Inventive councilman calms the waters 'Pumpminder' steadies supply NORTH--Manchester * Hampstead * Lineboro

November 25, 1992|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Contributing Writer

While the town of Hampstead quietly puts itself away for the night, one man's concern and vigilance are still awake and on duty, making sure that tomorrow morning there will be plenty of water for the morning bath, shave or cup of coffee.

He is William S. Pearson Sr., who refers to himself as "an insulting engineer."

Mr. Pearson, 84, who claims two relatives who came to America aboard the Mayflower in 1620 and 12 who fought in the Revolution at such battles as Quebec and Bunker Hill, is not unlike one of his boyhood heroes, Thomas A. Edison.

In his home and laboratory-workshop, right next door to each other at his First Street home in Hampstead, this kindly gentleman with the far-searching eyes is free, like Edison was in his laboratory, to tinker, to perfect, to think and to turn into reality his various ideas.

Slightly slowed by advancing years, the powerful intellect of Mr. Pearson has not been dimmed. He has been a member of the Hampstead Town Council on and off since 1973. His latest tenure goes back to 1984.

His specialty is water. He is a dogged curator of not only the town's supply but also the machinery that pumps it to the town's two water tanks.

Mr. Pearson spent his first term overseeing the town's streets, but it was a water crisis in the mid-1970s -- when questions were raised about the water level in the town's tanks -- that brought him to action.

Mr. Pearson's invention of the Pumpminder, a device that monitors the static pressure in the water lines and adjusts the pumps to keep constant the water levels in the overhead reservoirs, enabled him to correct the problem with the two tanks.

"We pump the town's water at night into the tanks," he said. "With the Pumpminder actually minding the pumps, ground water enters the tank at 54 degrees and circulates to the top of the tank.

It also will switch on the pumps during peak periods or emergencies, such as a fire, and also stops the tanks from overflowing. In other words, the Pumpminder responds to the various needs of the system and switches the pumps on and off.

"The water movement keeps the pipes from freezing as well as saving the town money," he said. "We operate at off-peak hours using cheaper electricity to pump the water. It proved to be a happy arrangement for all concerned.

"There isn't a lot of water in any one spot," he said. "The town gets its water from 12 wells and is pumped by eight stations."

When his Pumpminder was adopted by the town, he resigned from the council.

"I took no money for the first device," he said. "I did not want to be accused of siphoning off public money."

He formed a company, Cypro, which manufactured the Pumpminder. He sold the patent to San Luis Tank and Piping in Paso Robles, Calif., which manufactures the devices now. They are in use by water departments in Westminster, Manchester, Binghamton, N.Y., and California.

He only has to step into his laboratory-workshop and check a gauge mounted on the wall to see how much water is in both

tanks or to study the latest consumption figures brought to him weekly by Water Department employee Roger Steger.

"We use in the neighborhood of 300,000 gallons per diem," Mr. Pearson said. "However, we have to be careful and practice conservation. Water comes from the heavens, not the ground."

The water supply for Hampstead is based on wells, some one hundred feet in depth. But because the town sits on a ridge, water on the eastern side runs toward Prettyboy Reservoir, while water on the western side travels down to the Patapsco River.

He expresses concern that the water supply may not be adequate at the rate the area is developing.

"Because we share a common watershed, we have to ask permission from Baltimore City every time we contemplate putting a new well into service," he said. "Obviously, we have to be very careful in our planning for the future."

This dapper gentleman, who sports a beret as he leads a visitor on a tour of one of the town pumps, grew up in Chicago, the son of an electrical engineer and a schoolteacher mother.

"My dad was the best teacher I ever had. When I asked him a question he always responded with another question. That way he got me to think."

According to Mr. Pearson, his dad was ahead of his time in advocating the use of electric delivery trucks and proved it by managing a fleet of trucks for a Chicago dairy.

"It cost 65 cents a day to run those trucks," said Mr. Pearson. "What eventually did them in was cheap gasoline."

He attended Crane Tech in Chicago but eschewed college "because I didn't want to learn a foreign language," he says with a laugh.

As a child he turned the family basement into a workshop where, among other things, he invented an electric stove.

"It worked fine," he said, "until my brother decided to demonstrate the stove to some kids. I came home to see the fire trucks out front, the house filled with smoke and a burned table."

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