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Full text of "The history of the Baltimore water supply since 1882."

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E. G. PaIGE. 


This paper is not complete in itself and should 
not be confused as such. Its only purpose is to complete 
the work: started recently by Mr. K. P. Spence who has treated 
the subject up till the close of 1872. 

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Prom the time of the completion of Druid Lake, 
formerly known as Lake Chapman, in 1868 until 1872 there was 
no new construction work of any importance. In 1872 the 
Inadequacy of the Jones Palls supply became apparent and the 
need of an entirely new source was realized. The Gunpowder 
River, which had been investigated and discarded in 1857, was 
selected as this new supply. Temporary works were erected 
and water was pumped over the dividing ridge between the Gun- 
Powder River and Jones Palls and thus into Lake Roland, The 
capacity of this temporary supply was five million gallons 
per day. 


Nothing more was done from the completion of this 
temporary reinforcement in 1872 until 1874 when the city 
appropriated $4,000,000 to rebuild and complete the Gunpowder 
River supply. This money was to build the following works; 

To construct a new reservoir, Lake Montebello, with 
an area of sixty acres and with a capacity of 500,000,000 

To construct an Impounding dam at Loch Raven with 
a crest elevation of 170 feet above mean tide and a reserve 
capacity of 510,000,000; a tunnel 12 feet In diameter and 
7 miles long to connect this dam to Lake Monkebello and 

capable of delivering 170,000,000 gallons per day; the con- 
struction of a storage reservoir, Lake Clifton, with, a capacity 
of 265,000,000 gallons and the laying of a 40 inch main from 
Lake Clifton to the city limits. 

This work was completed and in 1881 about three- 
eights of the city's water supply was received from Jones 
Palls; the new Gunpowder supply furnishing the remainder. 

T^e Mount Royal Pumping Station, located at Uorth 
Avenue and McMechen Street, and built in 1889, is the one 
remaining steam plant at the present time. 

The Eastern Pumping Station was also constructed in 
1889 and is located on Oliver Street west of Wolfe Street. 
This station was built originally as a steam plant but was 
converted in 1915, when motor driven centrifugal pumps were 

With but very few changes and improvements the supply 
remained in this state until 1908. 


In 1907 it was realised by the Health Department that 
the typhoid cases in Baltimore were due to the water supply. 
The growing dissatisfaction with the water supply lead, in 

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1908, to the floating of a bond -issue of $5,000,000 to in- 
crease and perfect the water supply. This appropriation was 
to carry out the following improvements: 

A new dam some 240 feet above the old dam, designed 
for a crest elevation of 235 feet and only carried to an ele- 
vation of 188 feet above mean tide; the erection of a filtra- 
tion plant near Lake Montebello with a covered reservoir for 
the filtered water; and the construction of Lake Ashburton in 
the northwestern section to supply the western section of the 

During 1910 the need for this increased siipply became 
imperative. For six consecutive months the flow of the Gun- 
powder River was less than 75,000,000 gallons per day, and 
during one month it dropped as low as 54,000,000 gallons per 

Throughout this period there was a water famine in 
the city. The water coning from the Gunpowder River was muddy 
and in its unfiltered condition was unfit for use. Every 
home was equipped with a filtering device of some kind and in 
many sections of the city the water was of such condition that 
it could not be used at all. 

The many springs throughout the city were practically 
the only sources of drinking water available. Tolson Spring 

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located on Harlem nvenue just west of Pulaski Street, 
furnished the drinking water to thousands of people living in 
a radius of several miles. Several springs in Druid Hill 
Park also furnished great numbers of people with water. 
People waited in line at these springs night and day for their 
personal supplies. Young children hauled water from the 
springs to different sections of the city and sold it to those 
who could not go after it. 

The recurrence of such a condition at the present 
time, when the daily consumption is between 90 and 100 million 
gallons, would prove a calamity to the city. 

In 1911 the purification was begun by treating the 
water with calcium hypo -chloride. Immediately following this 
action there was a marked decrease in the number of typhoid 
cases in the city. 


