October 20, 1823: Birth of John Rose Leal; 1803: Louisiana Purchase Ratified; 1818: Oregon Territory Acquired

0828 Dr. John ROctober 20, 1823: Birth of John Rose Leal. John Rose Leal was born on October 20, 1823 (or possibly 1825 or 1827) in Meredith, Delaware County, New York. His parents were John Leal and Martha McLaury who were descended from early settlers of Delaware County, New York. There are records that John Rose Leal’s great-grandfather Alexander Leal was born in Scotland in 1740 and immigrated to the British colonies in North America, landing in New York City on April 13, 1774. On John R. Leal’s mother’s side, his ancestors came from Ireland and Scotland.

There is little information on John R. Leal’s early years. According to one source, he received his preliminary education at the Literary Institute, in Franklyn, Delaware County, New York and at the Delaware Academy in Delhi, New York.

John Rose Leal received his medical training under Dr. Almiran Fitch of Delhi, New York and completed his medical degree at Berkshire Medical College. Located in the westernmost regions of Massachusetts, Berkshire County, the medical college was in a remote part of the young country separated from the rest of the state by the Berkshire Mountains. The mission of Berkshire Medical College was to train doctors to serve the sparsely populated rural areas that were dominated by agriculture. Founded in 1822 as the Berkshire Medical Institution, the school had to overcome resistance from Harvard Medical School that objected to the establishment of another medical training facility in Massachusetts. With a student population of about 30 in the 1840s, a medical education was offered to students for the magnificent sum of $140 per year.

John Rose Leal received his medical degree in 1848 and shortly thereafter opened up a medical practice in Andes. Dr. Leal continued his education with a post-graduate course at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City—an institution that would figure prominently in one son’s education.

There is a limited amount information about his wife, Mary Elizabeth Laing, from historical records. Born in 1837, the fourth child of eight children, she was the daughter of Rev. James Laing of Andes, NY. She was born in Andes, NY, after the family moved there from Argyle, NY. Her father was the pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Andes.

John Rose Leal and Mary E. Laing were married in Andes on August 29, 1855. Mary E. Laing was only 18 when she married the successful country doctor. John L. Leal was born to the couple on May 5, 1868. Census records from 1860 show that another child was born to the couple about 1859 in Andes, William G. Leal. Another brother was born much later in Paterson, New Jersey, about 1870, Charles E. Leal. There are no records showing that William G. Leal survived into adulthood. Charles E. Leal lived to the age of 24 and died in 1894 in Paterson.

The simple rural life in Andes, New York was shattered by the Civil War in 1862 when the 144th Regiment, New York Volunteers was formed in Delaware County and the surrounding area. John R. Leal’s first appointment was as regimental surgeon and over the next three years he was promoted to surgeon at the brigade, division and corps levels. Toward the end of the war he held the title of Medical Director in the Department of the South. According to an obituary, Dr. Leal was wounded twice and was with his regiment at the battle of John’s Island.

The 144th Regiment was stationed on Folly Island in 1863 as part of the siege of Charleston, South Carolina. According to the history of the regiment, “very nearly every man in the Regiment got sick…with bad and unhealthy water to drink.” The only treatment at the time for the debilitating dysentery that overwhelmed the Regiment was the administration of “opium pills” by Dr. Leal. The pills did not cure anything but they made the recipients feel somewhat better. Dr. Leal became so ill that he received medical leave for a time, but it is clear from the records that he never fully recovered.

Dr. Leal was mustered out of the 144th Regiment on June 25, 1865 after which time he returned to his simpler life in Andes, New York. However, he brought a dreadful souvenir of the war home with him and he suffered with it for the next 17 years.

In one obituary, it was stated: “…his death, which resulted from an attack of peritonitis of an asthenic character, sequel to an attack of dysentery, which at the outset did not indicate an unusual degree of severity, but was undoubtedly aggravated by the chronic diarrhea from which he had been a sufferer more or less constantly since his retirement from the army.”

