Inspecting New York City water tanks

Inspecting New York City water tanks
American Pipe and Tank Co. employees inspect a water tank and install a heating device to keep the water tank from freezing in the winter.
American Pipe and Tank Co. employees inspect a water tank and install a heating device to keep the water tank from freezing in the winter.
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10 Photos
  • American Pipe and Tank Co. employees inspect a water tank and install a heating device to keep the water tank from freezing in the winter.
  • Waldemar Miszkowski climbs down a wooden ladder into a drinking water tank to begin cleaning.
  • The view inside the neglected drinking water tank Jonathan Lewin cleaned. The crawl space between the cone-shaped roof and flat cover showed signs of decay and animal activity.
  • The hole in the corner of the water tank roof that Lewin suspects was created by animals entering the water tank. The building owner has not yet agreed to repair the breach.
  • The undisturbed sediment at the bottom of a newly drained water tank coats the bottom of the tank in a layer of muck that can be a breeding ground for potential pathogens.
  • Jonathan Lewin, a tank cleaner, prepares to rinse the walls of a water tank.
  • Lewin scrubs the water tank’s wood ladder with a broom to remove biofilm and grime.
  • Most New York City rooftop water tanks are nearly entirely constructed of wood and their fundamental design has changed little in over a century.
  • Water at the bottom of the tank is dark brown as Jonathan Lewin pushes the sediment toward the drain. An overturned bucket on top of the drain pipe makes a slurping sound as suction helps pull the muddy water out of the tank.
  • A pipe several feet from the bottom of the tank pulls drinking water into the pipes that lead directly to tenants’ faucets below. New York City’s water is unfiltered; from reservoir to tank to tap.

What’s it actually look like inside those rooftop water tanks that dot New York City’s skyline? City & State’s Frank G. Runyeon took a series of photos when he tagged along on an inspection as part of his investigation into the cleanliness of the tanks.

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