Montreal Daily Star, 6 October 1900, page 9


The New St James Street Sewer

How the Work Proceeds Which will cost the City over $100,000 and will stop the flooding from the Western Municipalities


One of the most interesting and busy sections of the city just at present is in the vicinity ofVictoria Square. [Illegible] new sewer which is to relieve the congestion of the western municipalities is now in process of construction.  From early morning until evening over one hundred men toil in the long, mal-oderous trench which is every day reaching out a lengthening arm westward alongCraig Street. 


The Square presents a motley collection of the various articles used in sewer construction.  There are piles of sand, heaps of bricks, mortar, planking for supports, and many tools lying about all surrounded by impromptu railings to protect the pedestrian.  Horses and carts go to and from about the trench, some removing earth and some replacing it, for the enterprise is cleverly carried on in sections, and between the partitions various work of a different character is carried forward.




The workmen busy about the surface only form a small proportion of those actually employed.  Advance to the edge and far below in the running water will be seen the majority of the labourers.  The confines of the narrow, earthy chamber are small, the air damp, and the floor in many sections, a watery one.


It is interesting to watch the progress of the work as day by day fresh ground is broken and the completed portion in rear is covered up.  About a month under way, the new sewer now reaches fromVictoriasquare over to the corner of Craig and St Antoine Streets.  The advance guard, composed of five or six labourers, carefully sweeps the street and removes the copious accumulations of filth which usually on this street are to be found in the depressions at the junction of the street and the sidewalk.




Thus removed, the paving blocks are dug out and stratum of earth quickly removed.  The aspect of the work shows a gradually descending flight of broad earthen steps, beginning with the removal of the paving blocks, and ending in the deep trench where foul water runs and where bricklayers are busy upon the big bit of circular tubing.  As soon as the trench reaches a depth of a few feet, wooden supports are extensively used to prevent the possibility of a cave-in.  When the sewer trenches reaches its full depth, the walls are completely lined by timber and the work of building the brick sewer at the bottom of the trench goes on safely within the wooden casing surrounding it.




When the labourers get below the surface a good distance, the problem confronting them is how to dispose of the heavy slimy earth.  Several narrow platforms are constructed, each one of several feet higher than the other.  The earth is shovelledfrom one to the other by labourers, one standing upon each platform.  Standing upon the edge of the trench, the spectator traces with interest the gradually approaching earth deposits as they are passed from shovel to shovel, and at last thrown out on the surface to be presently carted away.


When sufficient depth below the surface has been attained, a number of labourers are kept busy in keeping down the water at the bottom of the trench.  This they do by means of pumps and buckets.  Many workmen shod with rubber boots stand for hour after hour in the foul running stream of water, dipping the drainage out and keeping down the level.




The final state of the excavation and the beginning of the construction is reached when the bricklayers place in position the bricks upon the wooden circular framework used to ensure a symmetrical formation.


A peep over the edge of the trench shows a curious collection of rusted iron pipes and cross sewers, upheld by chains, wooden cross pieces , pumps and buckets, brick work and toiling workmen.


The old sewer is six feet by four in size, and egg shaped.  The sewer under construction is a six feet circular one, at precisely the same elevation.  The ground was first broken atVictoria Square, and considerable time was spent in making a complicated bell junction to prevent conflicting currents.




The work will proceed much more rapidly when the excavating machine can be used, as by the use of this, the earth as quickly carried to the rear and got rid off.  The speed of the work depends, of course, a good deal on the nature of the soil.  As there is a large sewer just alongside, the walls must be watched very carefully to prevent an accident.  So far the work has progressed very satisfactorily, and it is thought that the work will be completed at the expiration of the time originally set.  The city has heretofore had great immunity from the accidents in its work of the sewer construction.  The dynamite explosion in St Jean Baptiste Ward three years ago being about the only occasion on which anything has gone wrong.  No accident on account of foul gas or cave-in has been recorded for many years.




Mr St George’s report on the subject, dated February 12, 1900, shows that the object of the sewer is to prevent the flooding of cellars onSt James Street, where proprietors have built cellars below the crown of the main sewer.


The sewer in St James street, running from Victoria Squareto the western city limits, was built in 1864, when the land through which it passed was a swamp.  It was laid as low as could possibly be, and with as small a grade as to enable it to drain into the St Lawrence River. Since the city on the 27th of November 1885, allowed the town ofSte Cunnegonde to drain into the city sewer inSt James street, these properties have been flooded during very heavy rain storms.


The agreement between the city and the municipality of Ste Cunnegonde provided that if the city sewer in St James street should become at any time too small to carry off the water coming from the municipalities, and if it would be necessary to make a larger sewer, that the town of Ste Cunnegonde would pay its share in the new work.




In the meantime, pending the fulfillment of the above, the City Council decided to relieve some of the properties temporarily by putting in automatic safety valves.  These safety valves must be carefully guarded, or they do not prove a success.  In cases where hotels put in water closets, urinals and lavatories in their basements, below the city sewers, these valves are not suitable without having artificial means of pumping.  The time was therefore ripe to try and remedy this state of affairs onSt James Street.


It was found that if the proprietors were to be permitted to build their cellars below the top or less than three feet from the top of the sewers, it would be necessary to build a sewer on each side of the street, of three feet six inches in diameter, so as to prevent any water coming from the municipalities going into the cellars of these properties; which cellars are built too low.  The presentSt James streetsewer will be left to carry off storm water, and the new sewers on either side of the street will have simply the house connections and the side streets lying on either side, betweenDorchesterand Notre Dame, connected to the sewers.  The two new sewers will empty intoCraig Street westofVictoria Square, where the sewer is eight feet in diameter, and will carry off all the water necessary.


The two sewers will cost $70,753.25.  The repairing of the pavement above them will cost $36,971.34, making a total of $107,724.59.