Documentary History of American Water-works

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Middle Atlantic States Pennsylvania Chester

Chester, Pennsylvania

Chester was incorporated as a city in 1866.

An 1866 law allowed the City of Chester to build a waterworks if the majority of property owners voted in favor of the act. The North and Middle Wards rejected it, but South Ward voted in favor and another act in 1867 allowed the South Ward to form a water company.  On the evening of July 1, 1868, water from the Delaware River was pumped for the first time into a 1.5 million gallon reservoir located on Concord Road at Pusey Street in the City of Chester. The original pumping capacity was 800,000 gallons per day which provided water to 67 customers and the plant was located at the foot of Franklin Street on the banks of the Delaware River.

The New Chester Water Company was incorporated May 1, 1885 to meet the increased demand for water in the city.   On December 9, 1886, before any work was done, the company's stockholders agreed to sell their shares to Samuel R. Bullock & Company of New York.  The New Chester Water Company contracted with Bullock and Company to build the works on March 21, 1887.  After an extended and acrimonious negotiation, The New Chester company bought the South Ward Waterworks on July 7, 1887 for $313,000.  The new water system began service on June 1, 1888.

The New Chester Water Company was sold to the Pennsylvania Water Service company on February 14, 1927, which in turn was part of the Federal Water Service Corporation.  The New Chester Water Company was reincorporated as the Chester Water Service Company on February 25, 1928.

The Chester Water Authority was formed on June 21, 1939 and acquired the Chester Water Service Company on December 8, 1939.

On June 25, 1967, a U.S. Navy F-8 Crusader  piloted by Navy Reserve Lieutenant Ronald Pepka crashed into a 40 foot high, 230 foot diameter.concrete water tank owned by the authority in Aston, spilling 10 million gallons down a nearby hill. No one was injured.  Pepka retired from the Navy and died on November 19, 2013.

Water is provided by the Chester Water Authority.

1866 An act to authorize the city of Chester, in the county of Delaware, to erect water works, and to supply the said city with water.  April 11, 1866.

1867 An act to enable the South ward, in the city of Chester, to procure a supply of water.  March 2, 1867.

1867 An ordinance Relating to the Laying of Water Pipes in the Streets of the City of Chester.  September 14, 1867.

1881 Chester, from Engineering News, 8:394 (October 1, 1881)

1882 Chester from "The Water-Supply of Certain Cities and Towns of the United States," by Walter G. Elliot, C. E., Ph. D.

1886 "The New Water Company," Chester Times, May 8, 1886, Page 3.

1887 City of Chester, et al., Appts., v. New Chester Water Company, 5 Sad. Pa. Cas., February 21, 1887, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

1887 A Bill to Ratify and Confirm an Ordinance Directing the Corporate Authorities of the City of Chester to Enter into and Execute an Agreement with the South Ward Water Works and the New Chester Water Company for a Sale and Transfer of the Property of the South Ward Water Works to the New Chester Water Company, under the Conditions set out in the Agreement; and to Ratify and Confirm the Action of the Corporate Authorities of the City of Chester in Executing and Delivering the said Contract.  May 31, 1887.

1887 An Ordinance To Ratify and Confirm an Ordinance Directing the Corporate Authorities of the City of Chester to Enter into and Execute an Agreement with the South Ward Water Works and the New Chester Water Company for a Sale and Transfer of the Property of the South Ward Water Works to the New Chester Water Company, under the Conditions set out in the Agreement; and to Ratify and Confirm the Action of the Corporate Authorities of the City of Chester in Executing and Delivering the said Contract.  June 22, 1887.

1887 "Chester Water Works," The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 8, 1887, Page 1.
Chester, Pa., June 7- The former transfer of the South Ward Water Works to the new Chester Water Company was made today.

1888 "Chester," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.

