William P. Mason
August 27, 1914: Municipal Journal article. Experts Chosen for Providence Water Supply. “Providence, R.I.-Prof. William P. Mason, head of the department of chemistry at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, and X. H. Goodnow, chief engineer of the Massachusetts State Board of Health, have been engaged as experts to report upon the proposed Scituate source for an increased water supply for Providence, by the special City Council committee in charge of the matter. Messrs. Mason and Goodnow will begin work at once, and will report on the problem of quality and quantity of supply needed for this city, the best source for this supply, whether or not it shall be filtered, and any other problems in connection with the matter which the committee may put before them. An examination of all possible water supplies within the State will be made by them, in an endeavor to find whether or not there is another source which, for quality and quantity of supply, is as good as or better than the Scituate scheme. They will be given time enough to investigate all phases.”
Commentary: William P. Mason was President of AWWA in 1909. He also testified in favor of chlorination of the Jersey City water supply at Boonton Reservoir during the second Jersey City trial. Besides being a professor at a distinguished engineering
August 26, 1908: Municipal Journal and Engineer article. Wet Excavation of a Sewer Trench. “At Gary, Ind., where two years ago was prairie is today a city of 15,000, with ten miles of paved streets, twenty miles of gas mains, electric light plant, telegraph and telephone service. To complete the list of public services a sewerage system is now nearing completion, which will contain about twenty miles of mains and cost about $350,000. Several details of this system contain novel features, but one of the most interesting is the method employed by the contractors, Green & Sons, of Chicago, in trenching through a swamp underlaid with so-called quicksand. This trench was approximately 30 feet deep, 22 feet below the level of the ground water. The material excavated is said to be so saturated that an excavation in it one foot deep will take a width of thirty feet. The ground is in several places very low and contains ponds three or four feet deep. These conditions made ordinary methods impossible.
The contractors accordingly adopted a method novel in many respects. The upper eight feet, more or less, down to ground water, were excavated by means of a scraper bucket elevator, the width being made greater than that of the trench proper and no sheeting being used. Following this, a pump and series of connected wells in a double line in the center of the trench were used along 132 feet of the trench to remove the ground water to a depth of something less than sixteen feet. After this the trench was excavated in twenty-two-foot sections, sheeting being driven meantime to a further depth of six feet. Pump No. 1 was then moved ahead, and two others were set up, connected to wells dose to the sheeting on each side, and the excavation was then carried about sixteen feet deeper and the brick sewer built. In Boston and other places the method of drying the soil by numerous pipe wells before excavation has been used, but there are several features of the Gary work which are new and the work as a whole is, we believe, of greater magnitude than those referred to.”
Commentary: It appears that Gary, Indiana sprang out of the ground as an industrial center complete with a city infrastructure. The most interesting thing about this article is the amazing photograph. As noted on the photo it was taken from the mast of a bucket excavator, presumably with a photographer in the bucket towering 30-40 feet about the ground.
August 25, 1909: Municipal Journal and Engineer article. Surface Water in Reservoir Causes Typhoid. “Waverly, Kan.-Professor Hoad, Engineer of the State Board of Health, who is investigating the sanitary condition of Kansas towns, says the worst place he has seen for many days is Waverly. The town has a population of about 500 or more people, and for the last two years typhoid fever has been practically continuous. Professor Hoad said that he and Dr. Crumbine, Secretary of the Board, had studied carefully all the probable causes, eliminating them one by one-even Dr. Crumbine’s fly-until finally it was narrowed down to the city water. The city gets its water from a large well or small reservoir, and this had been continually polluted by surface washings. Professor Hoad made the statement that if at the present time the same per cent of cases to the number of population existed in Topeka as now exist in Waverly there would be about 550 cases of typhoid in Topeka. He and Dr. Crumbine appeared before the City Council and ordered them to cement the outside of the wall, which is to be raised three feet. Then the water is to be pumped out and the inside of the wall plastered, after which the well is to be thoroughly disinfected. When this is done Professor Hoad will inspect the work and make a test of the water.”
Commentary: Dr. Crumbine is the same fellow who championed the banning of the common cup in Kansas and was instrumental in getting it banned on interstate carriers by federal regulation.
Terminal reservoir for the Croton Aqueduct about 1875—located on 42nd Street on the site of the current New York Public Library.
August 24, 1868: New York Times headline. Our Water Supply. “If cleanliness be next to godliness, then judging from the quantity of water consumed in New York, our citizens must be very near to being a godly people. But it is to be feared that of the vast quantities of water consumed daily in this City, a very large proportion is wasted. In how many houses is the Croton constantly left running, because it is too much trouble, or too treat an effort of memory to turn it off? How much water is wasted in washing down engine houses, stables, &c., and how much in our hotels and bar rooms? The Commissioners of the Croton Department say that about one-fourth of all the water consumed in this City runs to waste, and perhaps the estimate is not an exaggerated one. The present consumption of water in New York averages sixty millions of gallons per day, or sixty gallons for each inhabitant. This supply, after deducting the quantity necessary for extinguishing fires, for washing and other purposes, would appear to be liberal, though not equal, if we may believe history, to that provided for the citizens of Imperial Rome, who were at liberty to use something like one hundred gallons per day each. Our supply, however, is larger, in proportion to the number of inhabitants, than that of the British Metropolis, and also of some of the principal cities of the Old World. At the same time our water surpasses theirs in purity, a gallon containing but a trifle over four grains of solid matter. It will scarcely perhaps be believed that New Yorkers, before the introduction of the croton were compelled to drink water containing from 20 to 125 grains of impurities per gallon. Yet such was the fact.”
