July 6, 1890: Death of Edwin Chadwick

0124 Edwin ChadwickJuly 6, 1890: Death of Edwin Chadwick. Edwin Chadwick was an English social reformer who was noted for his work to reform the Poor Laws and improve sanitary conditions and public health. The appointment of the Poor Law Commission in 1834 which included Edwin Chadwick is widely believed to be the beginning of the sanitary movement in England. Through Chadwick’s work and influence, more sophisticated health statistics were collected which revealed that public health problems were increasing at a rapid rate. Chadwick imposed his “sanitary idea” which focused on disease prevention. A survey published by the Poor Law Commission in 1842 detailed the horrific working and living conditions in England at the time. The report linked epidemic disease, especially related to fever diseases (typhoid, typhus and cholera) to filthy environmental conditions. Privy vaults, shallow urban wells and piles of garbage and animal excrement in the streets were all related to the increases in disease.

“‘The great preventatives,’” he wrote, “‘drainage, street and house cleansing by means of supplies of water and improved sewerage, and especially the introduction of cheaper and more efficient modes of removing all noxious reuse from the towns, are operations for which aid must be sought from the science of the Civil Engineer, not from the physician, who has done his work when he has pointed out the disease that results from the neglect of proper administrative measures, and has alleviated the sufferings of the victims.’” (Rosen 1993)

Of course, the best way to identify and locate these health threats was to determine where the greatest odors of putrefaction were located and tie the solution to the problem—miasmas.

Chadwick was not ultimately successful in all he tried to do to clean up the noxious wastes in London and other concentrations of population in England. However, he did have a profound influence on a series of laws that were passed in the mid to late 1800s which began to implement some of his vision. (Rosen 1993) The formation of boards of health and the appointment of health officers under these laws provided advocates for cleaning up the filth.

It is a common misconception among chroniclers of the time period, 1850 to 1900, that the act of installing sewers, in and of itself, was an effective public health protection strategy. Edwin Chadwick was one of the major proponents of this misconception. In the 1840s he became one of the leaders of the European Sanitary Movement. In his famous report published in 1842, Chadwick promoted four themes:

  • Relationship of unsanitary living conditions and disease (based on the miasma theory)
  • Economic effects of poor living conditions
  • Social effects of poor living conditions (e.g., drunkenness, immorality, disease)
  • Need for new administrative systems to effect changes (Halliday 2001)

Chadwick had a vision of vast sewer systems collecting human waste and transporting it out to rural areas where it would be put to beneficial use as fertilizer for farms. Water supply would be provided to cities through a piped water system from protected sources that were not affected by any locale’s sewage. Unfortunately, only one out of three parts of Chadwick’s vision were implemented in London and elsewhere. Sewers were built but the crucial sanitary disposal of human waste on farmland was not. Sewage was discharged into rivers and lakes after which time no surface supplied drinking water was safe.

References:

Halliday, Stephen. 2001. The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis. London, U.K.: History Press.

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

Rosen, George. 1993. A History of Public Health. Expanded Edition, Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University.

July 5, 2013: Tel Aviv Water War

0705 Tel Aviv Water War FightJuly 5, 2013: Every summer the city of Tel Aviv cools off with a big water fight: the Tel Aviv Water War. 2013 was the ninth year that this event has taken place, and each year it gets bigger and better with thousands of residents and visitors taking part in the unique event in Kikar Rabin in the center of town. In a weird way, the stability and consistency of the water war, has stood as an annual tradition amid an ever-changing world, and ever-changing region! The 2013 Tel Aviv Water War took place on Friday July 5, 2013 at 3:15pm. In 2014, the water war took place on July 4.

The Tel Aviv Water War is of course, free to enter. Be sure to bring your best beach clothes. The Tel Aviv Water War is a totally unique Tel Aviv event! It couldn’t happen anywhere else in the world like it does here!

