The Bowling Green waterworks system has been in existence for over 125 years-from directly pumping water from the Barren River and using a combined storm/sewer drainage system to the nationally acclaimed water and wastewater systems we have today.
Before the pumping system was used, people depended upon wells and cisterns for their water supply. The well at Dr. Thomas B. Wright's home, which was located at the corner of State and 11th Streets where the State Street Methodist Church is now, supplied water to many of the homes in the area. Stores and offices around Fountain Square would send errand boys to the Wright home for drinking water. Dr. Wright was a city representative and promoted the construction of the waterworks system. In 1870, he was appointed as the first president of the Bowling Green Waterworks System.
In 1868, the Board of Trustees approved the "franchises, privileges, rights and duties granted to them by the Commonwealth to incorporate the Bowling Green Waterworks Company". The Water Company bought approximately 7.5 acres of land from J.R. Underwood. This land was to be used for a pumping station and was located on Chestnut Street, where the present plant is located.
Another 7 acres of land was purchased from the Vivian Crosswaite Estate, located where the 5 million gallon reservoir and 1 million gallon red, white and blue storage tanks stand today. This property was deeded to the Trustees of the Township and the Waterworks Company for the distribution of water to the town. Charles Hermany, who was Chief Engineer of the Louisville Water Company for over 25 years, designed and constructed Bowling Green's first waterworks system. The cost of this system was $125,000. The system had a pumping capacity of 648,000 gallons per day and was operated by one man.
In 1870 the Waterworks Commission of Bowling Green adopted its first water rates. These rates were for residential customer; commercial customers paid different amounts set by the Water Commission. Althought the minutes of the Waterworks Commission meetings do not specifiy how water consumption was measure, we do know that a service pipe ran down the inside edge of the pavement on each side of the street. A public hydrant was made at the end of each pipe; these were 1/2 inch cedar case plunger hydrants that cost $14 or $15 apiece. Each customer would receive a key marked BGW (Bowling Green Waterworks) which would be used to draw the water from the hydrants. Anyone caught drawing water from the hydrants without using an authorized key would be fined $2 for the first offense; each offense thereafter would be doubled.
According to the minutes of a Waterworks Commission meeting, Bowling Green had its first official disconnection of service for non-payment of a bill in January of 1877. In the minutes it states that all water rents were due on or before the "10th day of January" or water would be disconnected.
This first system consisted of cast iron pipes between 2 and 6 inches in diameter, laid througout the town, which is the present downtown area. Water was pumped directly from the Barren River to an Open Reservoir, which was constructed in 1871 where the Hospital grounds are today, and distributed to the town through the pipes. In days before the automobile, the Open Reservoir was a favorite place for promenading on Sunday afternoons and holidays.
At this time Bowling Green used a combined storm drainage system and sanitary sewer system. The Whiskey Run Sewer System, as it was known, was an open sewer system that carried sanitary and storm sewer throughout most Bowling Green, directly to the Barren River, without being treated. Whiskey Run was in existence from the late 1800's until the first wastewater system was constructed in 1935.
The first step toward construction of a water treatment facility came in 1921 when the steam pumpers were converted to diesel motors and a square basin was built at the reservoir to be used as a sedimentation basin. By 1926, the Waterworks Company had approximately 3576 services, with a Bowling Green population of 9,638.
The first water treatment facility was completed in 1928. The location of this facility was on Chestnut Street where the present Water Treatment Plant is located. Today this part of the building houses offices and meeting rooms. The first power pump is located here and is used for emergency purposes only. This facility consisted of a collection pipe on the Barren River, two sedimentation basins and four filters. Public power was used to run the pumpers, and the chlorination of water also began. With the completion of this facility, plant capacity was at 3 million gallons per day.
Also constructed at this time was a 150,000 gallon elevated storage tank located on Western's campus, and larger pipes were laid throughout the city to increase the service for Bowling Green.
In 1930, despite the Depression, the city hired the JN Chester Engineers of Pittsburgh to make a survey of the city for the possibility of constructing a sewer system for Bowling Green. The waterworks committee reported that the water was not filtered and people's health was in danger. At the time, there was a typhoid epidemic and the unsanitary disposal of wastewater through the cave system was believed to have been the cause. People would simply dig a hole in their backyard and run a hose to the hole from the house. The sanitary sewer would drain into the hole and then into Whiskey Run, the cave system, or simply into the ground. There were also major changes made in the waterworks system in 1930, as the first meters were installed in the city.
