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Presentation on theme: "HISTORY OF THE PITTSBURGH PUBLIC WATER SUPPLY (1802 to present)"— Presentation transcript:


2 A Very Brief History of Water Supply 300 B.C. – Roman Empire Aqueducts and lead plumbing 2000 B.C. - Crete Wooden pipe/stone sewers 1200 A.D. - United Kingdom 5.5 km lead pipeline delivered water from Tyburne Brook to London 1664 A.D. - France 25 km Iron pipe from Marly-on- Seine to the Palace of Versailles

3 A Very Brief History of Water Supply Philadelphia, PA Cast iron pipe Bethlehem, PA Bored logs with lead joints New York City Croton Water Supply (upland) Tunnels and iron pipe Los Angeles Owens Valley Aqueduct Infamous interbasin transfer 1829 – London,England 1st Sand Filter (Chelsea Waterworks)

4 PITTSBURGH 1794 – organized as a Borough 1816 – incorporated as a City

5 Sources of Water Back in the Day River and Pond Water- frozen in winter – very warm in summer When Pittsburghers drink river water – they stir up the mud from the bottom of the bucket before they take a drink

6 Sources of Water Back in the Day Natural Springs-flowing out of the hills Springs at foot of Grants Hill utilized from 1780s till 1840 People complained of sulfur smell

7 Sources of Water Back in the Day Wells Difficult to rent out a property w/o a well Difficult to dig wells Private well owners reluctant to allow public use

8 Sources of Water Back in the Day Rain water gathered in cisterns Undependable supply

9 FIRST CENTURY (emphasis on water quantity)

10 First Public Water System 1802 – Burgesses authorized construction of 4 public wells 47 ft deep & lined with stone Located on Market St & equipped with hand pumps Burgesses also authorized compensation for private well owners who allowed public use of their wells

11 First Public Water System Cost to Borough Paid by tax on residents total cost-$525 Difficult to collect tax

12 Upgrade of Original System Early debate over upgrades to system focused on private vs public provision of water

13 Upgrade of Original System By 1820-city outgrew original system Lines of people at public wells People utilized river for water Many residents kept tanks in backyard filled by Water Carters

14 First Pumped Water System Citizens petitioned council to build a pumped system utilizing river water Petition specified public ownership Greatest opposition - Water Carters

15 First Pumped Water System 1828 – First pumped system constructed Supervisory committee – Messers. Fairman, Magee, Denny, Carson, Hayes PS located at foot of Cecil Alley

16 First Pumped Water System Pumped to 1 million gal reservoir on Grants Hill System included: 1 pump, 1 steam boiler, 1 reservoir, & 1.5 miles of pipe Cost - $111,000

17 First Pumped Water System First 3 yr of operation- Daily pumpage only 40,000 gal/day pumping engine operated only 21 hr/wk Households strictly limited in water use Frequent pipe breaks due to weak mains


19 1844 Upgrade Cecil Alley Pump Station and Grant Hill Reservoir abandoned Larger pump station built at 11 th St & Etna St 7.5 million gallon reservoir built at Prospect St & Elm St

20 1844 Upgrade New pump station contained 2 steam-driven pumps (Samson & Hercules) Combined pump capacity = 9 mgd Pumped almost continuously for 40 yr Water bills: $3-$10 per year per household $20-$40 per year per hotel $15-$150 per year per factory

21 1848 Upgrade Required by continued expansion of city to eastern hill section & Great Fire of 1845 Additional reservoir built at Erin St & Bedford Ave (2.7 mil gal capacity) Additional pump station built to feed new reservoir System delivered water to 6,600 locations thru 21 miles of pipe

22 1870 Upgrade 1867 – 14 wards annexed to city (additional 35,000 people) Additional pumps added to existing stations Temporary pump station built at 45 th & Allegheny River (pumped <1mgd and used until 1879)

23 1879 Upgrade By 1878: population = 106,000 daily pumpage = 15 mgd 1879 – Highland Res. #1 built (125 mil gal) Brilliant Pump Station constructed Brilliant Hill Res. built (never used) Herron Hill Res & Pump Station built (replaced by larger pump station in 1897)

24 Brilliant Pumping Station (late 1800s)

25 Carnegie Lake

26 Construction of Herron Hill Reservoir

27 Herron Hill Reservoir

28 1880s-1890s Upgrades 1880s – Meters installed Early 1880s - small tanks & pump stations built for Garfield & Lincoln neighborhoods 1903 – Highland #2 Res built (125 mil gal)







35 Consolidation of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, & Monongahela Water Systems 1907 – Pittsburgh & Allegheny Cities combined 1908 – Pittsburgh purchased Monongahela Water Company

