Greencastle’s reservoir crucial to water supply

PAT FRIDGEN Echo Pilot
Traversing a catwalk is one of the daily responsibilities of Dale Wright. He monitors the water level of the reservoir and makes adjustments to the system to keep the supply in balance. All of the water infrastructure facilities are fenced and locked to protect the water supply.

Greencastle's reservoir is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2012, but no party is planned. The body of water will just continue to serve the needs of Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority customers, with few people aware of what it takes to get water to their tap.

And how many people have actually seen the 13-million gallon reservoir?

Tt is only visible from one direction, heading northwest on Reservoir Road from the Long Lane side. Coming from Grindstone Hill Road, it is pretty easy to not notice a thing except the surrounding fence.

GAFCWA owns acreage across the driveway of a privately-owned farm, which houses three springs that feed the reservoir. Two wells are also on the property, used when the springs dry up. The authority's fields are rented out.

Dale Wright, water treatment plant chief operator, or another employee, visits the reservoir daily to make sure everything is functioning properly and that nothing untoward has occurred, including antics by trouble-makers. That has not been much of a problem, and the borough wants to keep it that way.

From here to there

Water from the springs is channeled into a weir under a blue shed on the lawn of the huge basin. The weir, a concrete dam of sorts, indicates the level of water flowing to the reservoir. The capacity can be measured. A catwalk extends out from one edge of the reservoir. Wright uses high tech equipment to check the water's depth. He lowers a wooden yardstick to a nail inserted outside a concrete inlet. A 6.5-inch overflow occurs on one windy day, and white foam washes onto the shoreline.

When too much water enters the reservoir, Wright opens a bypass valve to drain it into a small creek that wends its way through the countryside.

The water that belongs in the reservoir follows a gravity-fed pipe to the Moss Spring Water Treatment Plant at 430 E. Grant St. Extended. The plant processes about 850,000 gallons daily. It then enters the water lines that go to each home and business, ending up at the faucets for drinking, washing or other uses.

Wright said Greencastle has an ample supply of water coming from those three springs, as well as Moss Spring and  Ebbert Spring along U.S. 11 South. It also has wells for backup, Nos. 1 and 2 on the farm, No. 3 which doesn't exist since it didn't produce, and No. 4, now operational on Leitersburg Street.

Property maintenance is necessary at the reservoir, which has steep embankments on three sides. When anyone cuts the grass, he has to use a rope mower and pull it along the slope. "It's hard," declared Wright.

A macadam path, wide enough for a vehicle, lines the rim of the reservoir. Wright plows it in the winter, with the water just inches away. "I go real slow," he said.

Many years ago the reservoir was drained for cleaning. A slate road was installed and backhoes, dump trucks and other equipment drove the angled surface to the bottom to take out sludge.

The history

In October 1911 the town fathers opened bids for construction of a proposed 12-million gallon reservoir. The job went to Gifford Construction Co. of Jamaica, NY, for $20,682. The basin was designed in an oval shape, 540 feet by 480 feet, and 18 feet deep. Work commenced immediately, and had to be done in 70 days. Gifford charged 35 cents per cubic yard for earth excavation, $2 for rock excavation, and $5 for concrete work. The company brought a small crew and hired local laborers.

The council assigned the location to seven acres of land owned by Peter L. Eshelman. However, the farmer wanted $1,000 per acre and council was willing to pay $260. To speed things up, it gave Eshelman a $10,000 bond until the matter could be settled, and work got underway.

In December during a special election, voters approved the sale of a bond 178-71 to finance the project.