I was recently reviewing some information concerning the City’s water plant and it included an interesting section on the history of Kent’s water system. Maybe it’s only interesting to someone who is a former Public Works Director but it’s hard to deny the lengths we’ve come as a City in a relatively short time period when it comes to deliverying safe drinking water.
Most people tend to take safe drinking water for granted which is why I like to remind people that at the turn of the century (1900) the leading causes of death were due to dysentary which could be tracked right back to unsanitary handling of human waste and contaminated drinking water. It was bad stuff.
I recently finished reading Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi and he talks about how much healthier the untreated (this was mid-1800s) muddy water from the Mississippi was for you than the Ohio River water. He said it took some gettin’ used to but the muddy consistency was better because the sediments didn’t settle out the way the Ohio River water did. Makes you appreciate that tap water huh.
It was around that time that the medical community began to understand the connection between bacteria and health issues and that led to a big push for improved public sanitation which gave city governments a whole new role to go along with their original police and fire functions. Today, water production and distribution is one of the City’s core business functions.
Kent Water System History
In 1887 the first water works was developed to serve the Village of Kent. Originally, a private company was in charge of the service of pumping water out of Plum Creek and into neighbors homes. In 1889 six shallow wells were drilled near the creek, and in 1897 six more wells were drilled in anticipation that Plum Creek might be ruled unsafe as a supply of drinking water for Kent residents.
It turns out that those worries proved true as in 1898 the State Health Department ruled that the untreated surface water from Plum Creek was unsafe and the Plum Creek water line was disconnected.
In 1923 the City of Kent purchased the water works and drilled three more wells near the creek. The well water was not treated before being pumped out to residents homes.
In 1952 the water plant was upgraded with two additional filters (bringing the total number of filters to 5), and an expansion of the clearwell. The plant was upgraded again in 1961 with a sixth filter, and again in 1966 with a seventh filter (in case it’s not obvious, filters play a prominent role in water production). Also around this time two additional storage tanks were constructed.
Throughout the early years of the water plant additional wells were drilled as the older wells failed. However, it soon became apparent that the City’s well field had it’s limits and the wells were not capable of growing as fast as the demand. As a result, in 1968 an interconnection was made with the City of Akron water system to supplement Kent’s water supply.
In 1968, well site approval was granted for a test well to be drilled near Breakneck Creek. So by 1969 the Kent water system was served by the Plum Creek Water Plant, the Akron interconnection and the new Breakneck Creek well that included chlorination prior to pumping out into the neighborhoods. At this time the old Plum Creek Plant provided approximately 58% of the City’s water demand while the Breakneck Creek wells supplied the remaining 42%.
In the early 1970s the original Plum Creek wells were declining in water production so 8 new wells were installed adjacent Breakneck Creek and a new pressure booster station was built on Summit Street. In 1973 plans were prepared that were approved for a new 6 MGD lime/soda softening and rapid sand filtration water plant. The new Water Plant was constructed and went into operation in January 1976 on Hodgeman Lane.
In 1979 plans were prepared and approved for a new 500,000 gallon storage tank on KSU property.
In 1982 plans were prepared and approved for a 2 MGD Mogadore Road Reservoir water plant.
In 1989 plans were prepared and approved for the Breakneck Creek Recharge Basin and Well Field.
In 2002 plans were prepared and approved for a new Kent-Ravenna Emergency Inter-connection water line.
Presently, the City of Kent utilizes four wells, 2 are near Breakneck Creek, one on SR 59, and one near the Water Plant on Hodgeman Lane. The Breakneck Creek wells supply approximately 70% of the raw water production. As the well water enters the treatment plant, lime and soda ash are added prior to the rpaid mix basin for water softening purposes. From the rapid mix basin the treated water flos through four flocculator basins, each with decreasing paddle speeds to create floc, before flowing through the settling basins.
The settling basins run paralle through two sets of basins with two basins in each set. The water then flows through a re-carbonation basin where CO2 is added to reduce pH for corrision control, before it is sent through a secondary settling basin. Flouride is added for dental protection and chlorine for disinfection before being filtered through 4 rapid sand filters.
The treated water then enters the 600,000 gallon clearwell and four high service pumps are available to pump the water out into the distribution system. Kent’s distribution system includes 6,600 metered accounts, 1,053 main line valves, 1,067 hydrants, 1,187 backflow prevention devices, a booster station and many miles of water mains.
The distribution system has both a low pressure and high pressure areas. The low pressure is served by six storage tanks: 400,000 gallon KSU standpipe; 250,000 gallon KSU standpipe; 150,000 gallon Fairchild Avenue standpipe; and 2,800,000 Mogadore ground reservoirs. The high pressure service area is served by: 500,000 gallon KSU elevated tank; 250,000 gallon KSU eleveted tank.
Total Kent water system storage capacity equals 3.5 million gallons/day. The water treatment plant has a rated capacity of 6 million gallons/day. Average water production in 20010 has been 2.7 million gallons per day with a peak in April of 4 million gallons/day.