November 26, 1907: Birth of Ruth Patrick

1126 Dr Ruth PatrickNovember 26, 1907: Birth of Ruth Patrick. “Dr. Ruth Myrtle Patrick (November 26, 1907 – September 23, 2013) was a botanist and limnologist specializing in diatoms and freshwater ecology, who developed ways to measure the health of freshwater ecosystems and established a number of research facilities.

Dr. Patrick’s research in fossilized diatoms showed that the Great Dismal Swamp between Virginia and North Carolina was once a forest, which had been flooded by seawater. Similar research proved that the Great Salt Lake was not always a saline lake. During the Great Depression, she volunteered to work as a curator for the Academy of Natural Sciences, where she worked for no pay for ten years. Her work has been widely published and she has received numerous awards for her scientific achievements, including the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences in 1993, the National Medal of Science in 1996, the Heinz Award Chairman’s Medal in 2002, and the A.C. Redfield Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center in Aiken, South Carolina, is named after her.”

Commentary: In 1974, I took a course on biological limnology from this amazing woman. She brought in luminaries such as Luna Leopold noted fluvial morphologist to give lectures as well as providing some of the most interesting classes herself. One anecdote that that was told to me while I was taking her class concerns some work she did during WWII. She was asked to identify organisms from scrapings on the hulls of German U-boats that had been captured. Her knowledge of diatoms was so encyclopedic that she pinpointed the location of the U-boat pens, which helped the Allies destroy them.

November 25, 2012: California Rice Growing; 1988: Britain Selling Waterworks

1125 Flooded Rice FieldsNovember 25, 2012: The Desert Sun headline—Calif. Commercial Rice Growing Hits 100 Years. “California is celebrating 100 years of commercial rice production this year, marking the anniversary of a commodity that has evolved to become one of the state’s largest agricultural exports.

Farmers began experimenting with growing rice during the Gold Rush more than 160 years ago, according to the California Rice Commission. It had long been grown in the southeastern U.S., but was introduced in California by Chinese gold miners, who later built the state’s railroads and river levees.

It wasn’t until 1912 that the first commercial production started in Butte County, in the Sacramento Valley about 70 miles north of the state capital.

Since then, California has become the nation’s largest producer of short- and medium-grain sticky rice, with much of the high-quality product shipped to Japan and other Asian countries through the Port of West Sacramento. Most sushi in the U.S. is made with California rice.

All told, California annually ships nearly 5 billion pounds of rice as far away as Europe and the Middle East.

Most is grown within 100 miles of Sacramento, predominantly in Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties. Rice commission spokesman Jim Morris said the climate, soil and water are ideal for the crop.

Commentary: No mention is made in this piece how much water is required to grow rice in an area that has allocated water for too many uses. Growing rice in the Sacramento River Valley made sense 100 years ago. It even made sense 50 years ago. It makes no sense today. I don’t care how much sushi is sold in LA or Tokyo.

1125 Margaret ThatcherNovember 25, 1988: New York Times headline—Britain Planning to Sell Its Waterworks. “The British Government today began the latest and most contentious step in its sweeping privatization program by presenting its plans for selling off the nation’s state-owned water industry.

‘We shall be freeing into private hands yet another important industrial sector,’ the Environment Secretary, Nicholas Ridley, said in setting out the Government’s proposals to sell Britain’s 10 public water authorities.

He predicted that the water privatization bill, which was included in the Government’s legislative agenda announced in Queen Elizabeth II’s address to the new session of Parliament on Tuesday, would result in more efficient management of water resources and tighter environmental safeguards.

But many economists, politicians and union officials are skeptical about the presumed benefits of selling the water industry.

The British public seems to agree. A survey in June by Market and Opinion Research International, a London-based company that is one of Britain’s leading polling organizations, found that 66 percent of the population opposed selling the water authorities to private shareholders, compared with 25 percent who supported it and 9 percent who were undecided.

Alex Thomson, the national officer of the largest trade union in the water industry, the National and Local Government Officers Association, today echoed the doubts of many when he said, ‘Privatizing water makes about as much sense as privatizing the air we breathe.’…Making more British citizens shareholders was an important element of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s drive to ‘roll back the frontiers of the state.’”

Question:  Was the privatization of the UK water systems successful or not?

November 24, 1888: Hook Gauge Development; 1888: New Hoboken Ferry Building

1124 Fig 1 Hook GaugeNovember 24, 1888Engineering and Building Record. A Simple Hook Gauge to Measure Depth of Water. “The accompanying illustrations show a very simple and convenient arrangement devised and used by John T. Fanning, C. E., for determining measurements of the heights of a given water level accurately to 1-1000th of a foot.

