The Montoursville Borough Water Works
Supplying Community Water Needs for over 100 years
Prior to 1890, the majority of Montoursville residences were supplied by water from private wells. The Montoursville Borough Water Works supplied limited water from one hand dug well. During 1891, with the purchase of 250 acres of land in what is now Armstrong Township, the Borough prepared to increase the supply capabilities of the municipal system.
Realizing that one well would not be able to supply sufficient water to meet the demands of the growing community, the Water Works planned to utilize the water, which flowed through the property at Sylvan Dell in Armstrong Township. While this property lay south of the borough, and across the Susquehanna River, it was decided to pipe the water into the community.
Beginning in October of 1892, a construction project was begun, which would involve the building of a 500,000 gallon concrete holding reservoir to capture the water issuing from a spring in Sylvan Dell Hollow. And, the laying of nearly two miles of cast iron main with which to bring the water into Montoursville. The project also included the installation of 30 fire hydrants. Work was completed in May of 1893 at a cost of $14,728.
Some of the original 10”, 8” and six-inch cast iron water mains are still in service within the water system. As a result, the Montoursville Borough Water Works has, been recognized by the Ductile/Cast Iron Institute as a Cast Iron Pipe Century Club member.
Since that time, the increased demands for water within the community have resulted in the development of four additional wells. The first drilled in 1953, and a second in 1959 resulted in the abandonment of the original dug well in 1961. Early in the 1950’s, the Sylvan Dell raw water reservoir was raised to allay safety and contamination concerns. The additional height increased reservoir capacity to 660,000 gallons. At the same time, a 285,000 gallon concrete finished water reservoir was constructed at the northern limits of the borough. This area is the highest in the Borough, and the development of residential housing was creating a problem. As the water system was designed primarily as a gravity system, water service to the residences in this area which were above, or on the same level as the new reservoir, did not have good water pressure.
In 1954, the Water Works constructed a hydro-pneumatic system to increase water pressure to the residences of the hill area. A 5,000 tank, with an air compressor and pump now provided sufficient water pressure for residential service, and for limited fire protection. In 1983, the system was updated with the installation of new valves and piping. The old pump was removed and two newer and more compact models were installed. An electrical panel was installed which allows both automatic and manual operation of the pumps. In the automatic setting, the pumps operate on an alternate basis each time the water level sensor activates.
In the late 1950’s, increased residential construction and manufacturing were creating, an ever increasing demand on the Water Works resources. Throughout the 1960’s and into the early 1980’s, daily water usage often exceeded one million gallons per day. With the development of Wells 4 & 5 in 1964 and 1975 respectively, both of which can produce 400/450 gallons per minute, these demands were easily met.
In 1979, a second finished water reservoir was constructed in close proximity to the first. Of steel construction, its 750,000 gallon capacity gave the Water Works over one million gallons of treated water in storage. This greatly increased the amount of water that could be counted on to supply customers in the event of total shut down of the system, and was a definite asset to our Emergency Response Plan.
As a generally rule, Sylvan Dell Spring provides an average of 45% of the water needed to meet system demands, with wells 4 or 5 supplying the remainder. Except in severe drought conditions, or in the event of a major fire, only one of these wells need be running in order to augment the daily demand. Well #2 is utilized as a back-up source, while Well # 3, not a large production well, is run only in an emergency situation.
The combined sources of the Water Works provide an exceptional high quality of raw water with very low turbidity, therefore, filtration has not been required. Disinfection, is accomplished through the use of chlorine dioxide fed by 10lb/day chlorinator’s from 150 lb. cylinders. The low instances of coliform bacteria in the combined raw water sources limit our chlorine demand to two pounds or less per day. As stated previously, our system contains some unlined century old pipe, so we also feed a poly-phosphate for corrosion control.
The water works is owned by the Borough of Montoursville and employs a full time municipal crew of eight individuals. Those directly involved with the water system are Water Commissioner Ronald Smith, Chief Operator Ron Shearer, Operator David Dinicola. Our system's history includes several notable accomplishments of which we are quite proud. Sylvan Dell Spring was one of the first springs in the state to pass Surface Water Influence Protocol (SWIP) monitoring. We were also one of the first small systems to complete, and establish compliance with the Lead/Copper Monitoring Program, and as such were able to assist other small systems with the completion of their own.
In September of 1999, the Montoursville Borough Water Works, became the first water system in Pennsylvania to receive approval from both USEPA, and PADEP for our Wellhead Protection Plan. We are very grateful for the valuable assistance provided to us by PRWA’s then Groundwater Technician, Judy Muehl, whose assistance greatly reduced its completion time.
The current daily usage within our water system, is well below that of the period from 1960 to 1980. Although a portion of this reduction is due to decreased manufacturing, the replacement of old mains and services have also been a factor. Since 1988, over 22,000 feet of ductile iron main have been installed to replace both poured-joint unlined cast iron, and concrete/asbestos pipe. During this time, numerous black and galvanized iron, and a few lead service lines have also been replaced. Coupled with an aggressive leak detection program, these efforts have resulted in a present pumping average of 600/650 thousand gallons per day.
Although the recent installation of a sanitary sewer system, in Montoursville, has allowed for some additional residential construction, future prospects are somewhat limited. However, there is potential for increased commercial and manufacturing development within the community. Our present water sources are easily capable of fulfilling any future demands.