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Our History

 

 

 


In the Beginning

1904: In the early years, individual wells and cisterns were constructed to provide water to each residence and a sole well was situated in the downtown area for purposes of firefighting. So, in 1904, when a fire broke out in Westbury’s business district, the singular well was rapidly depleted and the fire department was left with no immediate source of water. Six years later, with this disastrous event still a vivid memory, a committee of concerned citizens worked diligently for a few short months to formulate a water district to supply water to less than 1,000 residents.

February 17, 1911: Over one hundred years ago, the first meeting of the commissioners of the Westbury Water District was held. By April 3, the district had accepted bids for various services including laying pipes and setting fire hydrants as well as critical supplies such as valves, piping, a water tank and pumps. The district floated water bonds in the amount of $60,000 for this initial undertaking. By May of 1911, the first section of 8-inch pipe was laid on Maple Avenue, running from Grand Street to Ellison Avenue. By September of that year, well # 1 was situated at a depth of 505 feet, where water was pumped by vertical engines.

The water was kept in a 100,000 gallon storage tank, which was located near the water district’s main headquarters on Drexel Avenue.

Over the next 12 years, the district switched to gasoline run engines, then to kerosene engines that were used in conjunction with an ingenious air-lift pumping system that operated by forcing air into a well through a casement, thereby pushing water into a central in-ground reservoir. From this location, booster pumps fed the public distribution system. Each of these changes was made in an attempt to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs. By 1923, oil-powered engines were being utilized to handle the job. Progress was fast.

1924: The district began supplying water to neighboring areas such as Old Westbury and Carle Place, which eventually established their own water utilities in 1935 and 1949 respectively.

1947: The population of Westbury Village had increased to 4,525 by 1940, but it wasn’t until 1947 when the Westbury Water District installed a one-million-gallon above-ground storage tank. One decade later, when the population in the village had skyrocketed to 14,575, an additional 1.5-million-gallon underground tank was constructed on State Street.

1954: The New Cassel Water District became part of the Westbury Water District, which was also expanded to include a small service area north of Jericho Turnpike known as “Polo Field Park.” As the district’s boundaries became defined and the population being served by the water utility steadily increased so too did the number of wells needed to provide an adequate supply of water. By this time, they were being equipped with more modern electric pumps, which were eventually backed up by generators to ensure uninterrupted water service in the event of a blackout.

As the turn of the century became closer, water testing became more exacting and state-of-the-art equipment became more available to water purveyors, the district began introducing more modern equipment at its well sites and throughout the distribution system. Additionally, antiquated equipment and procedures were replaced over time by more current infrastructure and methods.

2003: With the installation of well #18 on Jericho Turnpike, the district was capable of pumping 18 million gallons of water per day. In 1995, the district’s first air-stripping tower was installed to remove any constituents that may be present in the water. Just prior to that, a new computerized system was added that is capable of operating the wells on an as-needed basis as the demand for water fluctuates according to season, temperature and time of day. These are only some samples of the numerous projects the district has undertaken in more recent times.

Community Activities

1992: The Westbury Water District produced its first newsletter, which was sent to consumers in an effort to provide helpful tips and to keep them abreast of news items and background information about the inner-workings of the district. Among others, water conservation is a topic that has been covered often and is encouraged year round by district officials.

As part of its ongoing effort to keep the public informed about important public drinking water issues, Westbury Water District officials have participated in numerous community events and attended many meetings of area groups and organizations. Officials are also active members of a handful of professional drinking water associations, where they are able to exchange valuable information with colleagues in regard to industry and legislative issues.

2005: The water district’s presence on the World Wide Web was officially established with the launch of westburywaterdistrict.com, another vehicle for communicating with consumers.

Five years later, the Westbury Water District took its fourth title for Nassau County’s Best Tasting Tap Water, an award its founding fathers would be proud of.

Present Day Overview

The Westbury Water District is now celebrating more than 100 years of superior water quality and customer service excellence. The water utility pumps an average of 3.42 million gallons of water each day from 10 deep underground wells to supply water to 20,500 customers. It is distributed through 92 miles of water mains situated throughout five square miles. The district has a storage capacity of 2.5 million gallons and maintains a maximum pumping capacity of 18.5 million gallons per day, to ensure its ability to meet public demand for water and to provide an ample supply for firefighting purposes. The water it tested regularly for more than 135 parameters and meets stringent health department standards consistently. This is a far cry from the days when the district’s founding fathers were haunted by the memory of a water supply that ran dry during a firefighting effort in the business district.

But, not all things have changed. The district’s main office is still operating at 160 Drexel Avenue in Westbury, where skilled professionals assist customers five days a week. Additionally, field workers, supervisors and the board of commissioners are as equally committed to excellence as their predecessors when it comes to good service and the quality of the product supplied.

As its founding members intended, the Westbury Water District continues to be run by three commissioners who reside in the service area and are each elected by the public to serve a three-year term. They jointly oversee all functions of the district’s operating budget and are held responsible for working together in the best interest of public health and safety to ensure a continuous flow and abundant supply of water for domestic use and firefighting purposes. Together, they handle all fiduciary responsibilities, running the district much like a small business, rather than a large conglomerate.

Just like their predecessors, the board’s goal is to provide the residents of Westbury with a clean, safe, abundant water supply at a reasonable rate.

 

 

photo of men
On February 17, 1911, at the conclusion of the first meeting of the Westbury Water District, John Scally was named president of the board (serving until July 1, 1917); T.J. McCord became secretary (serving until April 5, 1917) and G.W. Lascelle was selected treasurer (serving until May 1, 1913). They are pictured left to right.

photo of tower
The water district's first storage tower held 100,000 gallons at capacity. In April of 1911, R.D. Cole and Company was awarded the bid to build the structure, which became one of the area’s most revered landmarks. It functioned until it was no longer cost-effective to maintain and was removed from the landscape in 1978.

ledger
The district ledger shows that check #1 was authorized to pay on an engineers’ certificate by Thomas B. Harper, contractor for work performed to drill a 225-foot well. The contractor’s invoice in the amount of $1,518.75 is dated July 1, 1911 and itemizes 25 feet at $7.50 per foot, less 10 percent. Payment was remitted later that month.

photo of tank
The district’s 1-million gallon elevated storage tank, erected in 1947, provides water to the distribution system through the power of gravity. It is slated to undergo a major rehabilitation project in the coming year.

Drexel Ave well
Drexel Avenue Main Plant (1952)

Well #9
Well #9


District trucks and equipment stand assembled and ready for dispatching on January 30, 1952. Just as today, crews worked in all kinds of weather to get the job done.


While the fireplace has since been removed, the water district’s administrative office is still located on Drexel Avenue and staffed by a team of dedicated professionals, just as it was 100 years ago. The utility’s first employee, Mr. J.T. Archibold, was engaged on June 14, 1911 as a bookkeeper at $1.50 per meeting. Within the next year, William Knoller became the first full-time staffer when he was hired as foreman and paid $50 per month. Soon after, Jean Bennem was named the first clerk at a salary of $3 per week. In November of 1915, Mr. R. Bird was hired as the district’s engineer and was paid $80 per week.


 



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