Figure 1 is a general view showing any convenient protected tank containing water in free communication with that whose level is to be determined, with the rod and gauge in position for a reading. Fig. 2 is a detail of the hook, which is made of brass wire, about No. 10 gauge, with two points f and q, and a handle offset from their plane for convenience in applying to the scale. The lowest point, f, is chisel-shaped ; the upper one, q is conical, ground to be exactly one foot away from the lower one. In reading, the lower point or hook is immersed below the surface of the water, the point q is placed against the scale, and the hook maintained vertical while it is moved upwards until the edge of point f reaches the surface when a slight convexity is produced in the water at f before it emerges and the reading indicated by q is recorded.

Figure 3 is the scale, a square wooden rod planed true and having one face painted white, and a convenient length, as three feet, laid off as shown, with six vertical lines; the right-hand one is divided into tenths and hundreths of a foot, and from each of the latter points diagonals are drawn across the five left-hand lines; thee diagonals intersect on the left-hand vertical, and their intersection, with each vertical give a rise of exactly one one-thousandth of a foot above the next lower intersection.

1124 Figs 2 and 3 Hook GaugeThe apex or left intersection thus gives the half-a-hundredth point, and the intermediate ones the single thousandths. The scale may be set and figured so that the readings shall give exact elevations above the datum, or it may be fixed at random, and the constant difference determined and always applied….

The apparatus is very easily and cheaply constructed, and has given accurate and satisfactory results. The hook can easily be made by any metal-working mechanic, and the scale can be laid off and inked in on the varnished wood with a right-line pen. The arrangement is very convenient and would often be useful for reservoirs, tide-gauges, etc.”

Commentary:  I have always been fascinated by complex engineering drawings from the late 19th century with their alphabetically coded notations on mechanical equipment and detailed directions on how it works. Frankly, I had a hard time following them. This one, however, is simple and actually very cool.

1124 Ferry House to Hoboken smNovember 24, 1888Engineering and Building Record. The New Ferry House at Barclay Street, New York City. “The New Hoboken Ferry House at the foot of Barclay Street, New York City was designed, and its construction superintended by Theodore Cooper and Auguste Namure, engineers and architects, of New York, for the Hoboken Land and Improvement Co., whose engineer, Charles B. Brush, specially directed the construction of the foundations and substructure, and had general supervision of the whole work. It is the first ferry house erected in the city entirely of iron and possesses some novel and interesting features.”

Commentary:  The line drawing of the ferry house is stunning and representative of the painstaking work done on architectural projects at the end of the 19th century.

Reference: Engineering and Building Record and Sanitary Engineer. 18:26 (November 24, 1888).

November 23, 1992: First Reg Neg Negotiation Session

1123 Reg Neg Negotiating CommitteeNovember 23, 1992: First Negotiation Session of Regulatory Negotiation for the Microbial Disinfectants/Disinfection Byproducts Rule Making. This was a multi-stakeholder regulatory negotiations process (including the USEPA) which resulted in the adoption of five landmark drinking water regulations: Interim Surface Water Treatment Rule, Stage 1 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule, Information Collection Rule, Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule and Stage 2 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule.

As stated in the introduction to the 1995 Roberson et al. paper: “The proposed Disinfectants/Disinfection By-products (D/DBP) Rule reflects one of the most complicated standard- setting processes addressed under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The process involved balancing potential trade-offs between chemical risk

(most of which is considered chronic) and microbial risk (most of which is considered acute). In this case, both types of risk are poorly characterized. Nevertheless, the potential is enormous for changes in risk and associated treatment costs resulting from regulatory action. Largely as a result of this dilemma, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) elected to use a regulatory negotiation (“reg-neg”) process to develop a proposed rule. This was the first time a negotiated rule-making had been used in the development of a drinking water regulation….During the process negotiators were aided by the Technologies Working Group (TWG), which quantified the costs and benefits of various treatment alternatives.”

References:

Roberson, J.A., Cromwell, J.E., Krasner, S.W., McGuire, M.J., Owen, D.M., Regli, S., and Summers, R.S. (1995). “The D/DBP Rule: Where did the Numbers Come From?” Jour. AWWA. 87:10, 46-57.

McGuire, M.J. (1993). “Reg Neg Process and the D/DBP Rule.” presented at the Fall Conference. California‑Nevada Section, American Water Works Association. Reno, Nevada, October 28, 1993.