On November 1, 1932, the city approved a loan in the amount of $630,000 to finance the construction of a sanitary sewer system for Bowling Green. This would consist of a system of sewers that would drain into several septic tanks located near natural sinks. All parts of the city would be connected to the sewer system. The sewer system was completed in June of 1933. When the sewer system was built, the rate of wage for common labor was 20 cents an hour and 600 families were on relief.
The first Wastewater Treatment Plant was constructed in 1935. This facility was located on the Barren River, near the current wastewater facility. An Imhoff tank, designed as a combination sedimentation and sludge digestion unit, was the first form of wastewater treatment. In conjunction with the construction of a wastewater treatment facility, approximately 44.5 miles of interceptor and collector sanitary sewer lines were laid to serve a Bowling Green population of approximately 13,000.
In 1955, the Water-Sewer Sanitation Commission was formed and the Board of Commissioner, a Superintendent and a Manager for the Commission were appointed.
In May of 1957, the 5 million gallon reservoir tank was built on Hospital Hill. At the time, this was the largest "umbrella-roofed" structure of its kind in the world. The tank contains 711 tons of steel, measures 175 feet in diameter, is 29 feet at the outer edge and is 43 feet in height. When workers were constructing the tank, 10,000 pounds of welding wire and 22,000 feet of hand welding were used to weld the steel units securely; 1,000 gallons of interior tank coating were used, and 120 gallons of aluminum paint were used to cover the outside of the tank. With the construction of the tank, the open reservoir was no longer used.
On May 12, 1958, construction began on a new office building for the Water-Sewer Sanitation Commission. The Commision moved into its new building, located on College Street next to City Hall, on September 10th of that same year.
In 1963, a $10 million wastewater expansion took place. The present wastewater treatment facility was constructed, with a plant capacity of 5.2 million gallons per day. And over 60 miles of sanitary sewer lines were laid throughout the city. At the time, there were a total of 8,300 customers.
In December of 1970, construction was completed on the 1 million gallon red, white and blue storage tank, located next to the 5 million gallon reservior tank. It is believed that an armed services recruiter suggested the red, white and blue color scheme, saying he thought, "Bowling Green needed a patriotic boost". Today the tank serves as a landmark for the City, as it stands on Hospital Hill towering over the city 129 feet above the ground.
In 1972, the 1 million gallon storage tank was constructed on Nashville Road.
In January of 1974, the Commission approved the construction of a water line connecting Nashville and Scottsville Roads, running along Cave Mill and Grider Pond Roads. In October, a $6 million expansion at the Wastewater Treatment Plant made it possible for 95% of the impurities in the waste stream to be removed; with the completion of this expansion, plant capacity was at 8.4 million gallons per day.
In March of 1976, the Water-Sewer Sanitation Commission merged with the Electric Plant Board to form Bowling Green Municipal Utilities. With the merger of the Water-Sewer Sanitation Commission and the Electric Plant Board, the 80's brought about a number of changes and improvements for the water and wastewater departments.
In 1980, a $1.5 million expansion to the Water Treatment Plant took place, increasing plant capacity to 15 million gallons per day. Also in 1980, the 1 million gallon storage tank was constructed on Cave Mill Road, behind the Greenwood Mall; and a new interceptor sewer line was put in at Jennings Creek, connecting the Russellville Road area with the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Another expansion at the Water Treatment Plant occurred in 1985. This $3.2 million expansion increased plant capacity to 22.5 million gallons per day. Our Water Treatment Plant also houses a certified laboratory capable of performing tests required by the Division of Water to ensure the safety of your drinking water. The most recent expansion completed in 2007 increased plant capacity to 30 million gallons per day to meet the growing Bowling Green/Warren County population.
The most recent expansion at the Wastewater Treatment Plant occurred in 1993. This $8.5 million expansion increased plant capacity from 8.4 million gallons per day to its present capacity of 10.6 million gallons per day. Our Wastewater Treatment Plant also houses a laboratory capable of performing tests required by the state to meet our permit charge limitations and process control for the plant.
Today, the water/wastewater departments have a Water Treatment Plant capacity of 30 million gallons per day, over 300 miles of water mains and 17,400 customers. The Wastewater Treatment Plant has a capacity of 10.6 million gallons per day, over 200 miles of sewer mains and 18,100 customers. Combined, both departments have 65 employees and a systems value of $300 million.