Deepkill Dam and Reservoir
The Deepkill, a tributary to the Hudson River, formed the northern boundary of the Town of Lansingburgh. Shortly before the annexation to the City of Troy of the Village of Lansingburgh the Deepkill was made part of the water system through the creation of a dam and reservoir.
Engineer Hicks submitted his map for the proposed pipe line from the Deepkill reservoir site to the present distributing reservoir, and stated that the work of securing an elevation would begin today. The engineer’s plans call for the use of fourteen-inch pipe, and Mr. Lee suggested that the engineer arrange for the securing of a twenty-five-foot strip of land along the line.
“The Water Board.” Troy Daily Times. June 2, 1899: 4 col 2.
The Designer Defends Its Construction and Says it is Absolutely Safe—Specifications and Work.
C. E. Hicks, the engineer who designed the dam which is being built on the Deepkill to increase the water supply of Upper Troy, has sent in to The Times the following communication, in which he replies to the criticism made by Prof. W. G. Raymond:
Troy, N. Y., March 22, 1901.
To the Editor of The Times.
Dear Sir: In regard to the communication of Professor Raymond of the 16th inst., to the Commissioner of Public Works, I have the following to say:
That I am very much surprised that the professor would take the stand he has in the matter, in criticizing the work in the manner that he does, from the standpoint of a party who is not familiar with the work in any manner. And as regards myself, being the engineer who made all the original surveys and located all lines and designed the dam and every detail connected with it, and being perfectly familiar with the work in every way, I feel that from an engineering standpoint great injustice has been done in condemning the work without a proper knowledge of the materials and methods used.
He first brings up the matter of the foundation of the dam and claims to believe that the same is not stable and therefore not safe, and is liable to settle. The dam is about 300 feet in length, about 100 feet of each end of the same rest on solid rock, and in the centre of the dam, about 100 feet, the concrete base rests on piles. About forty feet of said 100 feet of the piles are driven down to solid rock; the balance of the piles are driven into a material composed of fine sand and blue clay, the same being very solid and compact and absolutely water tight, and said piles are placed at such a distance apart and so driven, as per specifications, that the factor of safety against settling is over six to one; that is, the dam at the back or heaviest part, when completed according to the plans, would have a bearing of about five tons per square foot, while the piles are so placed that the actual bearing upon the same would be about four tons for each pile, and the actual safe load for each pile is over twenty-five tons. In order to obviate the danger of water getting under the concrete foundation of the dam, the first row of piles at the back of the dam are driven as close together as possible, and still back of that are driven tongue and groove sheet piling of oak six by ten inches, and sixteen feet below the bottom of the concrete base, making a total distance from the natural surface of the ground to the lower end of the sheet piling from thirty to thirty-five feet.
The professor also says, “The work is not done according to the specifications,” and that “the concrete is poor,” and speaks of the sample of concrete which he had secured from the dam. It was simply small pieces of broken stone that had been hammered out near the edge of the body of the concrete with a heavy pickax, which of itself would have a tendency to destroy the tenacity and binding force of the cement, sand and stone, and could not in any way, and especially by a person who from an engineering standpoint ought to know better, be considered a sample of the concrete as it now exists in the dam. It is the first time in my experience of over twenty-six years as an engineer that I ever have known such a statement to be made or a conclusion arrived at in that manner. Every practical engineer will agree with me that the only proper way to get a true sample to test, or find out the quality of a concrete, is to either have samples made of the same materials and proportions in cubes of one foot, or in some manner, by either blasting, drilling or wedging, break from the body or mass of concrete enough so that the same can be thoroughly examined and tested with a hammer. I will say this much: That I know that the concrete placed in the Deepkill dam is done according to the specifications, and that the concrete is all right in every respect, the same being made from the very best quality of Portland cement and hard, sound broken blue stone, and according to the specifications.
The suggestion is also made to complete the dam to a height of about twenty feet. Should such a plan be adopted it would practically be doing away with the whole Deepkill system, for the reason that if completed according to the original plans the storage capacity of the reservoir would be upward of 200,000,000 gallons, while with the dam but twenty feet high, as proposed, the reservoir capacity would not exceed 25,000,000 gallons, therefore being of practically no value as a water supply during the four dry months of the year, as the consumption of water in the Lansingburgh district is more than 1,000,000 gallons in twenty-four hours; and as the combined low flow of the present system and the Deepkill system does not exceed 300,000 gallons in twenty-four hours, the result would be that the little Deepkill reservoir, formed by the twenty-foot dam proposed, would be emptied in thirty days, and you would be no better off for at least four months of the year than if you had no additional water supply from the Deepkill system.
