I was recently called over to the contractor’s worksite because they hit another pipe underground. Another one not on their drawings but included in other drawings (Why the engineers don’t look at other record drawings is beyond me). This is a special pipe that I was looking forward to them hitting. I knew it was just a matter of time.
Here it is – a 4″ lead pipe inside an 8″ Terra Cotta pipe. Why is it special? Because I always wanted to see how the alum, manufactured at Plant II was piped across the street to Plant I.
The water engineers boiled up their own alum in lead lined vats and it was then pumped across the street through the lead pipes. Below is one of the vats right after the lead was replaced. Over the years there were many contracts to recoat the insides of the vats. When the vats were no longer used, city workers climbed down into them to remove the lead sheeting.
Lead pipes have been in use since the early Roman days. It was also used as a seal on pipes as shown below. In 1974 a lot of the old gate valves were replaced with butterfly valves. They did not replace the pipe. You can see where brackets hold the pipe together where lead is in the joints. These joints being made 1912-1915.
You have to feel kind of sorry for the contractors (and the city) for all the antiquated piping underground. Here is a site on Montebello property showing the obstacles of past contractors. Unfortunately, these abandoned lines were and are never removed. This photo shows a 5” conduit, 8” raw water, 10” water supply, 4” alum, 4” lead alum and 6” sanitary all in one pit. Under the very top conduit is the 13,000 volt, cement encased, electrical duct bank.
For your further historical pleasures – here is a history of lead in Baltimore:
1923 – Leadite Use: Bureau adopts leadite as a jointing compound and as a substitute for lead on water main installations. Leadite eliminates the use of caulking and can withstand the enormous pressure that the water mains are subjected.
Contract No. 84: Lead Lining Tanks: The Specification was dated July 21, 1926. Contract was awarded to the Joseph G. Graydon & Sons of Baltimore on July 21, 1926.
1930 – The Hampden Reservoir was drained. The outlet gates were closed permanently where possible by welding and then sealed with lead.
1931 – The liquid alum being made at Montebello is more acidic and corrosive than the lump alum. The cast iron pipes and valves can not stand up to this type of corrosion. They were replaced by pure chemical lead for the pipes and hard lead for the valves. Maintenance also had problems with the lead lining in the alum boiling tanks cracking.
A 1934 article appeared in several technical journals, which had given a general survey of the mineral contents, as determined by means of a spectrograph of the water used by 50 cities throughout the country. Baltimore was 1 of the 50 cities used in the survey, and the article indicated that the drinking water as delivered to its citizens contained lead as high as 0.3 parts per million, which was an amount generally accepted as detrimental to the health of people continuously drinking such water. The Water Department being stunned by this article, since this value was higher than any that had ever been noted, decided to ascertain the exact truth of the matter. The Montebello laboratory carried on a series of careful determinations extending through the year 1935. The City Health Department laboratory, not knowing the tests being conducted by the Montebello laboratory, conducted their own investigation for the lead count in the water. The City Health Department tests confirmed the test values conducted at Montebello. The results indicated that the lead content in the raw water never exceeded 0.2 parts per million and after treatment and filtration at Montebello, the content of lead did not exceed 0.02 parts per million. The normal lead count of the water was 0.01 parts per million. The tests proved conclusively that there was no danger whatsoever from lead poisoning due to the drinking of filtered Gunpowder River water.
1936 – December 7, 1936 letter from Engineer Small to the Chief of Police concerning the theft of pig lead.
1939 – Minute cracks started to appear in the lead lining of the tanks used in the manufacturing of alum. Tanks lasted ten years and produced 20,000 tons of alum.
1941 – The alum steel tanks were relined with lead. Tank #9 was relined with 20# tellurium lead and placed back into service on June 16. Tanks #5 and #7 are planned to be relined using St. Joe lead. Tank #7 is expected to be placed back into service by January 30, 1942; and Tank #5 is expected in service by March 15, 1942.
1942 – Because of the decision by the War Production Board regarding critical materials, the use of copper tubing for new installations was prohibited starting in August. Copper tubing installation was replaced by Type K lead alloy tubing. The replacement of the lead lining of the alum steel tanks was completed on February 7, 1942.
1949 – Pig lead test (checking for radioactivity). Leadite joints on water pipes are failing due to a high content of Sulphur and carbon in the surrounding soil.
1951 – A contract was awarded on December 26 to lead line the three steel alum storage tanks at Montebello Plant No. 2.
1952 – The lead pipe alum line between Montebello Plant No. 1 and Plant No. 2 had several leaks and was replaced.
1953 – Replaced Sulphuric acid pumps for Alum manufacturing. Also renewed was the lead line transporting the acid from the basement storage tanks to the manufacturing room.
1957 – 4 page Sunday Sun article on Weights and Measures. George Leithauser. Mentions chicken sellers using lead weights in birds.
In the late 1920’s a plasticized sulfur cement compound was developed as an alternate to lead for sealing the pipe joints in the field. This compound is referred to as “leadite”. Leadite was commercially produced up until the early 1970’s, and was used extensively from 1941 to 1945 when lead was scarce as a result of raw material needs associated with World War II. Ultimately, leadite was found to be an inferior product to lead for two reasons. First, leadite has a different coefficient of thermal expansion than cast iron and results in additional internal stresses that can ultimately lead to longitudinal splits in the pipe bell. Secondly, the sulfur in the leadite can facilitate pitting corrosion resulting in circumferential breaks on the spigot end of the pipe near the leadite joint. The failure rate in the industry for leadite joint pipe is significantly higher than for lead joint pipe even though the pipe may not be as old.
