History of Troy NY Water Supplies

From the M.S. Thesis of Chris Alonge

Light editing and conversion to HTML by H. Bungay

Troy Water Works History
(Department of Public Utilities City of Troy, NY,1991)

The development of the Troy city's water supply system began in the early 1800's when springwater was distributed through wooden pipes, and culminated in 1966 with the construction of Troy's first water treatment plant. Prior to construction of the treatment plant, Troy was plagued with "black" water, periodic "boil water" orders from the Health Department and an unending number of large and small water main breaks.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Troy was still a village and was supplied with water by the Aqueduct Water Works, through wooden pipes from a spring on the west slope of Mount Ida in the area east of Liberty Street. In 1833, Troy had become a city and entered into a contract for the construction of three reservoirs on the Piscawan Kill, the stream through what is now known as Frear Park. The construction of the one covered and two open reservoirs located just east of the Boston and Main Railroad tracks in Eddy's Lane was completed in 1834. The storage capacity of the three reservoirs was one million gallons.

In 1838 it became apparent that it was necessary to increase the existing supply. The feasibility of constructing a new reservoir or pumping directly from the Hudson River was studied. The outcome was that a fourth reservoir known as the Fire Dam was constructed west of Oakwood Avenue, east of the three reservoirs already in use. In 1840 another reservoir was constructed to add to the existing supply, and this reservoir was located approximately two miles north of the City on the Piscawan Kill and this reservoir became known as the Brunswick Reservoir.

By 1860 it became necessary to construct the lower Oakwood Reservoir, and in 1861 a pump was installed to pump water from the Hudson River. However, shortages still continued and in 1862 it was necessary to supplement the supply from the Hudson River using fire pumpers. As a result, in 1863 the upper Oakwood Reservoir was constructed in the Frear Park area.

In 1868 the Vanderheyden Reservoir was added just west of the Brunswick Reservoir. The total amount of storage after construction of this reservoir was increased to approximately 400 million gallons. In 1879 pumping from the Hudson River to the lower Oakwood Reservoir was increased and an additional reservoir on the Piscawan Kill located west of the Lake Avenue entrance to Frear Park was constructed to supply the higher portions of the City. This additional reservoir became known as the High Service Distributing Reservoir, and this and the upper Oakwood Avenue reservoir both obtained their water from the Piscawan Kill. The Low Service was fed from the lower Oakwood Reservoir which obtained its supply from the Hudson River Pumping Station located at 123rd Street, and construction of this pumping station was completed in 1880.

In 1883 the Fire Dam west of Oakwood Avenue was abandoned and a new reservoir known as the Lower Oakwood Distributing Reservoir was constructed on the same site. A twenty-four inch main connected the new reservoir to the existing twenty-inch main constructed in 1857. At this time the three original reservoirs located on the Piscawan Kill were abandoned. In 1885 a second twenty-four inch main was constructed from the Lower Oakwood Distributing Reservoir and was connected to the distribution system at River Street. In 1899, the existing supply was determined to be inadequate, and the Hudson River water supply was found to be unfit for human consumption.

Between 1883 and 1900 the Village of Lansingburgh had developed its own water supply and this supply was located in the northeast section of the Village in the Miami Beach area and consisted of three reservoirs known as the Lansingburgh Storage, Interceptor, and Distributor Reservoirs. The capacity of these reservoirs was approximately 60.6 million gallons. Immediately prior to the annexation of Lansingburgh to the City of Troy, work developing Deep Kill was initiated. At the time the Village became part of the City a twelve-inch pipeline from the Deep Kill to the Lansingburgh Intercepting Reservoir was nearly completed and a dam on the Deep Kill was about half completed. Because of faulty design based on incomplete geological investigations, the Deep Kill dam was never completed to the height originally proposed.

Construction of the Quacken Kill and Tomhannock supplies was started in 1900. The Quacken Kill supply in conjunction with supply from the Vanderheyden Reservoir was connected to the twenty-inch main servicing the High Service Distributing Reservoir west of Lake Avenue and this reservoir was abandoned. After the High Service Distributing Reservoir was abandoned and supply to the High Service was taken directly from the Vanderheyden Reservoir, it was possible to service a larger area in the eastern portion of the City located at higher elevations with an increased head of approximately ninety feet.

