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.
Finishing up documenting a Water Board Minutes of Meetings Journal, I came across a couple of interesting tidbits concerning the connection between Baltimore and San Francisco. In 2015 we both celebrated a 100 year anniversary. Them celebrating the 1915 World’s Fair and us the building and opening of the Montebello Filtration Plant. The connection being this – February 11, 1915 It was resolved by the Water Board to send the Filtration and Dam models to the Panama-Pacific Exposition. According to the model itself, it was completed in December, 1914.
The waste lake dam and outfall structure being built. Notice the date – October 1914. This means that the model was built conceptually, like an artist’s rendition of something before it is there.
Of course, one research item always leads to more.
In 1884 models of the substructures were built and placed in each gatehouse, Loch Raven and Lake Montebello, to give visitors a better understanding as to how each works. (What happened to them?)
February 6, 1893 the Water Board resolved to send a display to the Columbian Exposition. This was 21 years before the Howell Microcosms were built. so what did they send?
November 18, 1935 letter from M.P. McNulty, he has just completed creating a model of the Loch Raven dams and inquires as to the dates the real dams were built. Small replies that the lower dam was built between 1875 and 1881 by Fenton and Jones, Contractor. The upper dam was constructed by King-Ganey starting in 1912 and finished in 1914 and then raised between 1920 to 1922 by Whiting-Turner. Attached to the letter was a newspaper clipping which shows a picture of the model. (This clipping is at the City Archives)
December 31, 1952 letter from William Eichbaum Scale Models informing Hopkins that they will build a new, Montebello Plant model in the existing case for $1,000.00. This was not done.
And for what appears to be a wonderful book – San Francisco’s Jewel City: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 by Laura Ackley
I love it when engineers, from the real world outside of Montebello, send me historic drawings. Not only did he send me some really nice ones, he gave me a link to thousands of others. I’m glad someone else in the Water Department, besides me, is saving our history. Here is one that threw me off at first glance.
I know where the drain tunnel is off of Lake Montebello, but looking close at this drawing and at a recent photo I had taken of the drain where it enters Herring Run, something just didn’t look right.
To the right of this kidney bean shaped lake is a small arrow pointing to the drain. Then looking close to the left, near Hillen Road is another portal. This is west. Also, the top elevation of 146′ matches the drawing. The east portal top elevation is about 120′. I wish I had photos of when this structure existed. It is all built over now. Under Hillen Road is a large storm drain – 9-12′ that goes into the gate house (Structure with unknown quarter moon shaped object next to it).
Here is another drawing, unknown location because all the shafts were filled in. (Unknown, even though it gives the station as 22+50. Without the overall view, I’m not sure where the engineer started his stations? 2,250 feet from where?
It shows how they built these tunnels, by hand, through solid rock. Bottom legend shows cost and materials. Thanks Engineering!
My WordPress Dashboard tells me that this is my 200th blog post. So, since my blog is called Water and Me, maybe I should write something about water? Trying to think of something profound or water history worthy! I know – Don’t Drink The Water!!!
In 2006 I started writing about water history, doing research and then eventually writing a small book, mostly on one of the water tunnels that supplies water to the Montebello Filters. Here is the Lantern Slide I saved from the dumpster, that started it all:
This is what I had to say about it in my book: “While working with one of the lantern slides, I noticed something odd, that in a tunnel, where workers were excavating, there were train tracks that came to a dead end under what looked like a giant boulder. This particular slide came from a box from around 1938, so I asked Richard if he had any information on an event of that year that was of interest. Sure enough, he showed me the Annual Report covering the year 1938 where it was reported that an explosion had occurred in the building of the Gunpowder Falls Montebello Tunnel. This notation in the report was only about a half a paragraph long, nothing more than a blurb, so I decided to investigate it further.” And I have been investigating water history ever since. Ten men were killed in this explosion and it was just a blurb in a report!
After years of refining my skills at research, I came across so much more information on this explosion. It is amazing what you can find these days on the internet. I found this photo and purchased it from the Baltimore Sun.
It shows the ten dead African American miners being hauled out. My research has taken me to draw the conclusion that this was no accident. That because of the Union troubles going on back then (Fighting between Unions for membership), this was a case of murder.