Loch Raven Dam is located 7 miles north of the 
Montebello Filters, and as constructed in 1915, was built 
with a crest elevation of 188 feet, but with a base sufficient- 
ly wide to permit the ultimate raising of the crest to 270 feet. 
This is somewhat wider at the base than the original plans 
called for as mentioned above. Soon after completion the 
crest was raised an additional four feet by the construction 

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of "tipping sections" made of wood and steel. These sections 
were so arranged that when the water reached an elevation one 
foot above the crest, some of the sections tipped, allowing 
the water to flow over the masonry crest. When the water 
receded the sections automatically tipped back into position. 

Water is conveyed from the Loch Raven Dam to the 
Montebello Filters through about J mile of 10 foot cement- 
lined steel pipe, and six and one-half miles of 12 foot 
tunnel cut through solid rock. Some portions of the tunnel 
are unlined, some are lined with brick and others were re lined 
with reinforced concrete in 1914. 


The Montebello low lift Pumping Station is circular 
and contains 5 centrifugal pumps located in a pit upon 
foundations 23 feet below the ground level. These pumps have 
an aggregate capacity of about 250 million gallons per day. 
Each pump is of a different capacity and advantage is taken 
of this fact in securing the most economical combination 
necessary for the volume of water required. It is interesting 
to note that this station is operated by three shifts of 8 
hours each, one man to a shift, 

After leaving the pumps the water passes through a 
venturi meter into the mixing basin where alum is applied as a 

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coagulant in order to prepare the water for filtration. It 
next enters the coagulating basins where the heavier particles 
and much of the "bacteria are removed. There are two of these 
basins of 8,000,000 gallons capacity each. 

The water next floY/a to the filters of which there 
are 32, each having a normal capacity of 4 million gallons 
per day. The filtering medium is sand 24 inches deep, sup- 
ported on a well graded gravel layer 14 inches thick. The 
net sand area of each filter is 1,440 square feet. The 
filters are washed at intervals varying between 15 - 50 hours 
by reversing the flow through them for a short time. 

The filters are located above basins directly 
connected with the filter reservoirs, which have a combined 
capacity of 17,000,000 gallons. The application of liquid 
chlorine to the water as it enters the filtered water 
reservoir Is the last step in the process of purification. 

T^e completion and placing in operation of the Loch 
Raven Dam, the tunnel and the Montebello Filtering Plant 
brings the water supply up to the present day. The Jones 
Falls supply has been abandoned, but can be used to supply 
unflltered water when an emergency arises. 

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In 1919 due to the annexation of a large amount 
of land by Baltimore City it became imperative to increase 
the supply of the city. The possibility of a recurrence of 
the dry spell of 1910 and the disaster such a drought would 
cause, had been realized for years by engineers of the Water 
Department. After much controversy the crest of the Loch 
Raven Dam was raised. T^is created a reservoir of 23 
billion gallons capacity. The work, completed in 1923, 
consisted of raising the crest 52 feet above its former level, 
the original foundation being used. The new structure is of 
concrete, of the gravity type, and has an Ogee spillway 300 
feet long, and a total length of 625 feet. 

The raising of the dam at Loch Raven would subject 
the tunnel to a hydro-static pressure far in excess of its 
safe limit. C ntrol by means of the gates at Loch Raven, 
however, was impossible, as too wide an opening would subject 
the tunnel to pressure, and too small an opening would cause 
the pumps to lose suction. 

This difficulty was obviated by building a small 
balancing reservoir near Loch Raven. This reservoir was 
created by building a small earth dam across a ravine, with 
a spillway at an elevation of 200 feet, and sinking a shaft 
in the middle of this reservoir to the existing tunnel so 
that water can flow in and out freely. In operation, water 

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is admitted to the tunnel through partially closed gates at a 
rate near that calculated to meet the needs of the city. 
Should the city need more water the difference would be made 
up from the balancing reservoir and if less water is needed 
than that passing the gates, the excess water would escape 
into a nearby stream. It is thus possible to maintain the 
tunnel under a safe and practically uniform pressure. 

The power for operating the pumps is transmitted 
from the Monument Street power house, where connections are 
made with the transmission lines from McCall's Ferry Hydro 
Electric Plant or from any of the local generating stations. 
One of the difficulties with operating the pumping station 
with power received over long distance lines is that there 
are occasional interruptions In the service. On such 
occasions all the pumps are thrown out of service, the sudden 
stoppage causing water hammer due to the sudden checking of a 
column of water 7 miles long and 12 feet in diameter. This 
effect is lessened by the balancing reservoir acting as a 
safety valve; also a shaft has been drilled to the tunnel at 
Montebello. If there is a sudden surge of water in the tunnel 
due to the sudden stoppage of the pumps this shaft will over- 
flow and discharge into the wash water reservoir. 