The diverting dam on the Quacken Kill was initially supplied from four ponds located in the Town of Grafton, including Long Pond, Second Pond, Mill Pond and Shaver Pond. Dams and spillways were built at each pond with valved outlet pipes. When necessary, the valves were opened and water was allowed to flow down the Quacken Kill to the diverting dam where it was transported to the Brunswick reservoir through a cast-iron main.

In 1905 considerable attention was given to construction of a filter plant for treating Tomhannock water. Plans and specifications were completed and the project went to bid but award of bid and construction never commenced. In conjunction with the filter plant, two standpipes and a pumping station to service the higher portions of the City were also planned.

The 123rd Street Pumping Station was closed in 1906 after the Tomhannock supply was put into service. In 1906 the Lansingburgh Reservoirs were shut down and the Deep Kill was taken out of service as the Tomhannock supplied Lansingburgh as well as the Lower Service area of Troy. It was found at this time that the entire City including Lansingburgh could be adequately supplied, with the exception of the High Service area, by gravity from the Tomhannock supply.

During the first eight years of operation, leaks and necessary repair operations of the thirty-three inch steel pipe from the Tomhannock caused occasional interruption of service to the City. In 1914 a thirty inch main was installed parallel to the existing thirty-three inch main to avoid any further additional interruptions in service and add to the available deliverable supply to the City.

In 1916 an interconnection between the two twenty-four inch mains from the lower Oakwood Distributing Reservoir was completed and the Reservoir was abandoned. At this time supply to the low service distribution system was provided from the new thirty-inch main after the pressure was regulated north of Northern Drive by means of pressure reducing valves. Service to the Middle Service area was from the thirty-three inch main which was connected to the thirty-inch force main from the old pumping station at 121st Street. The upper and lower Oakwood Avenue Reservoirs were abandoned and the Low Service supply was supplemented from the Middle Service by means of utilization of pressure reducing valves at Glen Avenue and also at Congress Street.

The eastern portion of Troy continued to develop and in 1914 it became necessary to increase the capacity of the Grafton supply. This was accomplished by construction of the Martin-Dunham Reservoir. In addition, transmission capacity of the Vanderhyden Reservoir to the City was increased by construction of a new sixteen-inch main parallel to the existing twenty-inch main located at Lake Avenue.

In 1916 after completion of the new sixteen-inch main, the High Service area was divided into two districts known as the High Service and Upper High Service Districts. The Upper High Service District was supplied entirely from the new sixteen-inch main while the High Service District was supplied entirely from the existing twenty-inch main.

In 1925 the first chemical treatment of the City's water supply commenced with the addition of liquid chlorine for control of possible bacteriological contamination.

In 1929 it became necessary to raise the pressure of the Upper High Service to serve the area of Troy higher than the elevation of the Vanderheyden Reservoir. This was done through the installation of pressure regulating valves east of the Brunswick Reservoir on the transmission main from the Quacken Kill diverting dam. In addition, a new sixteen-inch main was constructed from the Quacken Kill supply main at the Brunswick Reservoir along North Lake Avenue to the sixteen-inch main connected to the Upper High Service.

In 1938 it was again necessary to supplement the supply to the Upper High Service, and thus another sixteen-inch main was constructed. This new main connected the Quacken Kill diverting dam at Eagle Mills to Central Avenue along Pinewoods Avenue and a regulating valve was installed prior to connection to the Upper High Service distribution system. In 1953, to provide better pressure regulation, an additional regulator was installed on the Pinewoods Avenue main between Eagle Mills and Central Avenue.

Very little has been done to increase the distribution capacity of the Low and Middle Service systems after the installation of the thirty-inch main from the Tomhannock in 1916. Facilities were constructed at the Tomhannock, Quacken Kill, and Vanderhyden supplies in 1952 for the proportional control of chlorination, metering of the flows, and addition of lime. Screening facilities were also installed at this time for the Quacken Kill and Vanderhyden supplies. A new spillway channel was constructed at the Tomhannock in 1959 with other improvements including the installation of screens at the Tomhannock intake.

