Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Milwaukee's Flush Stations

(3D Satellite)

This is becoming the week of stagnant water. I started writing these notes on June 11, 2020. Then on June 13 I learned that blue-green algae is toxic and can kill dogs. A dog doesn't even have to drink algae infested water, it can die by simply swimming in it. On June 16, I learned that MWRD pumps 1.3 billion gallons of water per day over artificial waterfalls to keep algae out of the Calumet River and Cal-Sag Channel. [DeBruler]

Back in the late 1800s, "The solution to pollution is dilution." So in 1888 Milwaukee built this pump house to pump a half-billion gallons per day from Lake Michigan into the Milwaukee River to fix the "river nuisance." (Remember, during this period Chicago was building its Sanitary and Ship Canal to reverse the flow of the its river with a larger flow than Chicago dug in 1871 as its solution to its "river nuisance.") Several sources mentioned that "river nuisance" was the accepted euphemism that the press in the late 1800s used to refer to the stinking cesspool that the river had become.)
[There a many more blades than depectied here.
See below.]
The pump house contained the largest pump in the world using an innovative 14' horizontal "screw" pump. This design is now called an axial flow pump. The compound steam engine ran it at 55 rpm and moved a little over 40,000 cubic feet per minute. "In 1912 the original steam engine and four fire-tube boilers were replaced with an electric motor." Soon after they implemented this solution, Milwaukee removed pollution from the river by building intercepting sewers and pumping the sewage one thousand feet into the lake. I assume the discharge was south of their intake cribs because I believe their is a southerly current on the west side of Lake Michigan. So while Chicago dumped its sewage on St. Louis, Milwaukee dumped its sewage on Chicago. The pump was still used into the 1980s to help aerate the river. The boiler room side of the pump house now houses a coffeehouse and the "pump room is still maintained by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District as an education center." [ASMEmilwaukee]

The 500,000,000 gallon per day flow was high enough to replace all of the water in the river each day. "In 1912, the 350 horsepower steam engine was replaced with a 450 horsepower electric motor and the smokestack came down. That motor was still in use as late as 1987." [LandmarkHunter]

[This source says the conversion from steam to electricity was done in 1908. And that the pump was still used to aerate the river as late as 1992.
Today, the C&NW tracks in this photo have been replaced by the Oak Leaf Trail. In the left background, we can see the water tower of the North Point Pumping Station.]
The pump was designed by Edwin Reynolds when he was general superintendent of the E. P. Allis Company, a predecessor of the Allis-Chalmers Co. The design was condemned by some of the greatest engineers in the country. But Milwaukee had faith in one of their major companies and allowed (i.e. funded) Edwin to prove those engineers wrong. [various sources including ASME-brochure]

The tunnel was 12' in diameter and about a half-mile long.
A popular, at least on the web, artist rendition of the pump shows only four blades in the impeller. But it appears that it actually had a dozen.


I first learned of this 1888 pumping station while watching this video.
Screenshot,via live_videos  Or search for "Machines of Milwaukee" in nmih

About 10 years later, Milwaukee dug another 12' tunnel to flush the Kinnickinnic River.

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