36 Northside Water System 1849 – Allegheny constructed pump station on River Ave & reservoir on Troy Hill Allegheny built Howard Pump Station (supplied tanks on Spring Hill and Nunnerey Hill from River Ave PS) 1896 – Allegheny built Montrose PS (cost = $2 mil, capacity = 36mgd) (operated until 1914)

37 Southside Water System Monongahela Water Company served Southside prior to its annexation to Pgh 1865 – PS built at Mon River at 29 th St Birmingham Res built on 30 th St 1875 – Small PS built at Birmingham Res to service hill section

38 Southside Water System – 3 Allentown Tanks built 1908 – Pgh purchased Mon Water Company By 1930 – Little of Mon Water System still in service (other than Allentown tanks and distribution mains)

39 Fire Protection A critical mission for public water supply is fire protection Earliest houses in Pittsburgh were of log construction and built 30 to 60 ft apart Later houses were frame and built closer Initial firefighting method – Bucket Brigade

40 Fire Protection 1794 – Eagle Fire Company formed (First elected engineer = John Johnson) City population = 1000 Fire station located on 1 st Ave near Chancery Lane Utilized hand-operated pumper called the Eagle

41 Fire Protection Additional Fire companies organized – Allegheny Fire Company 1811 – Vigilant Fire Company 1815 – Neptune Fire Company 1816 – Ordinance requiring leather buckets

42 Fire Protection 1859 – First steam-driven firepumper (nicknamed the Steam Boat by other fire companies) 1870 – Pittsburghs first paid fire company (end of volunteer fire companies)

43 The Steamer of the Pittsburgh Fire Department with the Eagle Companys horse-drawn engines.

44 Great Fire of 1845 City population – 22,000 April 10, 1845 Noon – Sparks from washerwomans wash pot ignite stable at Ferry St & 2 nd Ave 6pm – Fire was finally burning itself out Smithfield St Bridge blown up by residents

45 Great Fire of 1845 Losses – 2 deaths 12,000 people homeless approx 1/3 of city destroyed (56 acres) 982 buildings destroyed $6 to $8 million damage Contributing factor – Lack of water When the firefighters attached their hoses, they found only a weak sickly stream of muddy water

46 Great Fire of 1845 In all this vast space, the very heart of the city, including most of the warehouses of our manu- facturers, and our principal wholesale grocers and commission merchants, there is not one house standing that we know of Gazette – April 11, 1845


48 THE BURNING OF PITTSBURGH as painted by William Coventry Wall two days after the devastation.

49 THE BURNT OUT CITY A Contemporary painting by William C. Wall

50 First 50 yr of Public Water Supply Construction of the water system was the largest expenditure made by city (40% of all municipal spending) Water services not evenly distributed (working class neighborhoods served less than affluent areas) (1872 Water Commission ruling relating pipe size to potential revenue)

51 SECOND CENTURY (emphasis on water quality)

52 Need for Water Treatment Throughout 19 th century – no treatment 1855 – John Snow demonstrated relationship between drinking water quality and cholera Disease in Pittsburgh indicated need for water treatment

53 Cholera Like London – Pittsburgh experienced cholera outbreaks (1832,1833,1834,1849,1850,1854,1855) 1832 – outbreak appeared first in other cities Religious leaders urged a day for fasting, humiliation, and prayer, that God would avert the danger threatening the country from Asiatic cholera

54 Cholera 1833 – Outbreak returned with even greater virulence Newspapers suppressed info on epidemic 100 cases treated & 75 deaths

55 Cholera 1849 – Southside was hardest hit Birmingham almost depopulated by residents fleeing to countryside Outbreak almost halted river travel Coal fire or pitch pot on every street

56 CHOLERA EPIDEMICS Cholera Epidemics kept Pittsburgh in fear. Coal fires and pitch pots were lit in the streets, expecting that the flames would kill the cause of the disease. Hundreds perished in 1832, 1833, 1834, 1849, 1850, 1854 and As stated in the book PITTSBURGH the Story of an American City, by Stefan Lorant.

