Wisconsin Water System.

Wisconsin Water System.

The latest annual report of the Wisconsin Railroad Commission, under whose jurisdiction comes the water systems of the state, contains much information that is valuable to the readers of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING. Several tests have been made of waterworks plants under the observation of representatives of the engineering staff of the commission since the enactment of the public utilities law One test was made on each of two plants, one being municipally and the other privately owned; four other tests were called for by city authorities under the terms of franchises governing the operation of the plants. In the latter cases, two of which were tests made one year apart on the service of one plant, the engineers of the commission were present merely as observers to gather the facts as to the character of the results primarily for use in pending cases to which the several utilities were parties. In connection with tests on one plant several members of the staff who had observed the tests were called as witnesses and gave testimony relative to service in a suit brought for hydrant rentals. It was understood in this case with both parties and with the presiding judge, in advance of the trial, that the testimony by members of the staff was to be rigidly non-partisan. Most of the tests referred to wereconducted with reference to franchise requirements following the customary lines with respect to a prescribed number of fire streams sustained through a stated period of time with definite details as to length and size of hose, kind and size of nozzle, etc. The usual provision, representing conventional practice in this line, that the height of the test fire streams should be based upon the assumed condition of a given height of stream in still air, although seldom actually realized in practice, causes no embarrassment in a field test made on a windy day provided reliable observations are taken of the hydrant pressures. In the earlier fire stream tests observed by the staff hydrant pressures were noted at intervals with ordinary indicating pressure gages, and approximate measurements were also taken as to the heights of fire streams for purpose of verification. It subsequently appeared to be essential for the sake of greater reliability, and also of economy in the number of observers required during a test, that an equipment of recording pressure gages should be purchased by the commission under the provision of the Public Utilities Law. At first three such gages were obtained, equipped with six-hour clock movements and charts for fire stream tests, and also with twenty-four-hour substitute mechanisms for use in ordinary pressure surveys. Quite recently two additional gages of the same kind and a portable pressure gage tester have been provided, the whole making up an exceedingly compact and efficient “traveling laboratory.” In working up the results of a fire stream test the heights of stream with reference to the prescribed “still air ’ basis are determined by calculation with reference to the well-knowp standards established by the Massachusetts 1 *ard of Underwriters in 1888.


During the past -ar the attention of the commission has been dted to an important case of contamination of n artesian water supply at Madison. Attention was first directed to the Madison waterworks in the latter part of 1908 and the early patt of 1 SK*i» by reports of insufficient water pressure at fires as well as by the lowpressure during the summer months. Upon examination by the commission’s engineers it was recommended that several recording water pressure gages and a record stream gage be installed, and this suggestion was acted upon by the city’s board of water commissioners, under whose order the recording gages were purchased and installed. It was observed that a shortage of water existed, and an examination was made late in 1908 regarding the new Dayton street reservoir as to the delay in placing it in service. About this time some agitation arose as to the contamination of the water supply and in response to an informal complaint an investigation was made by the commission as to the possibility of delivering into the city mains water taken from Lake Mendota through a 4-inch pipe which had years before been used as as boiler supply. At the time of the examination this old suction pipe was found to be entirely disconnected and the pipe used merely as a boiler blow-off. Another examination was made several months later in regard to the same matter, when it was found that changes had been made in the piping which would render it impossible to put lake w’ater into the mains at the station even wxre the 4tuch suction pipe unbroken. The Madison waterworks were brought formally to the attention of the Railroad Commission in December. 1908, when an application was filed by the board of water commissioners of the city to reduce the amount of water allowed under the minimum charge, involving in effect an increase of rates. This petition, after due investigation, was denied by the Railroad Commission in a decision rendered in January, 1909. After this case was disposed of a complaint was filed by citizens of Madison for a readjustment of rates, and supplementary to this action, on the motion of the commission, a general investigation of all features of the system was undertaken. A valuation of the property was ordered and the same made by the commission’s staff. Subsequently, upon suggestion of the Railroad Commission to the Iniard of water commissioners an engineer was employed by the latter body to make a study of the present and future needs of the system, the results of which investigation were embodied in a detailed report on the future needs of the situation with estimates of the costs of construction and operaion. Samples of water were taken at the pump from the direct suction wells and also at the various wells equipped with deep well pumps. Contamination was indicated in many of these tests, and it appeared that the only explanation of the presence of foreign matter in the water was through some direct connection with a supply other than that of the wells. On April 98, 1910, with a view of throwing light on this question, an investigation was begun of tinpossible connections between the city supply and the various industrial plants having lake intakes, including the university pumping system. The results of this investigation were submitted late in May in a report containing a description of the piping systems of some twelve independent pumping plants where it was regarded that connections with the city system might have been possible. Investigation was also made at this same time regarding the possibility of lake water being forced into the city system at the city pumping station through the abandoned boiler feed intake previously mentioned. In the course of these studies a valve was found partly open in the Capitol Park, on a pipe line connecting the city and university systems, which allowed some flow of lake water into the city system, the observations showing that there was at times an excess of pressure on the university system above that in the city main. The tests made by the State Hygienic Laboratory brought out the important fact that a marked contamination of the supply followed in quick succession after heavy spring rains, and this led to a detailed study of the physical conditions surrounding the artesian wells themselves. These investigations, although still in progress, have resulted in important steps looking to the safeguarding of the sources of supply against similar dangers in the future. Furthermore, definite action has been taken by the city water board whereby all possible connections with lake pumping systems have been severed. In addition lo the matter of contamination of source of supply the Madison case also involved the studies of water pressures, already mentioned, with respect to both domestic and fire service. During the summer of 1910, in response to certain informal complaints regarding low water pressure on the city system in the higher portions of the city a number of pressure records were taken by recording pressure gages in different sections. On September 5 last a fire stream test was made on University Eleights, which revealed a defect in the float valve designed to close the inlet to the standpipe when full. The defective condition of the valve prevented the furnishing of fire pressure for some forty minutes subsequent to turning in the alarm, and during that time the pressure was inadequate for effective fire service. As a result of this test it was recommended that a valve be installed at the standpipe with control from the station for the purpose of instantly shutting off the standpipe at the time of the fire.


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