Looking back: Rivers to be pumped

Published 9:42 am Friday, April 28, 2017

by Clyde Parker

May 1, 1942

Earlier this year, the Federal Government announced that two of Southampton County’s rivers, the Nottoway and the Blackwater, would be “drafted” for WAR service. Water from those sources will be channeled by pipeline to the City of Norfolk water system. 

Last June, the Federal Government approved a contract with the Lock Joint Pipe Company of Monmouth, New Jersey, for the manufacture and laying of a 42-inch diameter reinforced concrete pipeline from the Nottoway River near Courtland to the Norfolk and Western Railway’s right-of-way near Lake Prince, a distance of 19 miles.

At that point, the water will empty into a ditch feeding into the lake. Lake Prince is a part of the City of Norfolk water system.

The contract also includes construction of a 30-inch diameter branch line, controlled by valves, which will let water into an open ditch running to Lake Cahoon, supplying water to Portsmouth and Suffolk, in the event of a water shortage in either of those cities.

Last September, a contract for construction of two pump-houses, one at the western terminus of the pipeline on the Nottoway River at Courtland and the other on the Blackwater River near Burdette was awarded to the Tuller Construction Company of Red Bank, New Jersey.

The pumping station at Courtland will have a capacity of 44,000,000 gallons a day. Each station is equipped with four pumping units, driven by 200-horsepower motors.

The pumping stations may be operated jointly or independently of each other, depending upon water conditions in the two rivers and how much volume is called for in the Norfolk, Portsmouth or Suffolk systems.                

While the project was undertaken on an emergency basis to assure ample water to Norfolk and the many defense and military installations nearby, it is intended as a PERMANENT addition to the water supply system for the Norfolk metropolitan area.

Due to military facility expansions and the huge influx of military personnel, Norfolk’s population has doubled in just the last few years. This, coupled with the fact that serious droughts over the past two years have occurred, sent government engineers in quest of new water sources.

Although the need for adequate and permanent water resources for Norfolk, and its military installations, prompted officials of Isle of Wight County and Southampton County to agree to pumping water out of the two rivers, it is to be understood that the agreement, in actuality, is a permanent one and commits our region in perpetuity — in other words, forever.

Pipe plant for Franklin

J.N. Vaughan, chief engineer for the Lock Joint pipe Company of Atlanta, was in town yesterday conferring with Seaboard Air Line Railway officials with regard to the establishment of a plant in Isle of Wight County to make concrete pipe for the Nottoway River-Blackwater River-Lake Prince water line.

It is understood that the Lock Joint Pipe Company wishes to begin operations within a month if possible and start manufacture of the concrete pipe. The plant will be located near the Franklin Airport on the south side of the Seaboard tracks and to the east of Lee’s Mill Road — the county road intersecting Route 58. 

Note: In June of 1943, the brick buildings (pump houses) at Courtland and Burdette and the pipeline from Courtland to Burdette to Lake Prince were completed and the system became operational. 

A bit earlier, in May of 1943, Frank Clifton “Cliff” Parker, a member of the Town of Franklin Police Force, was hired by the City of Norfolk to be Supervisor of Operations for the pumping stations at Courtland and Burdette, and the Lake Prince Reservoir. He relocated his residence from Monroe Road to Sedley in order to be more central to the three locations. 

His daughter, Evelyn Parker Daughtrey, now resides in Franklin.

According to Michael Johnson, Southampton County Administrator, the system is still in place and, for the most part, is operated electronically. City of Norfolk Water Works technicians periodically monitor the operation. Pumping takes place as water needs are determined.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net