The first centrifugal pump built by E. P. Allis & Co. was rated at a capacity of 70 million gallons per day. It was built for pumping sewage at Jones Island, Milwaukee.

Large Centrifugal Pump

E.P. Allis Co. provided this large centrifugal pump to the Jones Island sewage plant.

In the 1880's, Milwaukee was confronted with a growing problem of sewage disposal. In 1884, Edwin Reynolds devised a centrifugal sewage pump that was largest in the United States at that time. It had a capacity of seventy million gallons per day. Its twelve-foot impeller was driven by a tandem-compound Corliss engine directly connected to the vertical pump shaft. Installed at the northeastern edge of Jones Island, this successful unit was in continuous use for thirty years at this pumping station. This was the first centrifugal pump built by E. P. Allis & Co., which was the predecessor firm of Allis-Chalmers Corporation.

This centrifugal pump played an important role in helping to deal with part of Milwaukee's sewage problems of the time. Toward the end of the decade of the 1880's, Milwaukee's population was rapidly approaching 200,000; and the city had nearly 165 miles of sewers. The main problem was the sluggishness of the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic Rivers; virtually stagnant at some times of the year, they produced unpleasant odors referred to delicately as the river nuisance. Resentment increased as more people recognized the public health danger of sewage flowing through the most populous section of a great city. For more than two years resentment continued to develop as the belief grew that it was harmful to the public health to have the sewage of the great city of Milwaukee pouring into its main streams.

At that time the sewerage system was under the control of the Board of Public Works of the City of Milwaukee. The first regular system of construction was begun in 1869. It was in the form of a combined system, which disposes of both sewage and surface drainage storm water, and the sewers were large enough to carry off the rush of such drain off at the time. In addition, another 247 miles of sewers had been constructed by 1897, not including the additional four miles of the so-called Menomonee special sewer.

This Menomonee special sewer intercepted all sewage emptying into the Menomonee Valley from the north and south and received all the sewage from the slaughter-houses, factories, and ships located on its line in the valley. In addition, the Menomonee sewer line also conveyed about 70,000,000 gallons of river water from the ends of various canals, slips, and rivers in the valley to the sewage pumping station at the lake shore south of the harbor. This sewer was built of brick along the river. An inverted siphon was built and laid in the dredge river to carry the sewage to Jones Island.

At that time, the river was only 200 feet across; it has since been widened to 600 feet. The place where the Allis centrifugal pump had been installed is now part of the widened area under water. The sewage was ejected into the lake without treatment during the next several decades. However, the same pumping station provided sewage for experimental work in 1914 that resulted in developing the new activated sludge process for improved treatment of sewage.