Another obituary was equally clear as to the cause of his death: “He never recovered from the effects of disease contracted on Folly Island, and this induced other complications, resulting in his death.”

Reference: McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

Commentary: Dr. John Rose Leal was the father of Dr. John L. Leal who was responsible for the first chlorination of a U.S. public water supply—see The Chlorine Revolution.

1020 Louisiana Purchase

October 20, 1803: Louisiana Purchase is ratified. “On October 20, 1803, the Senate ratified the Louisiana Purchase Treaty by a vote of twenty-four to seven. The agreement, which provided for the purchase of the western half of the Mississippi River basin from France at a price of $15 million, or approximately four cents per acre, doubled the size of the country and paved the way for westward expansion beyond the Mississippi.

Spain had controlled Louisiana and the strategic port of New Orleans with a relatively free hand since 1762. However, Spain signed the Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1800 under pressure from Napoleon Bonaparte, a secret agreement retroceding [To cede or give back (a territory for example)] the territory of Louisiana to France.

News of the agreement eventually reached the U.S. government.  President Thomas Jefferson feared that if Louisiana came under French control, American settlers living in the Mississippi River Valley would lose free access to the port of New Orleans. On April 18, 1802, Jefferson wrote a letter to Robert Livingston, the U.S. minister to France, warning that, “There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy.  It is New Orleans…”

Napoleon, faced with a shortage of cash, a recent military defeat in Santo Domingo, and the threat of a war with Great Britain, decided to cut his losses and abandon his plans for an empire in the New World. In 1803, he offered to sell the entire territory of Louisiana to the United States for $15 million.

Robert Livingston and James Monroe, whom Jefferson had sent to Paris earlier that year, had only been authorized to spend up to $10 million to purchase New Orleans and West Florida.  Although the proposal for the entire territory exceeded their official instructions, they agreed to the deal. The Louisiana Purchase Treaty was dated April 30 and formally signed on May 2, 1803.

The bounds of the territory, which were not clearly delineated in the treaty, were assumed to include all the land between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, at that time known as the Stony Mountains. Just twelve days after the signing of the treaty, frontiersmen Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out on an expedition to explore the newly acquired territory.

The purchase of the Louisiana Territory and the Lewis and Clark expedition marked the beginning of a century of conquest. As explorers, speculators, adventurers, and settlers pushed the territorial boundaries of the United States westward toward the Pacific coast, the notion of America as a nation always pushing toward new frontiers took hold in art, literature, folklore, and the national psyche.”

Commentary:  It is interesting that the boundaries of the land purchase were defined by river basins and not by latitude lines or surveyed limits. The addition of this vast swath of land to the young country brought with it some of the most important water resources that we currently possess. We can thank the vision of Thomas Jefferson for this amazing milestone in the history of water.

1020 Oregon TerritoryOctober 20, 1818: Treaty signed with Great Britain that ultimately resulted in U.S. acquisition of the Oregon Territory. “After the Revolutionary War, the U.S. inherited Spanish claims to the Oregon Territory that resulted in a number of boundary disputes with Great Britain. America and Great Britain agreed to form a joint commission to resolve boundary disputes. One of the results was the Treaty of Occupation of Oregon, signed on October 20,1818. As a result, British citizens and Americans in Oregon lived together peacefully. The joint occupancy treaty was renewed in 1827. Both British and American Commissioners had fixed the border between the United States and Canada at the 49th parallel from the Lake of the Woods (Minnesota Territory) west to the Rocky Mountains. The United States had proposed to extend the border along the same parallel to the Pacific Ocean, but Great Britain insisted that the northern border be drawn west to the Columbia River and then follow that river to the ocean.” (edited by MJM)

Commentary: Through a coincidence of dates, today, we can celebrate the astonishing amalgamation of water resources that stretch across the western U.S. and made the 19th century dream of Manifest Destiny a reality. Many thanks to Evan E. Filby who brought this interesting happenstance of dates to my attention. You may be interested in his blog about Idaho history.

