Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Pelham Manor's Efforts to End Use of the Pelham Reservoir for Drinking Purposes

The history of the Pelham Reservoir and its use as a source of potable water for residents of the Town of Pelham is rather convoluted and complex.  Recently I published to the Historic Pelham Blog an extensive collection of the research I have prepared on this issue.  See Wed., Mar. 11, 2015:  Research Regarding the History of the Pelham Reservoir in Today's Willsons Woods Park.  Today's posting provides a little more information about the history of the reservoir.  Specifically, it provides information about the Village of Pelham Manor's efforts to end reliance on Pelham Reservoir as a source of potable water.  

By 1929, it was clear that Pelham Reservoir was no longer suitable to meet the water needs of Pelham residents.  In the previous twenty-five years, the population of the Pelhams had exploded from about 2,500 residents to nearly 11,000.  The population of the entire region had grown similarly, straining the water resources of the New Rochelle Water Company that owned the reservoir system at the time.  Additionally, the region was in the midst of yet another prolonged drought.  Consequently, water levels in the reservoir were dangerously low and water pressure throughout the area was quite poor.  Additionally, the Pelham Manor Fire Department tested the system by opening a few hydrants.  What they discovered was rather revolting.  

In one instance, the water was "black as oil."  Throughout the system the water was muddy.  Something had to change.

It was not for want of effort that the Village of Pelham Manor still used reservoir water in early 1929.  The New Rochelle Water Company had been working for years to bring Catskill Mountain water to Pelham Manor by connecting to the aqueduct system that carried that water through the Hudson Valley.  Indeed, in November, 1928, the New Rochelle Water Company installed new pumping equipment that enabled it to draw Catskill water and deliver it to Pelham Manor.  Barely a month later, the new pumping equipment began giving trouble and had to be repaired.

During the repairs, Pelham Manor had to revert to consuming reservoir water during a prolonged drought.  Once the pumping equipment was repaired, use of the reservoir water had drawn water levels to such a low that the repaired pumping equipment had to be deployed to refill the reservoir to ensure its availability during a water emergency rather than using it to move Catskill water to Pelham Manor.

The Village of Pelham Manor was understandably upset.  Finally, in mid-April, 1929, the New Rochelle Water Company announced that the Catskill water service would begin again the following month and that the reservoir water would only be used for emergency purposes until the lease of the reservoir facilities expired in November, 1931.

On May 1, 1929, the New Rochelle Water Company turned on the Catskill water throughout the Village of Pelham Manor.  Complaints of distasteful and muddy water ended immediately.  By the end of the year, Pelham Manor officials had secured a contract with New Rochelle Water Company "guaranteeing constant supply of Catskill water."  See IN RETROSPECT, The Pelham Sun, Dec. 27, 1929, Vol. 20, No. 39, p. 2, col. 1. 

Detail of Undated Post Card, Ca. 1911, Showing
View to the East at the New Trestle Carrying the
New York, Boston and Westchester Railway Over
Portion of the Pelham Reservoir and Hutchinson
River with Children Fishing.

*          *          *          *          *

"Catskill Water Service For Manor Starts Next Month; Reservoir Water Only For Emergencies, Says Newsom
President of New Rochelle Water Company Predicts New Pumping Machinery Necessary To Deliver Catskill Water Will Be Ready By the End of the Month -- 'After Which Time Catskill Water Will Be Furnished To Pelham Manor Except Under Emergency Conditions'

A definite promise that Catskill water will be furnished to Pelham Manor residents continuously except when emergencies arise, and that the Catskill service would be in operation next month was made by J. Reeves Newsom, president of the New Rochelle Water Company in a letter to the board of trustees of Pelham Manor presented at its meeting Monday night.

Delay in the delivery and assembling of extra pumping equipment necessary to deliver Catskill water, was given by Mr. Newsom as the reason for the continued supply of the unsatisfactory reservoir water.  Mr. Newsom in reply to a request by The Pelham Sun for a statement sent the letter which appears in this column.

