Documentary History of American Water-works

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Middle Atlantic States
New Jersey Water for Jersey Towns

Water for Jersey Towns

New York Times, November 9, 1890, Page 17.

| Jersey City | Newark | Passaic | Paterson |

Water for Jersey Towns.  A big concern that will supply billions of gallons.  Nine hundred miles of watershed tapped for the use of Newark, Jersey City, and other towns.
An interesting feature in the history of local municipal affairs has been gradually assuming definite shape in the big towns across the r1ver in New-Jersey. It concerns the matter of water supply, and offers an interesting story.
It seems that ten years or more ago the people of Newark, Jersey City, Passaic, and the adjacent towns came to the conclusion that the water drawn for their use from the Passaic River below the great falls at Paterson was unfit to drink. The rlver from the falls to the bay had grown to be simply a vast natural sewer for a very thickly-populated section. In each town there were agitations, discussions, and abundant clamor. Plans for reaching the Upper Passaic with Its tributary mountain streams were constantly bronght to public notice. The immense expense in each case offset every other argument, and it seemed likely to thinking men that the coveted new supplies would come only with the millennium.
While matters were in this state, about four or five year ago several shrewd New-York operators turned their attention to tho subject.  These men, among whom John R. Bartlett seemed to be the guiding genius, conceived the idea or putting up tho money the cities could not get together and offering to each a private supply. No time was lost. The right to the entire flow of the Passaic watershed at the falls was obtained and every interest was speedily drawn together. In a very short time Mr. Barlett's associates included the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures, Dundee Water Power and Land Company, Passaic Water Company, East Jersey Water Company, Montcla!r Water Company, West Milford Water Storage Company, Acquackanonck Water Company, and the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The water companies controlled every lake and stream in a watershed of 877 square miles. The railroad company, a lessee of the Morris Canal and Banking Company, owned the waters of Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake, in each of which the storage capacity amounts to
billions of gallons.
The union of all these interests once effected, Mr. Bartlett submitted offers to each city to supply water trom the mountains at a fixed per million gallons, the amount available for the use of all being something like 450,000,000 gallons per day. He also offered the alternatlve of direct purchase by the cities of the entire plant needed for an adequate supply to he constructed by him and turned over either soon as finished or at the expiration of any contract they might enter into. The appearance of these propositions precipitated the most spirited and notable controversies these Jersey towns had ever known. Bartlett and his plans were condemned right and ieft. The state was asked to use its right of eminent domain and go into tho water business as a dealer. The rights of the associated companies as riparian owners were challenged most bitterly, and every individual connected with them was denounced as a conspirator against the the prosperity or the Commonwealth.  Public meetings and pamphlet literature served to develop this feeling to such a pitch that the bad water in itself forgotten. Propositions of all sorts were made in Newark, Jersey City, Bayonne, Montclair, and Passaic either in Mr. Barlett's name of that of one of his companies.  Each proposttion formed a centre for a hot battle.
The several enabling acts passed at Trenton served the same purpose.  A mass of water statistics was hauled from dusty closets, and this with the endless series of speeches, gave the people or each town such an education in the matter of water supply as they had never known before. This was the sort ot reception the water operators met in Jersey. Tho odd and lnteresting part or it all comes with the comparison of this state of alfalrs with that of the present.
Each town has surrendered. The scheme of the New-Yorkers seems complete in every detail, the work of exploiting is finished, and the practical part of the great work is well under way. Montclair went first. The town contracted for a year's supply, with the option of buying at the end of the term. The other day the matter came up in Council, and resolutions were adopted commending the company and continuing the private service. Passaic contracted with the Acqnackanonck Company, got its water, and the other day these resolutions, introduced by Citizen A. Swan Brown, were passed by the Citizens' Association:
Whereas, It is a matter of record that the Citizens' Association has been opposed to the city's obtaining a supply of water by private enterprise; still we appreciate that our city is now supplied with pure water in abundance and a proper pressure, and
Whereas, The Acquackanonck Water Company has more than fulfilled the promises as to the time when the improved supply should be obtained; be it
Resolved, That the thanks of the company are due to the Acquackanonck Water Company for the manner in which they carried out its contract with the city of Passaic.
In Paterson the old water works of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures were continued under the new ownership with reduced rate. Newark decided to buy its new supply outright. Tho city contracted with the Lehigh Valley Company for a complete plant, a pipe line tu the Pequannock district and a supply of 27,500,000 gallons a day for $6,000,000.  The company assigned the contract to the East Jersey Water Company, and before the people of the big town had ended their indignant talk about the city authorities the work was under way. Gradually the tone of comment changed. To-day one of the features of Newark life is the general commendation of the manner in which the new plant is being pushed.  This is an undertaking of considerable engineering magnitude.  The intake is at a point on the Pequannock River, the princ!pal tributary ot the Passaic, thirty miles from the city and about eight hundred and fifty feet aabove sea level. The scheme for the utilization of these mountain waters includes the building of three dams, three reservoirs, and the the laying of twenty-eight miles of four-foot steel pipe. The first dam, at Oak Ridge, will impound 2,500,000,000 gallons. In building it a cut of 55 feet through the rock has been made 30 feet wide.  The completed dam will be 650 feet long, 45 feet high,. 500 feet thick at the base, and 20 feet at the top, with a ooncrete core of 8 feet.
