Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Chicago Water Cribs

From DAinfo
Because Chicago used to dump their sewage, including horse "droppings" and slaughter house remnants, into the river and the river carried it into the lake, using the lake as a source of drinking water was a problem. Early Chicago had several epidemics of the waterborne disease cholera. The following quote from TrainWeb by a railroad engineer helps put these epidemics in perspective. "Among the sad reminiscences of my Waukegan run were those connected with the many funerals going from Chicago to Rosehill and Calvary cemeteries, which are among the largest on the continent. I remember away back in 1866, when the cholera was raging in Chicago, I ran one of the largest funeral trains that was ever known. I had thirty passenger cars containing over two thousand people, and one freight car in which were the dead bodies of forty persons who had died on the previous day." [George, p. 87]

The engineer Ellis F. Chesbrough, in 1866, constructed the first tunnel far enough into the lake that the wood crib that fed it was beyond the flow of sewage into the lake. (DAinfo) Note this was about a decade after Chicago raised its buildings so that it could dump its sewage into the river. (Update: I learned that Ellis was also responsible for the raising of the buildings.)

As the contamination of sewage spread into the lake, longer tunnels and deeper cribs had to be built. The building of the Ship and Sanitary Canal to reverse the flow of the Chicago River and then the building of treatment plants stopped the spread of sewage into the lake. (It has not eliminated sewage in the river and lake, that is why the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP) is still being built.) But it has reduced the frequency and area of the lake that gets contaminated. Now the primary water supply concern is the threat of terrorist attacks.

The muck of the lake bottom is one of the hardest things to tunnel through. It is easy to remove the material, but it is hard to keep the tunnel open. In muck, most of the work is building a lining to keep the tunnel open compared to the work of removing the material at the head of the tunnel. It is easier to dig through solid rock. Even though it is harder to initially remove the material, you don't have to shore up the sides of the tunnel to keep it open. You just have to line it to prevent leaks and erosion. That is why the TARP project is better known as The Deep Tunnel. Fortunately, Chicago is over a thick bed of dolostone. It even outcrops in some locations such as Lemont, IL. But in other areas, the bedrock is deep below the surface. In some places the TARP tunnels are 350 feet below ground. (Encyclopedia of Chicago)  The Dever Crib built in 1935 is a 75 foot diameter steel pipe that goes down to a tunnel 190 feet below lake level. I'm sure that depth then allowed them to dig the tunnel through bedrock. Dolostone is a good rock to dig tunnels through. It is strong enough to support itself but not so strong that it is difficult to remove the material. Also, since we don't have earthquakes near here, the bedrock is competent. That is, it doesn't have a lot of cracks. (The downside of competent bedrock is that earthquakes that are far away can be felt here because there are no cracks to stop the vibrations.)

Raymond Kunst posted
Chicago Water Works (Water Crib) 1870s

An article about the Harrison (1898) and Dever (1935) Intake Cribs.


Water was collected and transported through a tunnel 60 feet below the lake surface to the Chicago Avenue pumping station. Chicago's first water tunnel to the original two mile out water cribs of 1865 were completed in 1867. This tunnel of course itself two miles long, dug through clay 60 feet under lake level and was lined to a finished diameter of five feet with two shells of brick.
An intake crib built of timber (the original two-mile crib) was located two miles off shore at the lake end of the tunnel, and the shore end was connected to a new pumping station completed in 1869. This station is the existing Chicago Avenue pumping station. This water system marked the real beginning of Chicago's water works, employing water cribs, huge under-the-lake tunnels, pumping plants, and recently, filtration and purification plants. (BioState)

Noach Hoffman posted
A dramatic crew rescue near the Two-Mile Crib: March 11, 1913. The Tugboat Indiana after it picked up some crew from the wrecked steamer Flora M. Hill. Daily News photo in the CHM.