Quoting from his letter to the Board:  'We now expect to have the needed equipment in operation by the end of the month or possibly a few days before after which time Catskill water will be furnished to Pelham Manor except under emergency conditions.'

Fire Chief John J. Brennan reported to the Trustees that investigations made at hydrants in various parts of the village showed the water to be muddy, and unsuited for drinking purposes.  One hydrant on Manor Circle which was flushed during the week previous, Brennan stated, 

(Continued on page 8)

Catskill Water By First Of Next Month
(Continued from page 1)

showed water black as oil.  It was proposed that the water company have a general flushing of all the hydrants in the village.  Trustee Edward W. Haskins was authorized to take this up with the water company and insist that thhis work be done.  

Chief Brennan told The Pelham Sun this week that there were at least a dozen places in the village where closed gates at connecting points of the high pressure and low pressure systems made dead ends.  He expressed an opinion that if these gates were opened the pressure throughout the entire Pelham Manor distributing system would be improved.

President Newsom, when asked about this, stated that this would be impracticable because of danger at the points of intersection of the two pressures.

President Newson''s letter follows:  

'Editor of The Pelham Sun.

'Dear Sir:

'In answer to your request for a statement in connection with our beginning to serve Catskill water in November, and the subsequent temporary discontinuance of this service, I am pleased to advise as follows:

'The Catskill service begun in November was expected to continue except under emergency conditions.  About the first of the year the motor pumping unit which was being used began to give trouble.  While this trouble was being located and repaired the lower reservoirs, already nearly empty on account of the prolonged drought were pulled down to a point unsafe even for emergency use.  The pump, therefore, when repaired, had to be used to transfer water from the Yonkers reservoir to the other ones near the city.

'The permanent change to Catskill will include the abandoning of the use of certain equipment at the lower pump station, but it was decided, in view of our recent experience that this could not be safely done until a spare unit was installed at the upper pumping station.  As it was impractical to keep two stations manned for the same work, the use of reservoir water had been continued until the new unit is ready for service.

After this unit is in operation the reservoirs will be used in emergencies only, but until November, 1931, the end of the lease period, they will be so used.  In order to be able to get along without them under any combination of emergencies a third line must be laid to the aqueduct, an equalizing reservoir must be built on the high point in the northeastern part of New Rochelle, several miles of large transmission pipe lines must be built to and from this reservoir and another pumping station at a different location must be built and equipped.

'This work will require the expenditure of about a million dollars in addition to an equal amount already spent by the Company in the last two years to improve the service and to complete the first part of the development necessary to use the Catskill aqueduct as the regular source of supply.  It is our plan to have these additional works completed and in operation by the end of 1931.

'It is easy to appreciate that it has been a very difficult problem to finance these enormous expenditures over a short space of five years without raising rates, especially in view of the fact that, in addition to the resulting increased interest charges, water from the Catskill aqueduct, even at the new reduced price, costs the company twice as much as the reservoir water.  It has been our hope from the first not to raise rates and we now believe that it will be possible to get through this change-over period without doing so and that the growth of the territory over a term of years will justify the Company in having absorbed all the increased costs resulting from the undertaking.

'Yours very truly,

'Reeves J. Newsom,


'New Rochelle Water Company.'"

Source:  Catskill Water service For Manor Starts Next Month; Reservoir Water Only For Emergencies, Says Newsom, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 19, 1929, Vol. 20, No. 3, p. 1, cols. 6-7 & p. 8, col. 5.  

"Trustee Sherman Is Satisfied With Water

Trustee Lawrence F. Sherman is satisfied with the water that is being distributed in Pelham Manor now.  

'It must be Catskill water, it's so good.  I can find no fault with it' he told The Pelham Sun, Monday.  

Since the direct connection was made to the Catskill system on May 1, no complaints about distasteful or muddy water have been heard by the Board of Trustees.  Prior to that time when Pelham Manor was receiving Westchester County reservoir water complaints were numerous.

Trustee Sherman was leader in the demand that Catskill water be served here."

Source:  Trustee Sherman Is Satisfied With Water, The Pelham Sun, May 31, 1929, p. 5, col. 2.  

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home