out its contract to furnish pure filtered water. It will build its own plant, and, it claims, it will be no concern of the taxpayers what price is paid for the land or where it is located, so long as the water supply is satisfactory. To this proposition there are many objectors. Philadelphia has unfortunately won for itself the name of a city too much given up to ring rule and jobbery. Hence some such danger is smelt in this matter. It is also noticeable that the head of the water bureau and Chief Trautwine are not in favor of the proposed scheme. The latter (as will be seen elsewhere in this issue) has emphatically condemned the principle of the municipality parting with the control and ownership of the water works, and opposes it vigorously, if only on economical ground. He maintains that Philadelphia need not go far afield for its water supply; there is enough and to spare at its own doors. For all that the city requires the Schuylkill and the Delaware are amply sufficient. What is really needed is restriction of waste by meters, filtration, and the increase of pumpage from the Delaware within the city limits. For the immediate future he recommends the

improvement of the West Philadelphia supply,the filtration of all the water now pumped from the Delaware, and the other extensions and improvements mentioned in [his] estimate.

As will be seen, Chief Trautwine insists first and foremost upon restriction of waste by meters, a course which, if adopted, would put an end to the prodigal misuse of water and consequent scarcity. He is hardly less emphatic on the subject of starving the pumping stations, the condition of which is simply disgraceful — owing in great measure to the lack of proper boiler capacity, w hereby the largest and best engines are wasting coal, besides being liable (as in the case of four large new engines at the Queen Lane reservoir) to sudden collapse through fractures and other defects. As Chief Trautwine knows what he writes about, it w’ould certainly seem a judicious course for councils to go slowly and to be guided by his advice in a matter of such vital importance.