Keith King posted
Chicago, as of 2017, drew over 700 million gallons of water from the lake each day. Around 267 million gallons of that water was exported to other communities. Chicago exported the most water to the DuPage Water Commission, who imported 73 million gallons a day to distribute to over 30 municipalities and water systems in DuPage County.
In all, the Chicago area sources more than 290 billion gallons of water from the lake each year.
Mike Gorogianis Water levels in all the Great Lakes are currently at historical highs.
Steve Salisbury The volume of water were talking about approximate 3/4 of an inch off the top of the lake a year. This is not measurable compared to the fluctuations in water level.

Rick Drew Flickr

2002. Interior shot. Carter-Harrison Crib.

Located two miles out in Lake Michigan, this pair of cribs is known as the Harrison-Dever crib. The stone structure is the Carter Harrison crib. The red and white steel structure is the Dever crib.

Until the 1990s, Crib Tenders lived on the cribs. Usually four man crews stayed aboard the cribs for a week at a time. Their duties included water testing, light maintenance, and dynamiting ice dams that formed against the cribs' walls. Crib facilities included rudimentary bathrooms, showers, and bunk rooms—and a fantastic view of the city and lake.

Also called the Two-Mile Cribs, the Carter Harrison Crib was constructed in 1900. The Dever Crib was constructed in 1935.

During the late 1990's and into the mid 2000's both cribs saw some serious renovation. All the ironwork you see crossing the pool in the Harrison Crib was added in the repair work. The Dever crib saw new ironwork and tons - literally - of new concrete in the well/pool.

Rick Drew shared
Off the Chicago shoreline lie several "water cribs" - most are actually no longer in service and are abandoned except for security equipment. The tunnels beneath the lake bed that run to some are collapsed. The Harrison-Dever crib is the pair off Navy Pier. The older of the two, the Harrison Crib, is abandoned, the tunnel collapsed. But it's used as an access point for the Harrison crib. Decades ago people (crib-keepers) lived on them. I spent more than one night on them over a 20 year period when I was a subcontractor for the Army Corps. That's when I shot these photos. Don't even try and get close. There's radar, motion detection, trip alarms and more. The Dever crib is the access point for much of Chicago's water.
Jenny L G Clay So a crib house is basically a pump house?
Rick Drew It's just a drain cap. Gravity feed to the city treatment plant - that long building that parallels navy pier. Where it's pumped up, treated and sent off to the city and burbs. I was in the Dever crib once when there was a big fire in the city - a whirlpool actually formed in the base because of the amount of water being drawn. The crib capacity is way down because of tunnel collapses. There are gates that can be raised or lowered to control water flow, but they are always open now.
Chris Johnston I consider taking these down. I have been to the cribs 18 years ago as a part of my job and was specifically told photos were not allowed. If CPD finds out you may get a visit.
Rick Drew I posted them over 10 years ago and they even made it into a few stories on the lake and an exhibit at the Field museum. I was often required by the Army Corps to shoot photos documenting conditions, locations, etc. The city never complained either and actually asked for copies a few times.
Chris Johnston Rick Drew ok. I just wouldn’t want the Po-Po hassling you. Cool pics!

Jeff Nichols posted
Carter H. Harrison Crib, 1903. The crib is about two miles off North Avenue Beach. Chicago History Museum, DN-0000802
Paul Jervert shared

Tom Davis commented on Jeff's post
It's no longer functional. The Dever Crib seen above was attached in the 30's. 2.75 miles out. The Harrison Crib did function up to 1998. Part of the tunnel collapsed when it was drained for inspection, causing all kinds of finger pointing and lawsuits.
Jeff Nichols posted
Wilson Avenue Crib, 1936. University of Illinois at Chicago.
William Pekoc: the crews that worked on these cribs used to be taken there by the Fire Dept boat and dropped off for two weeks then picked up for two weeks off as a new crew was dropped off. Kind of isolating but the fishing was great. Of course it's all automated now.
Stephen Boisvert: Is it true that the crews were there to toss sticks of dynamite in to break up the ice?
William Pekoc: I never worked there but people I knew who did all mentioned dynamiting the ice.
Paul Jevert shared

Raymond Kunst commented on Jeff's post
Wilson Avenue Crib — 1866

Raymond Kunst commented on Jeff's post

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