In 1960 a comprehensive engineering study was completed by the consulting engineering firm of Camp, Dresser and McKee of Boston, Massachusetts. The engineering study encompassed the following areas:

The City of Troy
A Limited Region including the communities immediately adjacent to Troy (East Greenbush, North Greenbush, Brunswick, A portion of Schaghticoke, and West Sand Lake)
The Entire Region including most of the populated area of Southern Rensselaer County

As a result of the studies it was determined that the Tomhannock Reservoir could serve the entire water system, including the surrounding communities. This would require pumping to the higher elevations of the city and storage in each of the High and Upper High Service areas. A major rehabilitation of the Tomhannock transmission mains and most of the large distribution mains in the city was required, because of excessive leakage and corrosion, along with the installation of several large diameter mains.

Actual construction started in 1960 with the cleaning and cement lining of 13,000 feet of the 33-inch riveted steel transmission line to the Tomhannock Reservoir. Design also commenced on all of the other needed improvements including pumping, storage, treatment and transmission. For the next several years a transmission main cleaning and cement lining program was followed for piping down to 12 inches.

During 1962 construction commenced on the Eddy Lane Pumping Station to feed both the High and Upper High Service areas, and construction was started on the 5 million gallon ground storage reservoir, which would feed the High Service area. Also, 2,400 feet of old 20-inch pipe was cleaned and cement lined through Frear Park to connect the new pumping station to the High Service distribution system. The old Middle Service area was discontinued and was combined with the Low Service area.

In 1963 construction of a new 45 million gallon per day Water Treatment Plant was started on the site of the old Miami Beach Lansingburgh Reservoir. The Treatment Plant was completed and put on-line within three years.

In October of 1963 the entire High Service area was placed on the Tomhannock supply and led to the discontinued use of the Brunswick-Vanderheyden Reservoirs. These were later sold to the Town of Brunswick for the establishment of a Town Park.

With Tomhannock water being transmitted through newly rehabilitated water pipes, through the new Eddy Lane Pumping Station to the new 5-million gallon High Service reservoir, a marked improvement was noted in the lack of color of the water that had been a source of discomfort to consumers. Sodium hexametaphosphate treatment commenced at the Tomhannock Intake to control the manganese problem, the cause of numerous black water complaints. Construction was also started on the 4-million gallon elevated storage reservoir, which would serve the Upper High Service area and a large area in the Town of Brunswick and thus place these areas on the Tomhannock supply.

In 1964, approximately 9,000 feet of 24 and 20-inch cast iron cement lined pipe was installed, connecting the Eddy lane pumping Station with the 4-million gallon elevated tank on Tibbits Avenue. The Grafton ponds and the Martin-Dunham Reservoir were then taken out of service and sold to the State of New York for construction of a new State Park.

Once the Treatment Plant was activated, for the first time treated water was being supplied to Troy's consumers. The treatment process includes chlorination for elimination of bacteria, alum addition for sedimentation of solid matter, rapid sand filtration, lime addition to reduce the corrosive action of the water, some carbon addition for taste and odor control, potassium permanganate addition for manganese control and fluoride addition for the protection of the teeth of the consumers.

The pretreatment works and filters are divided into two separate sections of four units each. Any section or individual unit may be removed from operation without affecting operation of other sections or units. The flow of the raw water entering the plant is regulated by rate controllers. The coagulating chemicals are added in the rapid-mix basin from which the chemically treated water flows through an influent flume to the floculation basins, where slowly revolving paddles cause the finely divided and colloidal particles to adhere together(floc) so they will easily settle out in the sedimentation chambers. The water remains in the sedimentation chambers for several hours to allow the floc time to settle. The settled particles are scraped into a hopper and removed on a predetermined time schedule. The settled water then passes onto the filter beds which consist of an eighteen inch layer of anthracite coal on top of an eighteen inch layer of sand. The filtered water is discharged into a receiving well, which carries it to an 8.5 million gallon clearwell and then to the distribution system. This clearwell provides for the storage requirements for that portion of the system served by gravity from the Treatment Plant.

The Treatment Plant is capable of being expanded to 100 million gallons per day to satisfy future demands, by adding basins as required. The City of Rensselaer and the Town of East Greenbush completed a large construction program and commenced taking water from the City of Troy in the fall of 1968. Their consumption increased the water demand on the plant by 3 million gallons per day. According to the 1960 Camp Dresser and McKee report as well as the Chief Water Plant Operator for the City of Troy, the Town of Sand Lake could be added to the Troy water system without taxing the limits of the existing Water Treatment Plant (Bonesteel, 1996).