October 19, 2009: Aircraft Drinking Water Regulations

Drinking water fill point on the rear bottom side of the aircraft

Drinking water fill point on the rear bottom side of the aircraft

October 19, 2009: Aircraft Drinking Water Rule (ADWR) is adopted by USEPA. “The primary purpose of the Aircraft Drinking Water Rule (ADWR) is to ensure that safe and reliable drinking water is provided to aircraft passengers and crew. This entails providing air carriers with a feasible way to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and the national primary drinking water regulations (NPDWRs). The existing regulations were designed primarily with traditional, stationary public water systems in mind. Some of these requirements have proven difficult to implement when applied to aircraft water systems, which are operationally very different.  Therefore, using a collaborative rulemaking process, EPA developed the ADWR that is tailored to aircraft public water systems. The final rule combines coliform sampling, best management practices, corrective action, public notification, operator training, and reporting and recordkeeping to improve public health protection.”

October 18, 1972: Clean Water Act is Born; 1812: Birth of Julius Adams; 1799: Birth of Christian Schoenbein

1018 Clean Water ActOctober 18, 1972:  Effective date of the Clean Water Act. Officially called the Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments of 1972, this legislation is the federal law that regulates water pollution in the U.S.  The original legislation was vetoed by President Nixon on October 17, 1972, but was overriden by the Senate and House the next day. “This Act is the principle law governing pollution control and water quality of the Nation’s waterways. The objective of this Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters (33 U.S.C. 1251). The Act has been amended numerous times and given a number of titles and codification. It was originally enacted as the Water Pollution Control Act in 1948 (P.L. 80-845), and was completely revised by the 1972 amendments, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments (P.L. 92-500). The 1972 amendments gave the Act its current form, and established a national goal that all waters of the U.S. should be fishable and swimmable. The goal was to be achieved by eliminating all pollutant discharges into waters of the U.S. by 1985 with an interim goal of making the waters safe for fish, shellfish, wildlife and people by July 1, 1983 (86 Stat. 816, 33 U.S.C. 1251) . The 1977 amendments (the Clean Water Act of 1977 (P.L. 95-217)) gave the Act its current title. Additional amendments were enacted in 1981 (Municipal Wastewater Treatment Construction Grants Amendments (P.L. 97-117)) and in 1987 (Water Quality Act of 1987 (P.L. 100-4).  The Act regulates discharges to waters of the United States through permits issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program.”

1018 Julius W AdamsOctober 18, 1812Julius W. Adams was born. Julius Walker Adams was a noted civil engineer who planned the sewer system for Brooklyn, New York. He was also one of the first engineers who conceived the idea of building the Brooklyn Bridge. For several years he was Consulting Engineer of the Board of City Works, Brooklyn, and also consulted on the distribution of water in New York City. He found time to edit the Engineering News and was President of the American Society of Civil Engineers from 1874-5. Adams was the last surviving member of the twelve founders of ASCE. He was a member of the New York Academy of Science and of the Association for the Advancement of Science.

1018 Christian F SchonbeinOctober 18, 1799:  From This Day in Science:  “October 18th is Christian Friedrich Schönbein’s birthday. Schönbein was the German chemist who discovered ozone while investigating the electrolysis of water. He noticed a distinct smell while the system was operating and traced the source to a new type of oxygen.”

October 17, 2013: NYC Tunnel No. 3; 1982: Toxaphene Curbs

1017 NYC Tunnel No 3October 17, 2013New York Times headline–After Decades a Water Tunnel Can Now Serve All of Manhattan. “Of all New York City’s sprawling mega-projects, the water tunnel snaking beneath the grid — connecting the Bronx to Upper Manhattan, Upper Manhattan to Central Park, Central Park to Queens, and, eventually, Queens to the western edge of Brooklyn — is perhaps the hardest to love….