In conclusion I will here state, and everybody will agree with me, that it would be simply the height of absurdity for an engineer, to whom had been intrusted the responsibility of designing and superintending the construction of an important and costly piece of engineering work, upon which the public so much depends, to design a work of the nature of the Deepkill dam without knowing to his perfect satisfaction, either by theory, calculation or structures already in existence, that it was absolutely safe, and such is my position now, having consulted the highest authorities in regard to this matter, and also taking, as I do, a personal and professional pride in having the whole work prove to be a complete success. I am perfectly confident that such would be the case if the work in question should be constructed according to the original plans in every respect. Very respectfully,
C. E. HICKS, Engineer.
The following communication has been received from Louis B. Harrison, a member of the contracting company in charge of the work on the dam:
A certain letter, under date of March 16, addressed to the Commissioner of Public Works, bearing the signature of Prof. W. G. Raymond of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, criticising the plan and certain parts of the workmanship of the dam now being constructed as a part of the additional water supply for the former village of Lansingburgh, recently appeared in several of the daily papers of the city. As an officer of the corporation which has contracted for this work, and as an engineer, I desire to take exception to what I consider an erroneous opinion. The original contract entered into between the Board of Water Commissioners of the village of Lansingburgh and ourselves called for a dam to be constructed upon a foundation of rock, and according to the soundings made prior to the award of same, it was expected that rock would be encountered in excavation at a depth of about fourteen feet; some time after the work was commenced and excavation had been made to a depth of twenty-two feet, it was found that owing to the absence of rock a change of plan would probably be necessary. Additional soundings were made to a depth of thirty-five feet, a distance of fifty-seven feet from the surface of the ground, and still no rock could be found, and, after a thorough investigation and careful consideration, it was decided to form a foundation by driving piles as being the best way out of the difficulty, a plan that while not common is often used.
We have had at all times and still have the utmost confidence that the results looked for will be accomplished, if the dam is completed upon the lines followed so far. Professor Raymond in his letter points out two possible dangers, the first being of building a structure upon an unequal foundation; i. e., part rock (at the ends) and part piling. In reply to this I would say that where possible it is always desirable to obtain a rock foundation, but in some cases, as in the present one, it was not possible to do so. Excavation might have been made to an additional depth of fifty or seventy-five feet without encountering rock. Sufficient funds for such an additional cost as would have been entailed under the plan of placing the dam on rock were not available. The amount of money on hand with what could be realized by bond issue was limited. The piles as driven, some 1,300 in number, were driven in such a manner that they will sustain a weight of approximately thirty tons to the square foot, and I do not consider that any settlement could result from constructing the dam as designed. The second point raised was of the possible danger of a body of water forty-five feet in height finding its way underneath the piling and working into a serious leakage. When it is taken into consideration that the bottom of the piling has a depth, or is distanced, an average of fifty feet from the surface of the ground, and is backed up by a thick row of heavy sheet piling and a bed of clay and gravel puddle in addition to the natural ground, which has not been disturbed, it would appear that it would be well nigh impossible for water to force its way through, but if a leakage should ever occur, a thing I do not consider probable, it could readily be remedied by placing a thin apron of concrete extending from the back or water side of the dam over and upon the natural and undisturbed surface of the ground, and at a very small expense.
In regard to the quality of concrete now in the dam. I assert that it is of the best obtainable under the specifications for that class of work, and that it is of an entirely water-tight consistency.
Yours very truly,
LOUIS B. HARRISON.
Troy, N. Y., March 23, 1901.
Prof. William G. Raymond of the new waterworks system and Desmond Fitzgerald, consulting engineer, of Boston, Mass., this morning drove out to inspect the dam which is being built to increase the water supply in Upper Troy. Professor Raymond, in a communication to the Board of Contract and Supply, expressed the opinion that the dam is unsafe, and a resolution was adopted by the Board authorizing the Commissioner of Public Works to secure the advice of a prominent engineer.
Mr. Fitzgerald is one of the best posted men in such matters in the country. He has charge of the Boston waterworks, and has been consulted by some of the largest cities in the country. He was employed for several months to inspect the work on the Chicago drainage canal. He visited Troy a year ago last summer and visited the site of the new water supply on the Tomhannock, pronouncing it one of the best in the country. The result of Mr. Fitzgerald’s inspection of the dam will be reported at the next meeting of the Board of Contract and Supply.
Troy Daily Times. March 23, 1901: 2 col 5.
