The never-ending rains are here so I decided to check out the water works and see what is going on. Montebello Lake has risen quite a bit. If the grounds crew does not cut all the way to the water line, the phragmites will once again encroach the banks.
A look in the gate house on the lake. This flow is normally about 11-13 mgd. Today it is at 21 mgd. And for those of you who do not know – no, this is not drinking water going to waste. The Montebello Lake is where the impurities from the treatment plant settle out along with the dissipation of the chlorine before it goes into Herring Run.
On my way over to Kathy’s for some steamed crabs, she calls me and says I should check out Loch Raven before coming to her house, so I did. I parked behind Sander’s and walked over to where Mine Bank Run and the Gunpowder Falls meet. Wow!
Back to my car and headed to the 1881 dam. One of these days someone will fulfill their promise to me and let me in to photograph looking down into these chambers. Not holding my breath! The new, unused maintenance facility up in the background.
Here we can see that the integrity of the wall is starting to give a little bit. The water is gurgling up through the wall on the left, which means there are holes in the wall. Overall, not bad for a wall that was built in the 1880s.
If there is this much mud and silt from the small streams that feed the Gunpowder, can you imagine all the crap in the waters of the Susquehanna River! 444 miles of dirty water emptying into that river and then our Bay!
The water above the new dam is our drinking water. And even though this water looks pretty muddy and full of debris, once filtered at Montebello, it is still some of the best drinking water in the country. (Think I will get a raise for that promo! Ha!!)
With retirement not too far away, Kathy and I have been looking at houses the past couple of months. Some have been fairly nice, others would take too much work and still others have since been knocked down!
Of course, working for the Water Department for 37 years, why not live on watershed property or any other house owned by the City of Baltimore?
This first house was right here at the Montebello water plant. The only thing left to this house is the BBQ chimney.
Info on the house and its occupants.
Another house on the Montebello Grounds. I had actually met people who lived here. This too was knocked down.
Info on house. Nice house for a labor foreman.
And the final Montebello house.
Info on house. This is a duplicate of the Armstrong house, that the preservation people are holding up construction on a new chlorine building, but where were they when this house was razed? I guess a youth baseball field makes it ok to knock it down, but not a water process building??
Time to ride up to Loch Raven, to look at some houses:
Info on house.
This next one looks nice – also looks familiar.
Info on house.
Another nice one.
Another laborer’s house.
Moving up the Gunpowder River to check out some houses up near Prettyboy Reservoir.
A fixer upper with chickens.
This one looks like a scary place to raise kids.
Doesn’t appear to be a City employee, but still City property.
I doubt if Jimi lived here, but nice. I guess the owner was tired of people asking where the dam was so he put up a sign.
Info on house.
We leave the Gunpowder area and head back to the City, Roland Park. I like this one. A little skinny but nice. Wish the realtor would have posted some interior pics!
Property info. This guy resigned but is still living in the house.
We left there and headed back over near Montebello. Got a text from my agent saying that a house just came on the market over at Clifton!
Darn! Too late – turned over to the Park Board!
We now head west out of the city towards the Patapsco river. Avalon.
Not sure about that porch and what’s with those small upper windows??
This one looks like the Davidson house above, but it comes with children.
Info on house.
More searching took us to a couple more.
These were double occupancy, I really don’t want to live next to someone that works at the water department! This one below is a semi-detached.
The next house was unbelievably dirty. I felt sorry for this little kid, whose father worked for the City Comptroller.
It does have a mill though.
Info on the house.
A big house on the market, over on the west side – Arlington.
Looks like a school next door – don’t need the noise.
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…