McGuire, M.J. (1994 ). “Using the Information Superhighway to Corral the ICR.” Jour. AWWA. 86:6, 10.

McGuire, M.J. (1996). “AWWA’s Information Collection Rule Activities.” presented at M/DBP Cluster Information Exchange Meeting. RESOLVE, Washington, D.C. May 10, 1996.

McGuire, M.J. (1997). “Technical Work Group Presentation.” presented at the M-DBP Stakeholder Meeting. Washington, DC. January 28, 1997.

November 22, 1981: Cross Bergen Pipeline, Part of the Wanaque South Project

Wanaque Reservoir

Wanaque Reservoir

November 22, 1981: New York Times article. New Jersey Journal. “The 17-mile, cross-Bergen pipeline that is designed to give the Hackensack Water Company badly needed reserves from the Wanaque Reservoir has hit a new snag.

Two towns along the route, Ridgewood and neighboring Midland Park, do not want their residential streets torn up for the pipeline. Alternative routes are being explored, but it is uncertain now whether agreements can be reached without disrupting the company’s plans to lay the pipes next spring and summer.

The entire water-transfer project – once called Two Bridges and now known as Wanaque South – has encountered delays and pitfalls since Hackensack Water first proposed it in the mid-1970’s.

First, hearings dragged on for months before the state gave its final approval. Next, Paterson sued to halt the project, saying that use of water from the Passaic River would dry up Paterson’s Great Falls. The State Supreme Court threw out the suit last October as the 1980 water shortage was deepening.

Then Hackensack Water said that it did not have the money to build the pipeline and the pumping stations needed to draw water from the Passaic River and pump it north into the Wanaque Reservoir for storage. As a result, the state granted Hackensack a 47 percent rate increase to overcome the financial difficulty.

Throughout the water shortage last fall and winter, Hackensack Water contended that the crisis would not have developed if the state hearings had not dragged on and Paterson had not held up the project for months.

During the delays, negotiations with the two towns about the pipeline route were apparently nonexistent. The legal and financial problems were thought to have been the final obstacles.

Why wasn’t the route question resolved earlier so that work on what the state calls its most crucial new water-supply project could begin forthwith?

”It would have been imprudent to be spending a lot of money on engineering studies without a final approval from the state in our hands,” said Martha Green, a spokesman for Hackensack Water.

The disputed Midland Park-Ridgewood portion is 3.5 miles. The towns, neither of which is served by Hackensack Water, can block the pipeline by denying the company permits to dig up local streets.

Four miles of pipeline are to pass through Paramus and Oradell, both customers of Hackensack Water, and because the utility has the water-sales franchise for them, it does not need the same street digging permit that it requires from Midland Park and Ridgewood. Neither Paramus nor Oradell has voiced objections.

The 10 remaining miles of pipeline are to run parallel to railroad rights-of-way in Pompton Lakes, Oakland and Wyckoff.”

Commentary: No one said that improving infrastructure would be easy. Something as straightforward as building a needed pipeline is certain to bring out the “Not in My Backyard” crowd. The good news is that an article in 1985 forecast that the pipeline would be completed by 1987. Another article in 1985 stated that the incremental project has already been a huge with for northern New Jersey.

November 21, 2006: PFOA in Drinking Water; 1899: Garret Hobart Dies

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

November 21, 2006: PFOA Contaminates Drinking Water. “On November 21, 2006, the USEPA ordered DuPont company to offer alternative drinking water or treatment for public or private water users living near DuPont’s Washington Works plant in West Virginia (and in Ohio), if the level of PFOA detected in drinking water is equal to or greater than 0.5 parts per billion. This measure sharply lowered the previous action level of 150 parts per billion that was established in March 2002.[133] Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8 and perfluorooctanoate, is a synthetic, stable perfluorinated carboxylic acid and fluorosurfactant. One industrial application is as a surfactant in the emulsion polymerization of fluoropolymers. It has been used in the manufacture of such prominent consumer goods as Teflon and Gore-Tex. PFOA has been manufactured since the 1940s in industrial quantities. It is also formed by the degradation of precursors such as some fluorotelomers.

PFOA persists indefinitely in the environment. It is a toxicant and carcinogen in animals. PFOA has been detected in the blood of more than 98% of the general US population in the low and sub-parts per billion range, and levels are higher in chemical plant employees and surrounding subpopulations. Exposure has been associated with increased cholesterol and uric acid levels, and recently higher serum levels of PFOA were found to be associated with increased risk of chronic kidney disease in the general United States population, consistent with earlier animal studies. “This association was independent of confounders such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, and serum cholesterol level.”

