A new book dives deep into the history of public water supply in the region of Lebanon, and the public is invited to a lecture this weekend at the Historical Society of the County of Lebanon to sip this fire hose recently published.
Today, public water supplies are ubiquitous and fade into the background for the majority of Lebanon County residents. (Penn State Extension estimates that, statewide, three out of four households are connected to a public water supply.) But that hasn’t always been the case — and certainly not without a major effort on the part of civic-minded individuals over half a dozen generations.
Lebanon City Authority executive director Jon Beers oversaw the completion last year of a definitive survey of the Lebanon region’s public water supply, dating to the 1870s, titled ” The City of Lebanon Authority: History of Lebanon, PA’s Water and Sewer Systems”.
Cover of the book completed on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Lebanon’s public water supply.
Although Schaefferstown has an even older water system than Lebanon, Beers has focused his efforts on the Lebanon region, a subject close to his heart through his work with the authority, which serves the residents of half a dozen municipalities with their public water supply.
Read more: Schaefferstown has the oldest system of gravity conveying pipes in the United States
Beers was greatly aided in his work by former Lebanon Daily News reporter John Latimer, who had nearly two decades of experience covering city authorities in a news-rich era.
Latimer and Beers drew on work previously conducted by former authority director Maury Erdman, who served on the board from 1964 to 1996, as well as work from 1905 by a former owner of the Lebanon Daily News, Joseph Reinhard. Only one copy of Erdman’s 240-page report was known, and Beers was able to work with the Lebanon County Historical Society to properly digitize this singular artifact.
Erdman’s work culminated in the construction of the Siegrist Dam, located just over the Lebanon County line in Schuylkill County, in the 1990s.
Read more: A hike in the wilderness of Lebanon Reservoir and Jeff’s Swamp
Latimer co-wrote the book with Beers and conducted additional interviews to fill in the missing pieces, including conversations with longtime authority employees like retired water superintendent Ron Luciotti and sewage superintendent at retired Jim Fraytic.
“We thought about how lucky we are that so many people who helped build the Lebanon City Authority are still alive to tell their stories and preserve our history,” said the Authority’s chairman, Marty Yocum, in a statement. “If we didn’t do it now, it would be lost for generations to come. With this book, which has been put together so well by so many people, we have it and have it forever.
The goal was to update previous documentary efforts and produce a comprehensive new chronicle in time to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Lebanese community’s public water supply, Beers said.
Beers will discuss the book in a free Sunday program at the Lebanon County Historical Society, 924 Cumberland St., on Sunday, April 24 at 1:30 p.m.
“While the subject of urban water supply may not sound exciting, it is as ancient and more vital to civilization than virtually anything else,” said Dr. Bruce Bomberger, archivist and librarian of the historical society. , in a press release. “As a public enterprise for the public good, the history of the Authority’s achievements and continued service is an activity which all who receive its benefits should understand and appreciate in its transparency in the records of its successes and his difficulties.”
Copies of the book can also be purchased online for $25 through the historical society’s website or in person at the Lebanon County Historical Society, the Cornwall Iron Furnace, and the City Of Lebanon Authority offices at 2311 Ridgeview Road.
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