Built in 1894, the Becks Run Pump Station in Baldwin Borough came to supply a large portion of the area's drinking water, pulling up to 60 million gallons a day from the Monongahela River and sending it on its way to 291,000 customers in Allegheny and Washington counties.
Its long useful life having ended last year, when Pennsylvania American Water completed a new facility next door, the Becks Run Pump Station's final act will be a disappearing one.
Starting tonight, a water company subcontractor will tear down the broad-shouldered but sagging yellow-and-brown brick behemoth that hugs East Carson Street near the city of Pittsburgh line. Its successor, slimmer and with the glow of newness, stands just to the west.
The demolition will close off East Carson from Becks Run Road to Glass Run Road from 7 p.m. today until 6 a.m. Monday. Eastbound traffic on East Carson will be permitted to turn right at Becks Run Road. The posted detour uses the Hot Metal Bridge, Second Avenue and the Glenwood Bridge to get around the closure.
The old pump station was built at a time when treated drinking water was still a relatively new amenity here and when many contracted typhoid fever from contaminated well and spring water. It supplied a new treatment plant built in the early 1900s on Agnew Street.
An anonymous forecast at the time said the facility would "improve the health of people in general ... be the cause of hundreds of families wanting to locate" in its service area and "be the cause of rapid increases in the value of property lying within the territory reached," all of which came to pass.
Until 1970, the station derived its power from coal-fired boilers that ran steam pumps, said Jay Lucas, project manager for Pennsylvania American. A still-active rail line above the station delivered the coal. After 1970, clean air regulations caused a switch to electric power.
The station provided nearly half of the water in the Penn-American service area, with the rest coming from the E.H. Aldrich Treatment Complex in Elrama, Washington County.
Three years ago, Pennsylvania American embarked on a $100-million-plus project to replace much of the transmission and treatment infrastructure from the river along the Becks Run corridor, including the intake pipes at the Mon. Demolition of the pump station is one of the final major components of the project, Mr. Lucas said.
Crews from Noralco Corp., the demolition subcontractor, will use a track hoe with 90-foot boom and an attachment that will "munch" the building, grabbing debris from the top and bringing it to the ground, he said. Removal of the structure should be completed this weekend.
The company could not renovate the building because of its condition and the difficulty of maintaining water service during construction, he said. The front wall of the station is bulging outward and some of the brick is crumbling.
The road closure was needed for safety, Mr. Lucas said. The building sits a couple steps off Carson Street.