57 Cholera 1854 – worst outbreak of all 400 deaths in two weeks Howard Association formed to deal with epidemic Recently opened Mercy Hospital treated victims

58 Typhoid Fever Typhoid indicated the need for water treatment in Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 1907: city population – 535,330 typhoid cases – 5,652 typhoid deaths – 648 typhoid = 7% of all city deaths Typhoid death rate for Pittsburgh - (121 deaths/100,000 population) Typhoid death rate for 56 US cities - (31 deaths/100,000 population)

59 Typhoid Deaths per 100,000

60 Typhoid Fever Residents urged to boil water Bottled water usage among highest in US Immigrants ignored boil water advisory You cannot make the foreigner believe that Pittsburgh water is unwholesome

61 Typhoid Fever By 1900 – More than 350,000 inhabitants in 75 communities upstream of Pittsburgh were discharging untreated sanitary and industrial wastes into Allegheny River

62 Drinking Water Treatment Typhoid statistics and obvious contamination of river water prompted calls for water treatment

63 Drinking Water Treatment Three Options - 1) Accept status quo 2) Obtain water from uncontaminated upstream source 3) Filtration

64 Drinking Water Treatment 1847–Water filtration first suggested 1894–Joint Commission of Chamber of Commerce, Allegheny Medical Society, Engineers Society of Western PA, and Iron City Microscopical Society, recommended filtration & constructed pilot filter Pittsburgh and Allegheny City water supplies are not only not up to standard but are pernicious

65 Drinking Water Treatment 1896 – Council appointed Filtration Comm. (published report recommending slow sand filtration) 1899 & 1904–voters approve bond issues 1904 – construction of filter plant begins

66 Slow Sand Filtration Plant Original plant consisted of – Ross Pump Station Sedimentation basins 46 then 56 Slow sand filters Clearwell


68 Ross Pumping Station (early 1900s)

69 Ross original steam pumps


71 Filtration Plant Sedimentation Basins (Early 1900s)

72 Construction of Slow Sand Filters (Circa 1905)


74 Completed Slow Sand Filters

75 Maintenance of Slow Sand Filters

76 Isometric view from Highland Park of three pumping stations and filtration plant of the City Water Supply.

77 In 1923, the treatment plant had the distinction of being the largest sand filtration plant in the world.

78 Heinz Sauerkraut Factory

79 Heinz Cabbage Field

80 Additional Improvements 1911 – chlorine disinfection initiated 1912 – Southside served by Highland Res. #2 Mission Pump Station built (South 29 th St PS abandoned) 1914 – Cabbage Hill Res & Aspinwall Pump Station built (Montrose PS, Troy Hill PS,& Troy Hill Res abandoned) 1920s – McNaugher & Brashear Reservoirs built (Montgomery, Lafeyette, & Greentree Tanks abandoned)

81 Effects on Public Health 1907 – 3800 typhoid cases & 373 deaths 1915 – 146 typhoid cases & 21 deaths

82 Typhoid Deaths per 100,000

83 St Patricks Day Flood Worst flood in Pittsburgh history By March 1 – 53 in. of snow vs 28 in. March 16/17 – 45 0 F & 2 in. rain March 18 – Rivers crested at 46 ft. (normal pool = 16 ft.) 15 feet of river water on Golden Triangle streets

84 St Patricks Day Flood Deaths – 153 throughout Ohio Valley 69 in Pittsburgh region 45 in City of Pittsburgh $250 million damage No electricity for 1 week Numerous fires Widespread loss of gas, telephone, & transportatio

85 St Patricks Day Flood March 18 – Flood waters inundated Ross, Aspinwall, & Brilliant Pump Stations March 20 – stored drinking water began to run out Higher altitude neighborhoods lost water pressure & supply

86 St Patricks Day Flood March 20 – Brilliant Pump Station resumed operation March 21 – Ross Pump resumed operation March 23 – Aspinwall Pump Station resumed operation Much of distribution system never lost water service due to extensive storage capacity Backup water provided to 30 hospitals

87 St Patricks Day Flood Mitigation steps following flood- Series of 9 flood control dams & reservoirs constructed on Allegheny Pump controls elevated Future plant additions built above flood plane

88 More Recent Improvements 1950s – Chemical treatment initiated 1962 – Clarifier constructed 1969 – Rapid sand filter plant built 1990s – Reservoirs covered 2002 – Membrane filtration plant built

89 Highland Reservoir #2

90 Membrane Filtration Plant

91 Highland Reservoir #1

92 THIRD CENTURY (emphasis on water quality, sustainability, & green technology)

93 1984 – PWSA formed purpose = oversee $200 million capital improvement program 1995 – Pgh Water Dept became part of PWSA purpose = manage day to day operations & maintain extensive infrastructure

94 Regionalization Major goal – sell water regionally Current customers: Fox Chapel Blawnox Reserve Township Aspinwall Millvale Hampton Township (partial)

95 Major Challenges Increasingly stringent water quality regulations Maintain aging infrastructure Source water protection Energy optimization (e.g., hydroelectric energy generation)

96 Pittsburgh Water Treatment Plant


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