1121 Garret A HobartNovember 21, 1899Death of Garret A. Hobart. “Garret Augustus Hobart (June 3, 1844 – November 21, 1899) was the 24th Vice President of the United States (1897–1899), serving under President William McKinley…. As vice president, Hobart proved a popular figure in Washington and was a close adviser to McKinley.”

While much is known about Hobart’s role as vice president, his role in the formation of private water companies and his support of these companies through legislation is less well known. Hobart was elected to the New Jersey Assembly and Senate during the early part of his career. During the 1870s and 1880s there was a lot of legislative activity that appeared to be for the benefit of private water companies.

In 1881, one bill that was introduced by Garret A. Hobart, then a state senator, was designed to give private water companies the power to acquire and distribute water resources independent of municipal or state control.  While not explicitly stated, the bill purportedly had a single intention of giving one company, the Passaic Water Company, more power to access water supplies to prevent water shortages at the factories of Paterson which were forced to idle production in the summer season.

The bill was not successful, (New York Times, March 22, 1881) which was undoubtedly due in part to the widespread suspicion that the bill would grant powers to companies to export New Jersey water supplies to New York.  “[New York speculators] have been attracted by the magnificence and extent of New Jersey’s water-shed, and by the sweetness and purity of its waters.  Last year’s scheme was said to be intended to enable the tapping of New Jersey’s hills for the New York supply.”(New York Times, March 7, 1881)

Hobart was a resident of Paterson, New Jersey for most of his life. In 1885, Garret A. Hobart joined the Board of the Passaic Water Company and two years later was elected President of the Company.  Hobart was described in one source as representing a syndicate of New York capitalists. (Nelson and Shriner 1920) The company had been supplying Paterson and the surrounding area since 1857.

The East Jersey Water Company was formed on August 1, 1889 for the stated purpose of supplying Newark, New Jersey with a safe water supply.  All of the men who were shareholders of the new company (including Hobart) were identified with the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company.(New York Times, August 2, 1889) However, the company’s vision extended far beyond a water supply for Newark. The company began as a confidential syndicate composed of businessmen who were interested in executing grand plans for water supply in northern New Jersey and New York City. (Colby and Peck 1900) Nothing came of these grand plans.

Hobart was also a mentor to John L. Leal of Paterson and encouraged Leal to leave city employment and work full time as the sanitary advisor to several private water companies.(McGuire 2013)

“Hobart died on November 21, 1899 of heart disease at age 55; his place on the Republican ticket in 1900 was taken by New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt.”

References:

Colby, Frank M. and Harry T. Peck eds. The International Year Book—A Compendium of the World’s Progress During the Year 1899. n.p.:Dodd, Mead and Co., 1900.

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

Nelson, William and Charles A. Shriner. History of Paterson and Its Environs. Vol. 2, New York:Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1920.

New York Times. “Jersey’s Water Supplies—Senator Hobart’s Bill and Its Effect.” March 7, 1881.

New York Times. “New Jersey’s Law Makers—Mr. Hobart’s Water Bill Killed.” March 22, 1881.

New York Times. “To Give Newark Water.” August 2, 1889.

November 20, 1983: Pesticide in Florida wells

Ethylene Dibromide

Ethylene Dibromide

November 20, 1983New York Times headline—Pesticide Reported in More Wells in Florida. “Evidence is increasing that a pesticide banned in September by the Federal Government because it is a cancer- causing agent is invading the underground drinking water reservoirs of Florida.

Since July, when Florida state chemists began testing drinking water wells for ethylene dibromide, known as EDB, an average of 20 percent of the wells sampled have been found to contain more than the level Florida health officials consider safe, one part of the chemical for every 10 billion parts of water.

Until last week, testing had been confined to areas near 422 acres of ”buffer zones” along citrus groves where large amounts of the pesticide were injected to block the spread of root worms, which are burrowing nematodes. The doses, more than three times the amount prescribed by Environmental Protection Agency, were applied by the State Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which regulates pesticide use in Florida.

But state agriculture officials said 10 times more land in Florida’s citrus area had been treated with big doses of the pesticide than they had first reported.

State records show 4,268 acres, rather than 422, were treated with the pesticide under a Federal and state agriculture program begun in 1961. State health, agriculture and environmental officials say they have no records of how much EDB was applied to other crops by farmers and exterminators. The Federal Government allowed treatment with the pesticide on nearly 40 crops until Sept. 30, when William D. Ruckelshaus, the E.P.A. Administrator, issued an emergency ban on its use as a soil fumigant.”