1889 Chester, Pennsylvania : a history of its industrial progress and advantages for large manufactures : brief sketches of its representative business enterprises
Pages 40-42: WATER SUPPLY.
PREVIOUS to the year 1867, the subject of a water supply for the city had been somewhat widely discussed, and a proposition for the construction of water works by the city, submitted to the people. The then North and Middle Wards, comprising all that section east of Chester creek, voted against the measure; the South Ward, on the west side, voted in its favor.
The plan for city works was then necessarily abandoned, but the South Ward determined to act independently, and in 1868 the construction of the well-known South Ward Water Works was completed. Its original incorporators were William Ward, Amos Gartside, William B. Reaney, William A. Todd, William C. Price, and George Derbyshire.
The supply from these works was subsequently extended to the North and Middle Wards, and for the twenty years from 1868 to 1888 the whole city had been supplied from this source.
In 1884 it became evident that the demand had already exceeded the capacity of this system, and that further provision would have to be made for the future supply of the rapidly growing city. Two courses were open, the enlargement of the old works or the construction of new. The former would have been merely a temporary expedient, and, under the organization of the old works, there were serious financial obstacles to the adoption of either ; the bonded indebtedness being secured on the property in the South Ward of the City of Chester, and the old Company having already issued bonds to the limit of its chartered powers.
The question was solved by the organization in 1884 of
of which ex-Mayor J. L. Forwood was president. The incorporators were W. H. Miller, J. L. Forwood, Tiko Buke, J. T. DeSilver, Richard Peters, Jr., John Dutton, William Ward, George H. Christian, Joshua K. Lamb.
This Company began work in the spring of 1887, and in July of the same year purchased the plant of the South Ward Water Works, made it a part of the new system, and paid off the bonded indebtedness on the property of the South Ward.
The new Company agreed to allow the city to fix by ordinance the rates to be charged. The present organization of the Company is as follows: President, J. L. Forwood; Secretary, W. H. Miller; Treasurer, Walter Wood; Board of Directors, J. L. Forwood, Walter Wood, William Bucknell, Harry S. Hopper, William Ward, S. A. Dyer, and J. Frank Black.
The works of the new Company are now practically complete, and the city, as well as the boroughs of Upland and South Chester, supplied with water by the new system.
The works consist of a new reservoir on Harrison's Hill, an eminence about three miles northwest of the city, and two hundred feet above low water at this point, with a
a new and handsome pumping station, 100x60 feet, situated on the grounds of the old works, at the foot of Fulton Street; two Gaskill pumps, made by the Holley Manufacturing Company, each of 4,000,000 gallons capacity daily; five boilers, aggregating 300 horse power, and 5 miles of force and supply mains. Eleven miles of distribution pipe have been added to the old system in Upland and the city proper, and the purchase of the South Chester borough plant has added four more, making the total distribution mileage in Chester and the two adjacent boroughs, which are practically part of the city, thirty miles.
Comparison with the average of twenty cities of the same class in the United States, shows that none are more thoroughly equipped than Chester in this respect.
An ample supply of water for domestic and mechanical purposes and fire protection, not liable to be affected by meteorological or other contingencies, is an important factor in the modern economy, and a great advantage to the city possessing it. In this respect Chester has now no reason to fear comparison with any other city of its size in the United States. With an
ample storage facilities for years to come, and all important mechanical details, upon which that supply depends, so constructed and duplicated that even a temporary failure is almost an impossibility ; with a pumping capacity nearly double the present demand, and a reserve of equal power; with a pressure of 80 pounds on the lower and 50 pounds on the higher levels of the city, and rates which are low in comparison with those of most private companies, the City of Chester offers to manufacturers, business men, and private residents, inducements, in the way of water supply, not excelled by any, and we may justly add, not equalled by most places of its size in this country or elsewhere.

1890 "Chester," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1891 Holly Manufacturing Co. et al. v. New Chester Water Co. et al., 48 F1d 879, September 19, 1891, Circuit Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

1891 "Chester," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.

1892 New Chester Water Co. et al. v Holly Manufacturing Co. et al. 53 Fed Rep 19, 3 U.S. App 264, November 14, 1892.  Circuit Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.  Appeal to Supreme Court denied December 12, 1892. (149 U.S. 782)

1897 "Chester," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.

1908 The Third Annual Report of the Commissioner of Health of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Pages 572-579:  New Chester Water Company, March 23, 1908

1914 A History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, edited by John W. Jordan
Page 323:  The New Chester Water company, J. L. Forwood, president, furnishes the city's water. The source of supply is the Delaware river; reservoirs with a capacity of 21,000,000 gallons, a filtration plant of 10,000,000 gallons daily capacity being located on Harrison's Hill, three and a half miles from Chester, inland. The pumping capacity of the plant is 18,000,000 gallons daily; the efficiency of the filtration plant for six years has been 98.8 per cent.

1915 The Bureau of Engineering of The Public Service Commission of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Second Annual Report for the year ending June 30th, 1915.
Pages 405-416:  The New Chester Water Company

1920 "Modern Filter Plant of New Chester Water Company," Fire and Water Engineering 68(8):387-389 (August 25, 1920) | also here |

1985 The History of Chester Water Authority: 1866-1985

2010 Growing Up In Aston Mills, by Paul Dougherty
"Through an 80-year lifetime, it's difficult to pick one day that was the most exciting for your hometown, but a June 25, 1967 plane crash in Chelsea would have to rank near the top of the list.
Aston Mills became the focal point of the international media when a US Air Force F-8 Crusader fighter jet crashed into a 10 million-gallon water tank on the north side of Concord Road, about a half-mile west of Fisher's Corner.
The explosion from the plane crash totally demolished the tank, suddenly unleashing millions of gallons of water on a wooded hillside overlooking the West Branch of Chester Creek.
The force of the water cascade knocked down trees and stripped the bark off others, up to a height of 20 feet above ground level. No one was injured by the sudden flood, although several people (including six children who were playing nearby) reported narrow escapes.
The 32-year-old pilot (Lt. Ronald Pepka of Lansdale, PA) of the single-seat plane successfully bailed out and landed safely and uninjured in Linvilla Orchards in Middletown, while his ejection seat landed in the trailer park at Fisher's Corner.
An elderly woman was sitting on the porch of her trailer home when the unoccupied pilot's seat came through the roof and landed inches away from her, scaring her more than actually hurting her.
The destroyed water tank was estimated to be a $750,000 loss for the Chester Water Authority.
The government never did release any explanation as to what caused the jet to crash."

2019 Morris A. Pierce