Sometimes historical research is not pleasant. Just as much as present day research can be unsettling. Like my comment above to not drink the water. I don’t drink it because of the research I have done concerning the fluoridation of the water system. But, I will save that for another post…
I am now in the process of documenting Water Board minutes from 1912-1919, Baltimore City. Over the course of blogging water history, some readers had asked information concerning relatives that may have worked on the New Dam at Loch Raven and/or constructing the Filtration Plant at Montebello. These ledgers have list of employees and their addresses and in some cases, their titles and pay rates. If you think this may be you, send me their names and I will try to look up that info. Keep in mind this is for the above dates. Once I am finished documenting, these books are going into the archives…
For your summer reading pleasure:
1916: A 16,000 gallon swimming pool was being built next to Lake Roland. July 19, 1917 letter from Water Engineer Walter Lee to the Baltimore County Commissioners asking that they police the area around Lake Roland as it has been reported that 10-15 persons bathe there every day. They reply that the city should get their own men to do it. June 9, 1923 letter requesting permission for the L’Hirondelle Club to be allowed to swim in Lake Roland. March 1924 newspaper clipping on drowning of boy, thirteen, in Lake Roland. The city investigation tried to place blame on the Pennsylvania Rail Road, who they say had some timbers floating about, which the boy fell off of as he used them as a raft. The PRR said it was a contractors fault, who used the timbers for some work they were doing. They also note that the boys were trespassing at the time of the incident. October 10, 1917 letter from Walter Lee to Mayor Preston notifying him of the intent of two ladies from Hampden, asking that a swimming pool be constructed on the property of the Hampden reservoir. They were also soliciting for his honor to pass a city ordinance in which they were to propose. Lee asks that if this happens, would the mayor turn the property over to Park Board? June 20, 1922 letter from Megraw to Christhilf Construction and other contractors, asking that they put in a modest bid (For charities sake) for the construction of a swimming pool at West Park (New name of Hampden Reservoir area) March 22, 1923 memo concerning the creation of a swimming pool between the upper and lower dams complete with toilet, shower facilities and a snack shack. June 20, 1924 letter from Armstrong to Siems concerning the swimming in the waters between the dams. He says it is prohibited. June 20, 1926 letter from the Baltimore Federation of Labor to Bernard Siems concerning the city using non-union workers to build the Druid Park Swimming Pool. On the bottom of this memo is a union logo: Specify UNION LABOR, have the job done Right!
Druid Park Swimming Pool
July 11, 1927 letter from Wolman to Wieghardt, “…when the pool was inspected by us a couple years ago we were informed that the Hampden Reservoir contained filtered water…the Hampden reservoir obtains all its water from the Jones Falls. In other words, the pool has been obtaining a completely untreated water from a relatively dangerous source, which has been abandoned for all municipal purposes for over 10 years…” July 14, 1927 letter refers to the Hampden Reservoir area as Roosevelt Park instead of West Park. June 24, 1930 memo from Rost to the Police Commissioner asking that the police stop the boys from climbing over the fence and swimming in the Montebello Plant II filtered water reservoir. 1932 Pools listed are: Druid Hill Colored Pool, Druid Hill White Pool, Gwynns Falls Park Pool, Carroll Park Wading Pool, Riverside Park Pool, Patterson Park Pool, and Clifton Park Pool.
Clifton Park Pool
June 10, 1933 police report on a ten year old who went swimming with three other youths and he drowned. The others left him and told no one. July 18, 1935 request from the National Guard for a shooting range at Loch Raven. Small does not want this. August 15, 1935 Brigadier General Washington Bowie writes Small back stating, “I note what you state in regard to the interference with the recreational purposes. If you had been with me last Sunday…when I saw three negroes in bathing suits swimming back and forth near where I wish to locate the range, or on a previous occasion when I found a half-dozen white boys swimming…I think you would find a rifle range more desirable than such recreational use…the portion outlined on your print is constantly used by both negroes and whites for swimming. The rifle range would at least make this unpopular.” Bowie then goes over Small’s head to Crozier. Crozier agrees with Small. A few months later, the Mayor agrees with Small and Crozier. June 14, 1938 list of names of swimmers at Loch Raven. Officer Goetz is to arrest these people and take them to Towson jail if they are caught again swimming in the reservoir. June 14, 1945 memo from A. Bailey to L. Small concerning kids swimming in the waste lake, “The boys in the Northwood neighborhood…are using it as a swimming pool…groups up to about thirty…during the daylight and night hours, sometimes as late as 12pm. They have been warned a number of times by various employees of this division only to be cursed for their troubles…radio police have been summoned but made no attempt to stop this practice…I talked with two patrolmen while eight to ten boys were in the lake and asked that they talk to the boys…they promised they would but walked to the opposite side of the lake and blew their whistles instead. Yesterday, June 13, there were even a greater number of swimmers than any time previous, so I contacted these boys personally and told them that it was my orders to have them arrested…they paid little attention to what I said…placed twelve ‘No Trespassing’ signs up. By 9pm all signs but one were removed and destroyed. At 10pm, a great commotion was heard, a group of three boys were in swimming and one had gotten into trouble and was so far gone when they rescued him, that it was necessary to apply artificial respiration…police called and all three were taken to Sydenham Hospital. The police, at least the patrolmen, do not seem to want to cooperate with us and make no attempt to put a stop to the practice of swimming. (We) could drain the lake and keep it drained in the summer months…parents may then be willing to stop their kids, but judging from what I have seen of these people, I do not believe they have enough control over their children to prevent them from doing anything that they wish to do. Child delinquency for this section is bad, if not worse than the average for Baltimore City. August 23, 1945 memo from Bailey to Strohmeyer about unwanted visitors to the plant. Young men swimming in the waste lake, one almost drowned. Two, three year olds, alone, swimming in waste lake. One threw a fit and refused to leave. The police were called. Two teenagers running through Plant II and when told to leave, went and got their father who dared anyone to stop them from coming into the plant. An undated memorandum: “Yesterday afternoon … three young men found swimming in the Balancing Reservoir at Loch Raven in their birthday clothes.”