Commentary: The article goes on to describe how a new reservoir was being constructed in Putnam County to store more water from the Croton supply to provide water to the City even during long, dry summers. Readers should note that this first Croton Aqueduct serving New York City was built above ground. The underground aqueduct which is still being used was not built until 1885-1893.
August 23, 1911: Municipal Journal article. Water Tanks Cause of Impure Water “Chicago, Ill.-Flat dwellers who patronize Lake Michigan for drinking purposes can get a certificate of quality from the City Health Department. Health Commissioner Young declared that any samples brought to the department drawn from faucets in apartment houses will be tested, and if found to be impure orders will be given to the owners of the buildings to cleanse the tanks on the roofs from which the supply is drawn. Much of the danger from drinking water comes from the neglect of the owners of apartment houses to keep these tanks properly cleaned. The regulations of the Health Department require that these tanks be covered and sufficiently protected to keep cats or other animals from wandering into them. In many of them, however, moss and other vegetable matter accumulates. In practically all buildings more than two stories in height tanks are necessary in order to supply water to the upper floors.”
Commentary: In Chicago during this period, algae growing in elevated water tanks was the least of a resident’s problems. It was not until the year of this article (1911) that Chicago began installing chlorination stations on the pumping facilities from Lake Michigan. Prior to this, death from severe typhoid fever epidemics killed many tens of thousands over the decades of the city serving contaminated water. Filtration was not installed until 1947.
August 22, 1908: The Engineering Record article. The New Sewage Pumping Station, Washington, DC. “The pumping station is…housed in a 138 x 304-ft. structure that is located centrally in a 200 x 6oo-ft. plot, between the lower extensions of New Jersey Ave. and Second St. and between N St. and the river. It is of steel frame and brick construction, with trimmings in light stone. The design of the building has been rendered particularly attractive architecturally for the purpose of concealing to a degree the purpose for which the station is intended, and the grounds surrounding the station have, in fact, been carefully parked and attractively laid out, rendering the structure a decided advantage to the locality….
The design of the sewage pumping equipment has, like that of the revised sewerage system…and the outfall, been based on the requirements for the handling of the dry weather sewage flow from a population of 1,000,000 inhabitants in the city. There are installed five sewage pumps in all, which have an aggregate capacity of about 360 cu. ft. of sewage per second, which is, however, a capacity largely in excess of the present normal requirements. Two of the sewage pumps are, in fact, reserve equipments, the flow capacity of the outfall line being but 250 cu. ft. per second.”
Commentary: This pumping station was a monster. It is hard to imagine the amount of money it cost. It is also hard to imagine that the sewer system could not have been designed to obviate the need for this incredible white elephant. While many other water infrastructure structures have survived since 1908, nothing remains today of this behemoth. I see the hand of pork barrel politics in here somewhere.
August 21, 2003: Actor Anthony Andrews almost dies of water intoxication. The Telegraph article. My Battle with the Bottle. “Actors must expect their excessive drinking habits to be breakfast table gossip, especially if they become too intoxicated to perform. But the curious case of Anthony Andrews, whose addiction to water almost killed him, must rank as one of the more bizarre forms of theatrical unwellness.
In a way, it would have been more understandable if Andrews had knocked himself out of the cast of My Fair Lady on vodka. The role of Professor Henry Higgins is a demanding one, and we can all think of actors who’ve lubricated their performances on stronger cordials than rose hip syrup. Not for Andrews the predictability of a few weeks in rehab with anything as common as alcohol abuse. He ended up, comatose, in intensive care for three days, with the dubious distinction of having put water on the nation’s list of dangerous substances.
“In my naivety, I’d never have thought in a million years that I was running the risk of killing myself with water,” he says. “I can hardly believe I am saying it. I thought I was the healthiest person in the world.”
Andrews has to rely on other people for the full account of his recent near-death experience. He has no recollection of what happened after signing autographs at the stage door in the West End and collapsing into his car after the second Saturday performance of My Fair Lady at the end of June. When he came round, three days later, surrounded by his loved ones, the muscles of his face and neck were locked and he was dimly aware that no one could quite make sense of what he was saying. On top of everything else, he’d developed an allergy….
As temperatures soared during the midsummer run of My Fair Lady, Andrews’s three-litres-a-day habit increased to five or six litres as he struggled to refresh his vocal cords. Parched, he would rush back to his dressing room between songs and glug another half-litre. On days when there was a matinee as well as an evening performance, he probably got through eight litres of water – all the while assuming he was doing himself good.”