Straight from the Tap

History of Baldwin Water Treatment Plant

05/09/2019

Cleveland Water has a long history of providing safe, great-tasting water. We’ve grown from a single pump station delivering untreated water through just 13 miles of mains in 1856 to four state-of-art treatment facilities serving 1.5 million customers through a network of 5,300 miles of mains.

In advance of our Drinking Water Week Open House this Saturday, we’re looking at the history of our second oldest treatment facility, the Baldwin Water Treatment Plant.

Located at the intersection of Stokes Blvd. and Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and named after the road that use to bisect the property, Baldwin was placed into service in 1925. With its opening, filtered and chlorinated water was delivered to all Cleveland Water customers for the first time.

Before its construction, the site of the Baldwin plant was originally home to the 80-million gallon open-air Fairmount Reservoir and the original Fairmount Pump Station. From 1885 to 1904, water was pumped from the Division Avenue Pumping Station (now the site of our Morgan Water Treatment Plant) to the Fairmount Reservoir. The Fairmount Pump Station drew water from the reservoir and delivered it to customers located at higher elevations.

In 1904, new infrastructure was built to meet the needs of Cleveland’s growing population and improve water quality for its residents. A new raw water intake and pump station were constructed and connected via a 9-foot diameter brick tunnel built 50 feet below the bed of Lake Erie. The location of the intake 5 miles offshore provided cleaner water that was less impacted by land-based pollution and dramatically reduced cases of waterborne illness among Cleveland residents. 

The Kirtland Pump Station, located near the present day intersection of S. Marginal Rd. and E. 49th St., delivered untreated water to the Fairmount Reservoir for distribution to customers. In 1911, chlorine equipment was added at Kirtland to provide the first form of water treatment in Cleveland. And in 1914, additional pumps were added to the Fairmount Pump Station to deliver water to customers located farther out and at higher elevations.

In the early 1920s construction began on the current Baldwin plant, then called the Baldwin Filtration Plant and Reservoir, to serve the growing city. Designed by architect Herman Kregelius, it features a 750-long Palladian-style filtration building and a covered underground reservoir carved out of solid rock. With a capacity of 135 million gallons, the Baldwin Reservoir was the largest in the world at the time it was built.

Since its construction, Baldwin and its supporting facilities have undergone several renovations and updates. The Kirtland Pump Station was repurposed and renovated in the late 1920s to deliver lake water directly to Baldwin for treatment via twin 60-inch express mains, each five miles long. In 1968 the original steam-powered pumps were replaced with new electrically powered ones.

In 1964, the water intake crib was updated with automated light and sound warnings for boaters. The bell that had been previously used to warn boaters is on display at Baldwin.

From 2001 to 2012 Baldwin underwent $156 million in major renovations as part of Cleveland Water’s Plant Enhancement Program. Some of the key upgrades included the installation of a plant-wide automation system, the installation of two new service pumps, a new in-line rapid mix, mechanical flocculation, rehabilitated filters, a safer chlorine feed system, and two new pumps at Kirtland. 

Today, Baldwin pumps an average 70 million gallons of water a day to residents and businesses located in downtown and the east side of Cleveland and the eastern and southeastern suburbs. The 1904 intake still supplies lake water to the plant and the large orange structure sitting on top has become known as the 5-mile Crib. It is the only one of our four water intakes visible above the surface of the lake.

Interested in seeing the building and water treatment process in person? Register for a free tour during our Drinking Water Week Open House.