The second dam at Mossmans Brook is three miles eas of Oak Ridge. lt will be 1,500 feet long, and of the same height and width as the other. Tbe storage capacity here will be 3,538,000,000 gallons. The third dam at the intake will receive the outflow of Lake Macopin.  It is situated four miles south of the second reservoir.  It is of solid masonry 400 feet long, 25 feet high, and 15 and 8 feet wide at the base and top. This will form the distributing reservoir.
The area drained for the supply is sixty-five square miles.  The capacity of the reservoirs 6,068,000,000 gallons, and the daily flow 52,000,000 gallons.  The pipe line is being laid by the Bethlehem iron firm of McKee & Wilson. There will be about 5,250 length of 28-foot pipe, each length weighing 3,000 pounds. The pipe ls conveyed to the point nearest the scene of working operation on cars of the Susquehanna Railroad, and from there carted on heavy trucks through the rough Jersey woods.  The line followed proceeds from the intake about a mile along the north bank of the river,  crosses it, and stretches miles over tho plateau to Pompton Plains.  Here it descends !rom 540 feet to 190 feet above tide level and strikes south in a direct line ten miles to the Great Notch in the Orange Mountalns, 310 feet above the sea.  From this point it travels seven more miles to the Newark receiving reservoir, and thence by another pipe five miles to tho high-service reservoir. The work of laying the p1pe commenced Sept. 20 and has since been pushed at a very rapid rate. Before it is finished,  tunnels and viaducts must be constructed, roads pushed through dense woods, and a mass of similar dfficulties encountered.
The company has contracted to have its new supply ready for service May l, 1892.  From that date it shall continue the supply of 27,500,000 gallons for at least ten years under present contract. The excess of this amount it may use during that time for other purposes. Of the contract price of $6,000.000 the city is to issue bonds for $4,000,000 to be paid now and $2,000,000 to be paid in eleven years.
Newark people are now anxiously awaiting the completion of the work, as their present supply, taken from the river at Belleville, grows worse daily with the ever-increas1ng discharges of sewage and factory waste polluting it.  For the ten years of the contract tbe 27,500,000 gallons dally will more than supply the demand, which at present is about 13,000,000.  The little city of Bayonne closely followed Newark in executlng a contract. Bayonne has been paying Jersey City $100 per 1,000,000 gallons for water from the Belleville intake.  Mr. Bartlett offered water from above the fails for $80, and tbe Bayonne people readily agreed to the price. The water will be brought for the present by way of Newark. Jersey City was tha last town to capitulate.  Even now, though all opposition to the private supply has died out and the
Board of Trade has passed resolutions favoring a speedy settlement of terms, the situation is still a peculiar one.
Bartlett's first proposition was to deliver water to Jersey City at the rate of $36.50 per million gallons.  Although the local Board of Works accepted this bid, the roar of opposition from all quarters withheld the action of the concurrlng power.
Several further propositions have been made.  One of those included an offer by Bartlett to assume the water debt of half a million, pay the interest and all the expenses of tbe department, and simply oolleot the revenue at tha rate now paid.  As tha department is running in debt each year this idea was received with some favor, but stlll not enough. The last offer was for a supply at $40 per million gallons.  When this had remained untouched for some time, the water people concluded to make no more offers and await developments. In the quiet that ensued people found plenty of opportunity for study and reflection.
Among other things noted in the course of these reflections were these: The Water Department, in the hands of the corrupt Hudson County ring, is becoming an expensive affair.  The last annual report of Controller Hough shows it $244,000 in debt to the general city account. A few years ago, under good management, it paid handsome profits. According to the last published annual report of the Water Department the dally oonsumption averaged 18,606,000 gallons; the receipts for the year were $543,760, and the disbursements $587,435.  Of these receipts $221,579 came from the metered water used by the railroads and larger manufacturing concerns, and $29,006 from Bayonne and Harrison, a total o! $250,585, or nearly half the income from meter receipts. It is generally known that Mr. Bartlett has agreed to supply the companies at a rate far below that of the city.  Bayonne he 1s also to supply. If he were to pass by the city itself and fill only these minor contracts, the loss ot revenue would paralyze the department.
These facts, together with the annoyance of pending suits against individual and corporate polluters of the Passaic, have weighed heavily with the thinking oitlzens. Many of them are associated in tho Board of Trade. At a recent meeting of this body the question of water supply was taken up and a report made by Louis V. Booraem of the Committee on Municipal Affairs was considered.  Mr. Booraem owns $200,000 worth of real estate in the city. During the first water agitation he bitterly opposed the new idea. He is one of those who have changed their minds. The report first  alluded to the fact that during the Summer it became necessary for the Water Department to buy water from the Hackensack Company, which supplies Hoboken.  A rate of $100 per million gllons was paid and $9,000 expended during one month. The impurity and "brownish appearance" of tho water, the flow of increased sewage into the river, and other details of pollution were noted, and the action of Newark and Bayonne quoted as a reason for slmllar action on the part of Jersey City.
After a discussion on tho subject matter of the report a resolution was unanimously adopted calling on the city authorities for immediate action in the matter of securing a new supply.  The only question now remaining is whether the Bartlett syndicate will offer to take the control of the department or deliver the water at a fixed rate. The gigantic nature of these operations and their close relation to the most important features of local affairs through the New-Jersey manufacturing centres give them an especial interest. The aggregate capital behind the undertaking amounts to something like $20,000,000, and the men identified with it are of the highest financial standing. The expense of acquiring the Passaic water rights reached an enormous figure, and the amount of practical work now under way involves many millions more.

2015 Morris A. Pierce