But as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg turned a ceremonial wheel in City Hall Park on Wednesday, sending waters gushing into a fountain, the city arrived at a seminal moment.

In one of the most significant milestones for the city’s water supply in nearly a century, the tunnel — authorized in 1954, begun in 1970 and considered the largest capital construction project ever undertaken in the five boroughs — will for the first time be equipped to provide water for all of Manhattan. Since 1917, the borough has relied on Tunnel No. 1, which was never inspected or significantly repaired after its opening.”

Commentary: This is a very big deal. Multiple generations of “sandhogs” have worked to construct the tunnels feeding water to New York City. If they had only scheduled it two days earlier, they could have started this new water delivery tunnel on the 171st anniversary of the celebration of the opening of the first comprehensive water supply for the City—the Croton System.

October 17, 1982New York Times headline–EPA Plans to Curb Use of Toxaphene. “The Environmental Protection Agency will restrict the use of toxaphene, which was once the most widely used pesticide in the country but has been identified as a possible cancer-causing substance, officials said today.

The agency’s spokesman, Byron Nelson, said the details of the restrictions would be announced Monday. Toxaphene has been used widely to protect cotton crops in the South, but it has also been detected recently in fish in the Great Lakes, leading scientists to conclude that winds were sweeping the pesticide into far wider areas.

William A. Butler, the Audubon Society’s vice president for government relations, asserted today that the restrictions were being announced now by the Reagan Administration to achieve a political gain for the fall Congressional elections.

‘This is clearly something the E.P.A. is doing just before the election,’ Mr. Butler said.  ‘It is too little, too late,’ Mr. Butler said, noting the use of toxaphene has declined from 100 million pounds a year in the 1970′s to 16 million pounds this year.”

Commentary:  EPA announcing an environmental action to somehow obtain a political advantage? Boy, this was a long time ago.

Toxaphene spraying on crops.

Toxaphene spraying on crops.

October 16, 1988: Asbury Park Beach Pollution

1016 Beach ClosedOctober 16, 1988New York Times headline–Asbury Park Fined for Beach Pollution. “The state of New Jersey has fined Asbury Park more than $1 million for causing the ocean pollution that closed a popular stretch of Monmouth County beaches for 19 days this summer.

Mistakes by the city in cleaning out its sewage lines were responsible for the high ocean bacteria levels that closed the beaches, a report that accompanied the announcement of the fine said.

The fine is the largest ever levied against a municipality by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

In its 19-page report, released Tuesday, the department said that Asbury Park had failed to adequately maintain sewer lines for two years and that, in June and July, when it tried to clean out lines coagulated with greasy sewage, it flushed them to an old primary treatment plant incapable of handling all the waste. Large clumps of grease containing high levels of fecal bacteria eventually got into the ocean and broke up in the surf, forcing officials to close beaches in Asbury Park, Ocean Grove, Bradley Beach, Avon, Spring Lake, Belmar and Allenhurst in July.”

October 15, 1918: First Water Permit Issued to LADWP; 1988: Uranium Leak

0627 Los Angeles Water SupplybOctober 15, 1918:  Date of first water permit issued to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for the Owens Valley water supply. On this date, the California Department of Public Health issued the first water supply permit to LADWP for the Owens Valley water supply, which started operation on November 5, 1913. The permit includes a report authored by Ralph Hilscher who was the Southern Division Engineer at the time. The report catalogues all of the major features of the Owens Valley supply including the physical facilities built to transport the water 233 miles to Los Angeles. In the report is a detailed assessment of the potential sources of contamination of the water supply by human habitation. The report stressed that only 1.5 persons per square mile occupied the Owens Valley aqueduct watershed compared with 132 persons per square mile, which was stated as typical of watersheds in Massachusetts.

Ignored were the potential pathogens from animals such as deer, beavers and cows (Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium parvum). Health authorities simply were not aware at that time of the potential for these pathogen sources to contaminate a water supply and cause disease in humans (zoonotic diseases). A statement in the report makes this point clearly, “It is the consensus of opinion among sanitarians that human waterborne diseases have their origin only in human beings.”