July 4, 1961: Revolutionary Pipe Joint Patent; 1832: Letter from Chester Averill about Cholera; 2013: Natural Immunity from Cholera

Fastite Joint

Fastite Joint

July 4, 1961: On this date, Patent Number 2,991,092 was issued to Mr. J. W. MacKay of the American Cast Iron Pipe Company in Birmingham, Alabama, for the Fastite push-on-rubber gasket joint for iron pipe. The Fastite gasket uses a dual-durometer gasket having a stiff rubber ring to hold the gasket in place against insertion loads and a softer, fatter section to provide the leak-free seal. The push-on gasket soon supplanted the bolted mechanical joint for virtually all underground pipe-to-pipe connections and is part of ANSI/AWWA C111/A21.11, Rubber-Gasket Joints for Ductile-Iron Pressure Pipe and Fittings. In 2014, Mr. MacKay is alive and well at age 104. He was inducted into the state of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2011.

Source: Maury D. Gaston, American Cast Iron Pipe Company.

0704 Court for King Cholera

July 4, 1832: Date of letter from Chester Averill (Professor of Chemistry, Union College) to the Mayor of Schenectady, New York during the middle of a cholera epidemic which praised the disinfecting properties of chloride of lime (chlorine). The treatise quoted many learned men of the time who demonstrated that chloride of lime eliminated the spread of contagious diseases by attacking the miasmas associated with them. The letter also made reference to the destruction of certain “viruses” that may have been responsible for transmission of the diseases. The germ theory of disease would not be espoused by Louis Pasteur for another 30-40 years. However, Averill, like many others in the early 19th century suspected that something other than “bad air” caused disease. What follows is a small extract from his treatise.

“‘Chlorine is by far the most powerful agent hitherto discovered to counteract contagion and all kinds of noxious effluvia and its sanative powers appear equally extraordinary.’ Dr. Sillimaii’s Chem. vol. 2, p. 68.

I have here quoted the opinions of eminently scientific men, at least three of whom are M.D.’s. and all of whom, it may be thought, do not deserve to be styled empyrics. But what weight ought these opinions to have in this discussion? Surely no more than those of any other person even much less eminent, unless they are better substantiated by facts. It was thought advisable, however, to quote them, since they may serve to correct any bias which entirely opposite opinions, proceeding from no higher source, may have occasioned.”

Reference: Averill, Chester. Facts Regarding the Disinfecting Powers of Chlorine: With an Explanation of the Mode in Which it Operates and with Directions How it Should be Applied for Disinfecting Purposes. Letter to John I. DeGraff, Mayor of Schenectady. Private printing. 1832.

Bathing in the Ganges River

Bathing in the Ganges River

July 4, 2013: In today’s New York Times (July 4, 2013), there was an extraordinary article that summarized recent research findings on human genetic adaptation to killer cholera. A few quotes give a summary of the findings: “People living in the Ganges Delta, where cholera is an ancient, endemic and often lethal disease, have adapted genetically to the scourge through variations in about 300 genes, say researchers who have scanned their genomes for the fingerprints of evolution.

The researchers also found unexpected changes in genes that protect against arsenic, suggesting that arsenic exposure in Bangladesh is not just a modern problem associated with deep tube wells but may have ancient roots.

These instances of natural selection probably took place within the last 5,000 to 30,000 years, the researchers say, and show how evolution has continued to mold human populations through the relatively recent past…. People with blood group O are particularly susceptible to cholera, and indeed few Bengalis have blood group O. John Mekalanos, a cholera expert at the Harvard Medical School, said the new finding was one of several that ‘are starting to give a strong impression that the human genome has been dramatically shaped by responses to microorganisms.’”

Reference: Wade, Nicholas. 2013. “Gene Sleuths Find How Some Naturally Resist Cholera.” New York Times. July 4, 2013.

July 3, 1907: AWWA Papers–Maintenance of Water Mains

0703 Maintenance of Water MainsJuly 3, 1907: Municipal Journal and Engineer article. Maintenance of Water Mains. “One of the subjects most freely discussed at the Toronto meeting of the American Water Works Association, and which was touched upon by several papers, was the matter of tuberculation and other stoppage of water mains, methods of cleaning them and of measuring the flow therein. Of the papers treating of these general subjects by far the most exhaustive was that of Nicholas S. Hill, Jr., of New York, entitled “Tuberculation and the Flow of Water in Pipes.” In his introduction the author says: “I wonder for how long a time water works engineers and superintendents will be willing to bury their distribution systems under four feet of earth and leave them to rust, corrode, fill up and putrefy, without means of access for inspection or cleaning.” He claims that the cost need not stand in the way of the remedy of these conditions, and that habit alone is to blame for them.

