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LIMA ‚?? We take water for granted today, even with the cry to conserve it from the environmentalists at its loudest.

But when Lima was getting started, indoor plumbing didn‚??t exist. Sanitation was a serious enough issue for the mayor to approve ‚??sanitary policemen,‚?Ě according to a newspaper story from June 12, 1867.

‚??It was resolved that it be the duty of the sanitary police to inspect all cellars, privies, back yards, alleys, hog pens and stables, to note their condition in writing, and report to the Board of Health,‚?Ě the story reported.

It was required to put a peck of lime (eight quarts) a week into your outhouse and cellar during the summer months, with business being required to double that amount. It cut the smell. And it was declared unlawful to throw slops, garbage, offal or refuse into the streets and alleys in quantities believed to endanger the public health.

In 1868, the city resolved to build a sewer in the Public Square to help with removal of wastewater.

Drainage was a huge issue. The vapors of decaying garbage and stagnant water were the cause of illness, they believed.

And let‚??s not forget the streets were filled with muck.

‚??The running of cows at large in Lima should be prohibited by an ordinance and strictly enforced. Farmers coming to town are greatly annoyed by the cows going to their wagons and eating up the feed for their horses, pulling the hay or straw out of the bed or disturbing any articles of value which they might contain. A great deal of complaint is made, and there certainly is some cause. The habit is a nuisance in any light it can be viewed,‚?Ě a story reported Feb. 26, 1873.

And right through all the organic and industrial mess ran the Ottawa River ‚?? which was Lima‚??s main water supply. The Ottawa‚??s banks were sometimes filled to the brim after a big rain but sometimes the river was just a trickle. When Lima officials decided in 1881 to establish a waterworks, there was a question on procuring a source large enough to supply the growing city‚??s needs.

The state legislature allowed for cities to issue bonds to help pay for waterworks in 1882, and Lima jumped on that. Officials also started doing research, courting various engineers from out to town to see what might fit Lima best. When bids opened in 1885, the city was crawling with contractors eager to do the work. Everything was a separate bid, from pipe laying to installing pumping machinery.

What was sure was the location: North Street just west of today‚??s Interstate 75. And it attracted daily visitors eager to watch the some 100 men work.

‚??A prettier location could not have been selected, as the ground is nearly surrounded by a natural embankment about 18 feet in height and is surrounded by pretty farms. The entire ground occupies a space of about 20 acres, and although work has been progressing very rapidly it will take several weeks of hard labor to make any material change in the looks of the surroundings,‚?Ě an Aug. 7, 1885, story reported. ‚??On the east side is foreman Tom Markey with a force of men and nine teams busy with wheel scrapers building up the embankment on the northeast part. Jack O‚??Brien is the foreman of the largest gang of men and is piling up the dirt at a lively rate on the north side parallel with the P. Ft. W. and C. railroad track. ‚?Ľ Foreman Sommers is in the south part of the reservoir with a wagon force and about 25 men straightening the natural embankment and leveling the floor of the reservoir. There are quite a large number of stumps, which are being removed by the men.‚?Ě

Scraper work paid $3 a day.

The reservoir was called Twin Lake because it was divided in two by a dike. But the $200,000 project ran out of money in 1886. Officials proposed raising $125,000 more. More money was found for the project, and a brick pump station with a chimney 90 feet high was built. The first water flowed through the mains Feb. 1, 1887.

And then came more trouble. The many oil wells in the area meant some oil was spilling into Lost Creek, and it was dumb luck it didn‚??t get into the reservoir. Animal waste was also a big polluter. And when drought came ‚?? and it did, almost immediately ‚?? it became obvious that the reservoir was way too small for Lima‚??s population, 15,000 in 1887. Officials drilled wells to supplement.

Soon, tongues began wagging and editorial page editors began calling for the mistake in engineering to be admitted. A special committee was formed in 1888 to investigate the management of the project and its books.

The reservoir continued to be a problem, with the newspapers often reporting on water levels. A 1904 story asked residents to use tap water judiciously and, as the story was published in the winter, to stop letting water faucets dribble to prevent the pipes from freezing. That year, the average daily consumption was 2 million gallons.

Officials realized another reservoir was necessary, and a big dig commenced east of town on state Route 81. Today‚??s Lima Reservoir was completed by 1905, but it didn‚??t collect water.

‚??Lima taxpayers may have to go down in their jeans for $16,000,‚?Ě a headline reported Jan. 31, 1906. A conduit line wouldn‚??t hold water. The ‚??bungle‚?Ě deepened when it became known that the drainage sewer from the county infirmary carried sewage from there to the intake.

Contractors J.C. Linneman, J.D. Neely, Joseph Mayer and J.A. Bendure were called onto the carpet, and the city tried to recover $70,000 for the shoddy work. In the end, the judge sided with Linneman.

The mess wasn‚??t over, though. The walls began giving way in 1908, and officials tried to stop leaks in the south bank ‚?? which ran along the Ottawa ‚?? best they could.

By 1914, the population was near 41,000, according to those who compiled the city directory, an early phone book.

How would Lima keep up, and maintain what it had? See next week‚??s Reminisce for the final look at these early years.

The waterworks, photographed in 1888.
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