The report recognized the purifying action of the large reservoirs in the Owens Valley system that had extensive detention times, which were instrumental in reducing pathogen concentrations.

Another fact that I was unaware of until I read the report was that the first 24 miles of the aqueduct were earthen-lined and not lined with concrete.

Missing from the report is any mention of the use of chlorine for disinfection. Other literature sources had estimated that chlorination of the LA Aqueduct supply could have taken place as early as 1915. It is clear from the Department of Public Health report that any chlorination of LA water supplies around 1915 must have referred to disinfection of the water from infiltration galleries along the Los Angeles River. One report that I have read (unconfirmed) stated that ammonia was also added at the infiltration galleries to form chloramines. I have still not located a firm date when the Owens Valley supply was chlorinated.

A letter dated December 12, 1924, from Carl Wilson who was the Laboratory Director for the LADWP to C.G. Gillespie of the Bureau of Sanitary Engineering summarized the progress that they had made in applying chlorine to their system. In that letter are two curious statements by Mr. Gillespie. First, he only planned to operate chlorinators treating water from the reservoirs during the rainy season because no local runoff would be entering the hillside reservoirs. Second, he did not see the need to determine chlorine residual using the orthotolidine method, but he would do so if required by the Department. It took a long time for sanitary practices to penetrate the operational mindset of all water utilities not just the LADWP. From a paper published in 1935, we know that the entire system was chlorinated by that time with multiple application points in the system.

Read the entire permit for a fascinating view into the thinking of a regulatory agency during the early days of our understanding of watershed protection and maintenance of a water supply that would be free from disease causing microorganisms.

Reference:  Goudey, R.F. “Chlorination of Los Angeles Water Supply.” Am J Public Health Nations Health. 1935 June; 25(6): 730–734. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1558978/ Accessed October 14, 2013.

Credit: Thanks to Susan Brownstein of LADWP for sharing a copy of the permit with me.

October 15, 1988: New York Times headline–U.S., for Decades, Let Uranium Leak at Weapon Plant. “Government officials overseeing a nuclear weapon plant in Ohio knew for decades that they were releasing thousands of tons of radioactive uranium waste into the environment, exposing thousands of workers and residents in the region, a Congressional panel said today.

The Government decided not to spend the money to clean up three major sources of contamination, Energy Department officials said at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing. Runoff from the plant carried tons of the waste into drinking water wells in the area and the Great Miami River; leaky pits at the plant, storing waste water containing uranium emissions and other radioactive materials, leaked into the water supplies, and the plant emitted radioactive particles into the air…Fernald’s problems with radioactive emissions have been public knowledge and a source of anxiety and frustration for several years.

But in court documents discussed today at the hearing and reported last week by the Cincinnati papers, Government officials acknowledged for the first time that ”the Government knew full well that the normal operation of the Fernald plant would result in emissions of uranium and other substances” into water supplies and into the atmosphere.”

Uranium Contaminated Site

Uranium Contaminated Site

October 14, 1842: Croton Water Celebration; 1862: Mixing Water with Milk; 1859: Dedication of Glasgow Water Supply

1014 Croton celebrationOctober 14, 1842: Celebration of the delivery of the Croton water supply to New York City. “Two days before the holiday Hone wrote in his diary: ‘Nothing is talked of or thought of in New York but Croton water; fountains, aqueducts, hydrants, and hose attract our attention and impede our progress through the streets. Political spouting has given place to water spouts, and the free current of water has diverted the attention of the people from the vexed questions of the confused state of the national currency.’

The great day began with the discharge of one hundred cannon and the ringing of church bells. Thousands of jubilant spectators crowded the windows, balconies, and sidewalks to watch a five-mile-long parade pass by. First came an impressive military escort, then a dozen barouches bearing Governor Seward, Mayor Morris, Samuel Stevens, Stephen Allen, Philip Hone, and other dignitaries. These were followed by regiments of soldiers, by fifty-two companies of firemen with bright uniforms, banners, and well-polished machines, by the butchers on horseback, by numerous marching temperance societies, and by organizations of mechanics….