In connection with the new dam the entire water shed 
of the Gunpowder River, which comprises 306 square miles, is 

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under city supervision and all streams are also watched by 
city inspectors. The city now owns about 5,000 acres lying 
along the different streams and has absolute control of both 
banks of the river as far north as Phoenix, about 19 miles 
north of B a ltimore. The city inspector systematically visits 
every premise on the watershed and eliminates many of the 
nuisances which would cause impurities entering the river. 

Baltimore County is full of hills and many of them 
are covered with clay which at times of heavy freshets is 
washed Into the river. such water Is difficult and costly 
to treat. In order to retain the water in the earth and 
prevent erosion the city has planted over a million trees 
and the planting will be continued until all the city ground 
Is covered. 


Due to the difference in elevation of the different 
sections of the city it has been necessary to divide dis- 
tribution into three zones: Low Service, Middle Service and 
High Service. 

The Low Service Zone, which Includes all territory 
below the 100 foot contour, Is supplied by gravity from the 
reservoir at Montebello. This gives a variation in static 
pressure between 49 and 92 pounds in different sections of 

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this Z ne. T^is Zone consumes about 65$ of the city's 
total consumption. 

The Middle Service Zone is divided into two parts 
the Eastern and Western Middle Service Zones, The Eastern 
includes all territory East of Jones Palls Valley which lies 
"between elevations 100 and 250 feet. This Zone is served 
from Guilford Reservoir and has pressures varying from 39 
pounds to 104 pounds. The Western includes all elevations 
100 and 300 feet. This Zone is supplied from Ashburton 
Reservoir and the pressures vary from 22 pounds to 108 pounds. 
The water consumed in the Middle Service Zones is about 32$ of 
the total consumption of the city. 

The High service Zone is also divided into Eastern 
and Western sections with the Jones Palls Valley as a boundary. 
The Eastern High Service includes territory lying between 250 
and 350 feet contours and is supplied by the Roland Standpipe. 
The static pressures vary between 86 and 43 pounds. The 
Western High Service Zone includes all territory lying between 
the 300 and 400 feet contours and is supplied from the Arling- 
ton Standpipe. The static pressures vary between 65 and 108 
pounds. The High Service accounts for about 3$ of the 
city's consumption. 

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For several years the Filtration Plant at 
Montebello has been overtaxed and with the acquisition of 
the new territory in 1919 and consequent expansion of the 
distribution system it has been found necessary to increase 
the capacity of Montebello Plant. This work was started in 
1925 and is now nearing completion, 

A new plant is being constructed on the west side of 
Hillen Road directly opposite the old plant. This new plant 
is practically the same in construction as the old plant and 
holds 28 filters with a 24 hour rating of 4,000,000 gallons 
each. This will bring the combined capacity of the two 
plants up to 240,000,000 gallons per day. 

The new filters are of wood slat base, 1 inch 
boards spaced 1 inch apart being the supporting medium for 
the gravel and sand beds. This is a departure from the pipe 
base of the old plant. 

An alum manufacturing plant is being constructed in 
the building to obviate the necessity of buying the alum and 
chemicals for treatment. 

The completion and placing in service of the new 
Montebello Filters will bring the water supply of Baltimore 
up to the present time and concludes the History of the Water 
Supply of Baltimore, 

All material for this thesis was taken from the 

1, An Article written in recent years by 

V. Bernard Si ems, recently Chief Engineer of Baltimore Water 
Department • 

2, Personal notes of Mr. Hopkins, present Chief 
Chemist of Montehello Filtration Plant, 

3, An Article written by J. W. Armstrong, 
Filtration Engineer of Baltimore Water Department. 

The present dam at Loch Raven 1 9 -1 

The Loch Raven D ,m in 1919 

The new Filtration Plant at T'ontebello 

Lake Montebello 

Coagulating Basins of the Hew Filtration Plant 

Coagulating Basins of the Old Filtration Plant