CHENNAI: The city got treated-water supply for the first time when the Kilpauk Water Treatment Plant was set up 101 years ago. Conceived by J W Madley, the 66-acre plant still retains reminders of the British era. And even today, most of the machinery are considered engineering marvel.
Engineers of Metro Water who work at the Kilpauk Treatment Plant say the plant is still reliable. It was set up after the open canal that carried water from Red Hills to Kilpauk shaft — and later to George Town and Mylapore — got polluted and caused waterborne diseases.
Madley came up with the idea of using 14 slow sand filters. These are still part of the water treatment plant. They have three layers — the first has bricks; the second, pebbles, and the third, sand. “It follows the principle that bacteria eats bacteria. Water produced through this process is 99.9 per cent pure,” says a Metro Water engineer.
In 1927, Chennai received chlorinated water for the first time after Madley introduced it. The mild steel-riveted pipe used at the plant in 1914 now lies in ruins near the Kilpauk shaft. Water was supplied to the city through seven trunk mains or feeder pipes. The Pumping Main 1 had a 48-inch cast iron pipe.
But since there was no electricity at the time, how did the city get its water supply? They had boilers in which steam was produced. This steam exerted pressure so that the water would rise and flow into the shaft.
In 1935, Madley installed two electrical pump sets at the plant. Each set would pump 4.5 million litres of water an hour. A third pump set was added in 1948. The 80-year-old pump sets are still in use and Metro Water engineers believe they will last another 100 years.