The fountains were a special delight. Of one erected in Union Square, a contemporary newspaper declared: ‘It throws up a noble column of water to a height as great almost as the houses which surround the square …. In the evening, by the moonlight, the effect of the fountain showering its spray on every side, was exceedingly fine.’”

Reference: Blake, N.M. 1956. Water for the Cities. Syracuse, NY:Syracuse University Press. 165-6.

Commentary: They really knew how to celebrate a new water supply back then. Can you imagine a salute of 100 cannons for delivering State Project water to Southern California in the 1960s? How about we shoot off the cannons when the desalination plant at Carlsbad, CA is operational?

1014 Baby drinking milk from bottleOctober 14, 1862:  New York Times headline–Mixing of Water with Milk Not an Adulteration. “The People ex rel. Jacob Fauerbach vs. Court of Sessions. — The relator was convicted in the Court of Sessions of vending adulterated milk, and sentenced to pay a fine of $55.

He appealed the case to the New York Supreme Court, contending that the act under which he was convicted was purely a sanitary measure, intending to prevent traffic in impure, diseased and unwholesome milk, and not to prevent fraud in the sale of diluted milk. That to put water into milk was not to corrupt it, according to dictionary definition. Water was not a foreign admixture of milk, but its chief ingredient in its natural state, and it could not be adulterated by adding a little more.

The Court, in an opinion by Justice Ingraham, have now reversed the decision of the Judge at the General Sessions, upon the ground that to put water in milk is not per se such an adulteration as necessarily brings the relator within the late law upon that subject.” Commentary: Adding water to milk to increase profits was a common occurrence in the latter half of the 19th century. The problem was that most of the drinking water in cities during this period was laced with pathogenic organisms. The death of infants before one year of age in U.S. cities from diarrheal diseases was 20% to 40% of live births (that is not a misprint). Diluting cow’s milk with contaminated water was one of the chief means of killing babies. The judges did not help matters by overturning this crook’s conviction.

Glasgow Waterworks—Loch Katrine Outlet, 1859: antique wood engraved print

Glasgow Waterworks—Loch Katrine Outlet, 1859: antique wood engraved print

October 14, 1859:  Dedication of the Loch Katrine Water Works for the City of Glasgow, Scotland, by Queen Victoria. “It is with no ordinary feelings of pride and satisfaction that we are enabled this day to state to your Majesty that we have completed one of the most interesting and difficult works of engineering, and, at the same time, the largest and most comprehensive scheme for the supply of water which has yet been accomplished in your Majesty’s dominions. The deficient and unsatisfactory condition of the water supply, on which so much of the health and comfort of the inhabitants depended, determined the Corporation of Glasgow, some years ago, to purchase the works of the Water Companies then existing, and to take the supply of water into their own hands. For this purpose an Act of Parliament was obtained, which received your Majesty’s royal assent on the 2d day of July, 1855. Empowered by this Act, the Commissioners came to these wild and romantic regions for that copious supply of pure water of which the large and rapidly increasing population of Glasgow stood in need. This beautiful and extensive loch of pure water, fed by a large amount of annual rainfall, and lying at an elevation of 360 feet above the sea, was selected as the fountain-head. The rugged district, of 34 miles in extent, which intervenes between the loch and the city, has been penetrated by tunnels, crossed by aqueducts, or traversed by iron pipes, in the execution of the necessary works for ultimately conveying to the city no less than 50,000,000 gallons of water per day.”

Reference: Burnet, J. 1869. History of the Water Supply to Glasgow. Glasgow, Scotland:Bell & Bain. 148-9.

Commentary: I actually bought a reproduction of this print. It is fun to own something that is 155 years old.