Gwynn’s Falls Pool – the overflow goes right into the stream, adding more pollution.
The largest of the pools back then.
Over a year ago I was asked to be part of an inspection team, to walk/boat through the 12′ tunnel that connects the Loch Raven Reservoir to the Montebello Filters. This tunnel was built between 1875 and 1881. In the early years it was inspected quite often. In the 1960s it was decided, after a parallel tunnel was built in the late 1930s, to reverse the flow in this old tunnel to supply drinking water to Towson via the Cromwell Pumping Station. The old tunnel was last inspected in 1984. For that info you can see my post linked here: https://rep5355.com/2016/04/06/tunnel-inspection/
In preparation for the inspection, I did all the necessary training – Red Cross/CPR, Confined Space, etc. Then we were told that it was too unsafe to send anyone in the tunnel. Totally bummed!
So now they have finally gotten around to inspecting the tunnel with a remote operated vehicle. It has been a long week starting last Friday. First order of business was to clear the site for the contractor to bring in his equipment.
Area cleared and the phragmites sprayed.
Next, construction mats were placed across the phrag roots – which is very soft. (And the equipment very heavy) These boards did the trick.
The equipment was unloaded. This is the inspection vehicle. It is about 14′ long and weighs 1500 pounds.
This is the tether. The sub is connected to this. It is 7 miles long, but only needs to go 5-1/2 miles.
The sub will enter at the top right. This is looking down the shaft towards the tunnel.
Here she goes.
Because this is a pipe that is in use, with drinking water, everything that enters the water was sprayed with a chlorine solution.
The control center. All this information on all these screens will be made into a report for the City to decide if the tunnel is still usable. The interesting one is bottom center. If you watch that and there is a change in the circle, say a rise in the bottom, that means the sub is going over a rock fall. You then look at the camera display and you can actually see it.
In my previous tunnel inspection post is a photo where the balancing shaft enters the tunnel at Cromwell. It is mostly smooth. Unlike this entry point – it looks like someone busted thru the top of the tunnel with a sledge hammer.
The sub was moving at a nice pace – looked like the Enterprise going at warp speed! Not sure what those particulates are just yet. Probably just some stirred up lime deposits.
And when I got bored, I went looking for nature. There are 3 young bucks…
A couple babies.
An Eastern-eyed Click Beetle
Bunches of other bugs.
And our night time visitor looking for food.
Anyone that has been following my blog will remember my writing about a few construction projects that are water related. Such as the new buildings at Loch Raven, the contractor busting a hole in the ten foot conduit that supplies water to Baltimore, another contractor digging up the foundation to an old pumping station, the attempts to save the Clifton Gate House, the Roland Tower, the residence at Montebello, etc.
When I first wrote about the work along Loch Raven, I wrote about the house and buildings they were tearing down. After being notified of this project, I went to investigate and saw a bunch of metal signs. Not necessarily ultra historic, but a part of Baltimore’s Water Supply History nonetheless. I was able to retrieve from the contractor, 2 of the 8 that were there. The other six were taken by a company the reuses old building materials.
Here is one of the eight signs. This all happened a few months ago. The other day I received an email. One of those courtesy type ones from the big bosses downtown, trying to keep me in the history loop. Well, I was dumbfounded when I read the email. It just said FYI and had the attached photo along with two other attachments.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! This photo is of the marble plaque that was in the original 1881 gate house to the first Loch Raven Dam!!! i always wondered what happened to this thing.
The third attachment is a quote, only partially shown to protect the parties involved. Two marble plaques? The quote went on to say that the other one was dated 1887!! Holy crap! Only one water works related to Loch Raven was built at that time and that was the Clifton Gate House!! My eyes were playing tricks on me!! This couldn’t be!
But wait! How did this company get these things and were they really trying to sell them back to the City? City property??!! I don’t think I ever cussed in an email to one of the bosses downtown but I just couldn’t contain myself “What the hell! This is City property. How can they charge us for something that is ours?!” I suggested he gets the Environmental Police involved to check this out. If not, tell them I will give them $500 and we won’t press charges. He said he turned it over to the EP. And he did. Today I received a copy of the investigative report stating that these items were picked up by accident and would be returned to the City. And they were this afternoon!!
More on this later so stay tuned! (I want to go into a lengthy bit of comment on what we should learn from this…)