September 21, 1995: New Jersey Drought Hotline

0921 Dry birdbathSeptember 21, 1995New York Times headline–May Birdbath Be Filled? “Water Curbs Raise Queries. Can a birdbath be refilled from a bucket of water? Can dusty high school football and soccer fields be sprayed from private wells? Can a car be washed during a rainstorm? The answers given callers to New Jersey’s new drought-emergency telephone line: yes, no and yes, but only with the rainwater.

So goes life — and the dos and don’ts of outdoor water use — after government intervenes in a prolonged dry spell and orders people to start conserving. For now, the mandatory water restrictions imposed Sept. 13 apply to about three million people in 119 communities in northeastern New Jersey.

But, officials warn, millions more in New York City and much of the rest of New Jersey will face mandatory rules — and questions — unless far heavier rains than last Sunday morning’s arrive to revive the region’s reservoirs. Yesterday, Gov. Tom Ridge decreed similar mandatory restrictions over much of Pennsylvania, in an area affecting about 6.5 million people.”

September 20, 1981: Hackensack Water Expansion

Hackensack Weehawken Water Tower-Built in 1883

Hackensack Weehawken Water Tower-Built in 1883

September 20, 1981:  New York Times headline–Hackensack Water Plans Its Largest Expansion. “The future bills of the Hackensack Water Company will present, in stark dollars and cents, the financial legacy of the 1980-81 water shortage: A 47 percent increase for tens of thousands of homes and industries that were forced by state law to save water from last September to May.

The higher rates will generate $21 million in new income for the company. Both it and the state’s Board of Public Utilities, which approved the increase on Sept. 3, emphasize that it is in the best interests of Hackesack Water’s 800,000 customers to pay the money.

They say that new supplies can be developed with it, ending the company’s chronic water shortage and freeing customers from future threats of mandated conservation. The new rates, so the argument goes, are the best and only way to end the ”drought” and prevent future ones.”

September 19, 1886: Houston Water Supply Problems

 

Germ Theory of Disease

Germ Theory of Disease

September 19, 1886:  Loss of life and property in Houston, Texas  demonstrated the inadequacies of the Water Works operations and underscored its failure to supply uncontaminated, potable water and adequate water pressure to Houstonians. Many of the town’s citizens were deeply concerned.

The Houston Post newspaper rallied to the company’s defense in the following article, printed on September 19, 1886:

“A great many people think that the water furnished by the water works is unfit for drinking or culinary purposes, but in that they are greatly mistaken. The supply is obtained from a portion of the bayou which is pregnant with springs, and the water is free from all impurities and is pure and wholesome to drink. Of course, after heavy rains the banks of the bayou wash into the stream and the water is then discolored slightly. But even then it is good and much better at all seasons than Mississippi river water, especially at St. Louis, where the river is muddy and dirty.”

Commentary: Full acceptance of the germ theory of disease and development of bacteriological monitoring methods would be necessary before the public or the newspapers really understood the quality of their water supplies.

September 18, 1985: Mineral Water from Georgia; 1981: Valley of the Drums

0918 Lithia Springs waterSeptember 18, 1985New York Times headline–Mineral Water From Georgia Being Bottled. Mineral-rich water from a spring that was once known for its supposed curative powers is being bottled for sale again for the first time in almost 50 years.

Water flowing beneath the 750 million-year-old granite formation underlying much of metropolitan Atlanta picks up minute amounts of salt, potassium, magnesium and lithium, a rare light metal that gave Lithia Springs its name and its reputation. Lithium, a potentially dangerous substance in large doses, is used in the treatment of manic depression.

In the late 1800′s and early 1900′s, tourists and invalids flocked to Lithia Springs, a small city 20 miles west of Atlanta, to drink and bathe in the mineral water. A Congress of Physicians was held there in 1887, which recommended the salty-tasting water for dozens of ailments including kidney stones, typhoid fever, eczema, nervous prostration, and ”diseases of delicate women.” [Typhoid fever?  Really?]

September 18, 1981USEPA Press Release–”An expenditure of $400,000 will be made from the new Superfund for emergency cleanup work at Kentucky’s top priority hazardous waste site–the Valley of the Drums, near Louisville. Anne M. Gorsuch, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said today EPA will spend the money to pay for removal of about 1,500 drums containing chemical waste to reduce the possibility of fire.

The Valley of the Drums drew national attention in 1979 as one of the country’s worst abandoned hazardous waste sites. Thousands of drums–accumulated over a 10-year period–were strewn in pits and trenches over a 23-acre site in Bullitt County. The drums of the site scheduled for cleanup are deteriorating quickly. When it rains, they overflow and leak into Wilson Creek, a tributary of the Ohio River. They contain such chemicals as benzene, toluene and methylmethacrylate.”

0918 Valley of the Drums

September 17, 1983: Colorado River Floods and the Blame Game

coloradobasinSeptember 17, 1983New York Times headline–Floods Along Colorado River Set Off a Debate Over Blame. “So much water is coursing through the Colorado River system that Federal engineers now say flooding will not end until September or later.

”That’s great news for the people who live here, isn’t it?” said James Campbell, the Mohave Valley fire chief, as he poled an aluminum rowboat through a flooded subdivision of nearly 60 homes in this sunblistered community. ”I’ll bet some of this water will still be here through the winter.”

It has been more than three weeks since engineers from the Federal Bureau of Reclamation first sent torrents of water crashing over dams to relieve reservoirs swollen by record runoff from late spring snows in the Rocky Mountains. Those spills pushed the Colorado over its banks in its worst flooding in decades, resulting in at least seven deaths and more than $12 million in property damage.

What Federal officials call controlled flooding has contaminated underground wells, damaged hundreds of homes and furnished ample breeding grounds for millions of mosquitoes, raising fears of encephalitis and other diseases. It has also touched off an acrimonious debate as to whether man or nature is to blame for the high water.”

September 16, 1908: Hetch Hetchy Supply Investigated

Hetch Hetchy Dam

Hetch Hetchy Dam

September 16, 1908: Municipal Journal and Engineer article. Municipal Party Returns from Sierras. “San Francisco, Cal.-The Supervisors and other city officials have completed their trip of inspection of the Sierra watersheds which it is proposed to acquire for purposes of a municipal water supply for San Francisco and neighboring towns. The members return with the conviction that the opportunity offered to secure water rights should not be allowed to pass even though no immediate use be made of the water. The quality of the water was found to be all that was expected and the quantity sufficient to supply the bay cities for the next hundred years.”

Commentary: And we all know what happened after that. The Hetch Hetchy water supply project was completed in 1934 and water was delivered to San Francisco and its wholesale customers.

September 15, 1998: Radon in Drinking Water

0915 radon_homeSeptember 15, 1998The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Report on Radon in Drinking Water “Risk Assessment of Radon in Drinking Water” was released on this date.  The report is touted as the most comprehensive accumulation of scientific data on the public health risks of radon in drinking water.  The report was required by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).  The NAS report confirmed that radon is a serious public health threat and goes on to refine the risks of radon in drinking water–confirmed that there are drinking water related cancer deaths, primarily due to lung cancer.  The report, in general, confirmed earlier EPA scientific conclusions and analyses for drinking water, and presented no major changes to EPA’s 1994 risk assessment.