Monday, May 06, 2013

Astoria, City of Landslides

The coastal city of Astoria should really replace these big wooden signs you pass on the way into town. I don't know what they call themselves now; "Astoria, City by the Sea"? "Astoria, City of Trees, Cheese, and Ocean Breeze"? (That one is really, no shit, the motto of Tillamook County just in case you thought I was really reaching.

Anyway, they should just admit it and call themselves "Astoria, City of Landslides".

This is one, away up in the hills southeast of town. That mossy green tree-trunk-looking thing in the middle? That's the old Navy Heights pipeline that used to be under four feet of soil cover. Oops.

But no matter - there's tons of these things all through the city and roundabouts. The one right behind the Pig n' Pancake has crept so far downhill that it's halfway across Bond Street. Rather than mitigate the thing the City has just closed the westbound side and made it a one-way street. Fah.

Anyway, I didn't really write this to complain about the damn landslides. They put food on my table, so I don't say bad things about them. What I wanted to show you was this lovely Victorian anachronism:

This is the old "Astoria City Water Works" of 1895. The water was piped down from the eastern hills through this pipe, made from wooden staves wrapped with wire and then coated with tar.

Some of these wooden pipes are still in service, by the way, in the older Oregon cities like Astoria and Portland. They are, as you might imagine, a horrible maintenance headache. The old Astoria main has been replaced by steel, however. The old headworks, though, have not, and are still working along mroe than a century old, hidden down in the dell behind the bizarre column that "celebrates" the fur traders, merchants, layabouts, grifters, oddbodies, and assorted refugees, outcasts, and wildmen who turned up at the far edge of North America to see if there was anything to the notion that there was something for nothing.

No moral there, I suppose, other than that it takes all sorts to build something that lasts a hundred years or more.


Leon said...

That would be so awesome to reno into a residence. Plus the walls look fairly stout to resist the zombie apocalypse.

Talyssa said...

That Astoria City Water Works is such a lovely little building!

I can't imagine the wooden pipes still in service would be producing the best quality of water to people...Not sure how it all works but I'm pretty sure wood rots over time doesn't it?? Especially if constantly in contact with water?

FDChief said...

It's a neat old building, for sure.

Here's something interesting, Talyssa; the wooden pipes are fairly sturdy, at least as good or better than the earliest metal pipe. The oldest cast-iron pipes, dating to the late 1800s, have an average useful life of about 120 years. For cast-iron pipes installed in the 1920s, that drops to about 100 years. And pipes put in after World War II have an average life of only around 75 years.

And here's what the Portland Water Bureau says about the whole question of "rotten wood":

"Wood needs both air and water to rot. By burying the wood pipe underground and filling it with water, the pipes can last up to 50 years.

Water flowing through wood pipe doesn’t taste like wood. The sap in the wood is flushed out very quickly, and once it’s gone the water remains pure."

Frankly, the whole crunchy granola-ness of the wood pipe sounds kind of awesome for us hairy-arse woodsrunners up here in the Great Northwest!

Lisa said...

A lovely bldg., and thanks for sharing.

Yes, Leon -- 'twould be grand to live in such a structure.

Podunk Paul said...

That’s interesting…the last upgrade of municipal water systems took place in the boom years following World War Two. Treatment plants and distribution systems have long outlived their 50-year design lives. Older cities in New England and the Midwest have their storm drains cross-connected to sewage lines. Heavy rains send raw sewage into the potable water mains. And some 49 million Americans drink water contaminated with illegal levels of arsenic, radioactive uranium, tetrachloroethylene (a dry-cleaning solvent) and other carcinogens.

According to the EPA some 240,000 water-main breaks occur each year in the U.S. But that figure is a guess – underground leaks are almost impossible to find. We do know that, on the average, American cities lose 40% of the water they pump.

Fixing the leaks and upgrading treatment plants to meet the provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act will cost at least a trillion dollars.

FDChief said...

Paul: and we're lucky out here in that we started much later than places like NYC, Philadelphia, and Boston. A hell of a lot of our underground dates from the mid-20th-Century.

So I shudder to think of what places like New England must look like from underneath; it must be like one of those nightmarish bendy-straw artworks...

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