Troy Water Works. The Deepkill dam is about finished and water will be turned into the Lansingburgh reservoir before the first of next month. Water from the Quackenkill is already coming to Troy, the gravity system between Brunswick Lake and the Quackenkill being now in operation. The dam on the Quackenkill is, however, not yet completed.
The Polytechnic 18(2). November 22, 1901: 58.
The Deepkill dam, which is to furnish an additional supply for the Upper Troy reservoirs (formerly the Lansingburgh waterworks), is nearly complete. The mason work of the dam was finished last week, and preparations are being made to test the pipe lne this week. About forty feet of the tunnel for the pipe line are unfinished. After the completion of this work and the satisfactory test of the pipe line the water will be turned on. It is expected that the water will be flowing into the distributing reservoir by the latter part of next week or the first part of the week following. The new reservoir is the fourth in the Upper Troy system, and is situated so that the water will flow into the distributing or lower reservoir.
“The New Gravity System.” Troy Daily Times. December 5, 1901: 3 col 4.
The Commissioner of Public Works was authorized to employ the following in addition to a deputy and a Superintendent of Waterworks: […] keeper of Deepkill dam, $60 a month.
“Salaries Fixed.” Troy Daily Times. December 31, 1901: 2 col 8.
The bill of P. H. Harrison’s Sons & Co. for $9,334.60, balance due on their contract for constructing the Deepkill dam, was audited. The Board adjourned until 11 o’clock Tuesday morning.
“The Board of Contract.” Troy Daily Times. April 12, 1902: 3 col 1.
The former village of Lansingburgh was annexed to the city of Troy in 1900. At that time Lansingburgh was supplied from three small reservoirs located just easterly of the village. It had also in the process of construction a masonry dam on the Deepkill and a 12-inch pipe line leading from it to the reservoir, to provide an additional supply. When the city of Troy came into possession of the work, Professor Raymond found that part of the new Deepkill dam rested upon rock foundation and part upon piles. After a careful examination of the location and conditions, he decided it would not be advisable to build the dam to its intended height, and consequently the upper 20 feet originally designed were never built.
The dam consists of a concrete core faced upon both front and back with coursed masonry. (Plate III, Fig. 2.)
What appeared to be a leakage under the dam was discovered near the center shortly after the work was completed. An attempt was made to check it by depositing clay and other materials above the dam, but this seemed to have little effect. While the quantity of water escaping was not large, a recent examination indicated some increase in volume, and that it was concentrated at a point a few feet to the right of the mud pipe near the center of the dam. The reservoir is of small capacity and only serves as a diverting reservoir.
The water-shed tributary to this system includes about 10 square. miles of very hilly country lying adjacent to and westerly of the Tomhannock watershed.
Grimes, E. L. “Troy Water Works Extension.” Journal of the New England Water Works Association 22(2). June 1908. 182.
To the Honorable Common Council, Troy, N. Y.
May I suggest to you as an emergency relief work project the removal of the 12-inch water main from the right of way, extending from the Lansingburgh reservoir northerly to the Deepkill reservoir?
This pipe line, about three miles in length, was abandoned for water use in 1915. The pipe is in good condition and fit for use elsewhere.
You have heretofore approved of the project for the installation of water main on Delaware Avenue, from Mill Street northerly; and, on 117th and 118th Streets.
I commend to you the advisability of using the pipe which we may salvage from the Lansingburgh waterworks, on the streets above mentioned. This will enable the city to save considerable money in the purchase of supplies and materials.
I am informed that the city will be relieved of the payment of taxes on this pipe when it is removed from its location in the Town of Schaghticoke.
Mr. Luby, Engineer of the Bureau of Water, concurs with me in this recommendation.
Yours very truly,
E. HAROLD CLUETT,
Chairman, Work Relief Bureau, Troy.
Troy Times. May 22, 1933: 6 col 5.
Approved also was an ordinance to lease lands at the Deepkill Reservoir to the Lansingburgh Rod and Gun Club.
Times Record. July 20, 1956: 1956: 12 col 4.
The North Troy Rod & Gun Club, Inc., today purchased a lease on the Deepkill Reservoir, formerly part of the Troy and Lansingburgh water system for $100 a year.
The club plans to use the reservoir to further conservation work and to teach youngsters in the art of fishing.
Mayor John J. Purcell conducted a public auction to sell the lease as authorized by the Common Council.
Sale of the lease is subject to approval by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment.
Times Record. August 7, 1956: 25 col 7.
The fall and winter program was discussed at a recent meeting of the North Troy Rod & Gun Club at the Deepkill clubhouse.
Times Record. September 29, 1958: 9 col 5.