Construction Management sent me this photo and asked if I know what lake this is! If you ever need a pond or lake dredged, these guys do it right. And ahead of schedule.
That cove on the right hasn’t been cleared in about 40 years! I need to bring my kayak to work! For inspection purposes of course!
Last week I received a request from my boss to check out the Montebello Lake. That it was reported that someone was seen dumping petroleum and chlorine into the lake. My first question was – “Did the person who spotted this call the police?” It is a crime to tamper with the water supply, let alone dump toxic chemicals into a lake on our property. This lake is no longer part of the city water supply system, other than being a settling basin for what goes on in the filtration plant. It is a by-product of filtration, waiting to settle out before flowing into Herring Run. Most people, even the neighbors don’t know this. They still believe the lake is drinking water. It hasn’t been drinking water since 1915.
I go and check out the lake but didn’t find anything amiss. (Not only do people NOT call the police, but after 35 years of being here, I learn to take those calls for lake problems with a grain of salt. Most are not true and unsubstantiated, but they do need to be checked out)
This is the view across the lake towards the gate house. The brown you see in the water is sludge build-up. This lake was dredged in 2005-2007, but the contractors only did a small portion of the smaller lake where most plant sludge is collected before flowing to this lake. That lake will soon be dredged. (It should be every 3-5 years, with the big lake not needing to be done for 30 years)
The ducks, turtles, fish and other wildlife all seem to be fine. No effects from a toxic dump here. I also did not see any dead growth on the grass which would indicate dumping.
This is one of the original drawings from 1875 showing the lake being built over Tiffany Run, which dumps into Herring Run. The run was diverted into a tunnel from the gate house, lower left of lake then heads along, marked as drain conduit to Herring Run.
This is the original 1880s Tiffany Run drain. It has been relined a couple times since being built.
Channel from Tiffany drain to Herring Run. This is probably the best part of my job, other than historical research – getting to roam around in the woods. All 300 acres.
So the Montebello 100th anniversary has come and gone. It was a pretty nice affair. I will start doing some more Water History on here, but it will probably be more Baltimore Sewage history. I have been doing some extensive research on the subject and will share some of it here. I will most likely put it in book form, to go with my water history book.
The first photo is inside the gate house, of which I talked earlier about. The second is a State Historical marker that was placed outside the gate house.
In 1913, while building the underground reservoir for the filtration plant at Montebello, Baltimore Md., the contractor in his zest for an early completion bonus decided to start filling over the reservoir with dirt. Haste makes waste!
The majority of the structure collapsed. The contractor needed to start over and by late 1914, he was almost done. Because of other related projects, the water works would not be completed until 1915.
The above photo is what it looked like near completion. This structure, which holds close to 20 million gallons was built using wood forms and poured in place concrete. When the wood was removed, the slat marks stayed.
The next set of photos I found were from 1965, when the reservoir was being cleaned (It was usually cleaned every 4-5 years, to remove lime deposits)
The only way in and out was thru a site well and down the ladder. Men with fire hoses washed it down. Lime visible on side wall and columns.
These next pics show the same reservoir 100 years later being cleaned. It is a very time consuming task. Before the Clean Water Act and all those other fed and state regs, we could just send it all to drain and have it cleaned in a couple days. Now it takes weeks and we have to monitor ph and Cl2 levels.
Looking into the far left corner of the last photo you will see a set a stairs. They were installed in 1983. As can be seen, 100 years later and it still looks the same.
From my book: 1919 thru 1937 – File Folder, No. 1432, General: AWWA paper on Freezing of Water in Mains Laid in Salt Water and in Mains and Services Laid on Land by William Brush. Pamphlet from 1919 (re-dated 1936) Frozen Services and the Method of Thawing. A how-to book on thawing water service to your house using an electric thawing apparatus. They ask that fires not be built in valve boxes, that hot water should be poured into them. Five pages of newspaper articles glued to the pages. One article mentions the water department receiving one thousand frozen pipe calls in a day. Various articles on gas leaks and explosions. February 10, 1936 Resolution (No 240) that the Board of Estimates gives money to the water department to buy ice thawing machines. February 12, 1936 News Post article by Carroll Delaney on the city’s inability to thaw out pipes. February 15, 1936 memo from Small to Crozier listing expenditures for thawing so far – $45,500.00. March 11, 1936 memo from Small to Crozier on cost associated with the cold weather. Welding machines at 500 amps needed to be rented from different companies and the laboring cost associated with their use was noted as to why there was an increase in expenditures for the water department. April 13, 1936 memo from Small to American Electric Welding Company noting payment of $72 for 480 gallons of gasoline ($.15 per gallon). The welder was for thawing frozen pipes around Baltimore. Brochure on “Hydra Thaw” equipment. May 26, 1936 memo from the Bureau of Accounts informing Crozier that the Mayor approved $127,150.00 that was owed to the Water Supply for work during ‘Freeze’. A total of $600,000.00 was spent throughout the city. January 15, 1937 memo from Small to Thomas Young, City Collector notifying him to put this stamp on water bills: “No adjustment will be made for water wasted to prevent freezing of pipes.” Apparently, last year during the big freeze, consumers were told to leave a small amount of water running to prevent freezing pipes. They did not.