Discussing first the deposits, he says: “The various deposits which lessen the carrying capacity of water pipes and conduits may be divided into three classes: (1) Incrustations, commonly known as tuberculation, on unprotected or imperfectly protected iron pipes. (2) Deposits or growth on the inner surface of iron pipes whether protected or unprotected; the nature of the deposits depending upon the chemical constituents or biology of the water or both. (3) Accumulation of debris and mud in inverts, hollows and dead ends.” The author does not pretend to solve the disputed question as to what tubercles are, but refers to the various chemists and others who have endeavored to determine their nature, including Dr. J. C. Brown and Mr. George C. Whipple. There seems to be little question, however, that the tubercles are dependent upon iron for their existence and do not occur where there are no points of contact between iron and water.”

Commentary: On the whole, this paper is a pretty sophisticated discussion of water chemistry and the corrosion of water mains. It would be many decades before the tubercles would be identified as complex structures of iron oxides and hydroxides. A later discussion in the paper about biological growths in water mains is particularly valuable. It should be recalled that this article was published more than one year before the introduction of chlorine for disinfection purposes at Boonton Reservoir by Dr. John L. Leal. After chlorination became widespread, the flora and fauna of distribution systems changed dramatically.

July 2, 1914: Denver Threatens to Seize Private Water Plant

1914 photo shows Cheesman Dam with water going over the spillway. This was a common sight until drought and growth of Denver made inroads on the storage supply.

1914 photo shows Cheesman Dam with water going over the spillway. This was a common sight until drought and growth of Denver made inroads on the storage supply.

July 2, 1914: Municipal Journal article. Threatens to Seize Water Plant. “Denver, Colo.-The Denver City Water Company is trying to prevent the city from building its own plant, but has so far lost almost every legal fight. It is now trying to sell the plant to the city. The city is willing to buy, but the officials insist that the figures are too high. To complicate matters the plant broke down in the last few days. For several days portions of the city were without water and at the mercy of fire. Two conduits gave way, and investigation showed that they were worn out. Temporary repairs have restored an almost normal supply, but the opponents of the company say that the weakness of the plant has been exposed. The voters are opposed to the water company’s scheme to sell out to the city, and the city commissioners are supporting the public. Public opinion was disclosed last February at a referendum election, when the taxpayers, by a vote of more than 2 to 1, decided to buy or build a municipal water plant, and voted a bond issue of $8,000,000 for the purpose. It is estimated that if the city should buy the old plant for $8,000,000, or a lower price, $3,000,000 additional would have to be spent to put the plant in fair shape.

A new municipal plant can he built for about $9,000,000. ‘If the water company isn’t giving the city the service it should give, or if it uses any extreme methods, such as cutting off water on the people who are unable to pay for service six months in advance, then we shall exercise the police power imposed in this city and take such steps as may be necessary until the service is restored and the water company employs reasonable methods in the collection of its rates,’ said City Attorney I. N. Stevens.

Finally, by unanimous vote the city commissioners recently agreed to extend indefinitely the provisions of the resolution providing for seizure of the company’s plant if its service shall at any time be adjudged insufficient for the city’s needs. This decision was reached after Commissioners Nisbet and Thurn had declared they believed the company was supplying the city with all the water possible with its present plant. The adoption of this resolution means that no action will be taken at this time by the city to interfere with the water company. It means also that the water company must maintain the present standard of service or risk action looking toward taking control of its system out of its hands.”

Commentary: The final selling price was $14 million which is interesting given the discussion in the article above. Throughout this period, there was a struggle between public and private ownership of water systems in the U.S.

July 1, 1861: Birth of Charlotte Blair; 1997: Death of Holly Cornell; 1853: Paris Water Prices; 1818: Birth of Ignaz Semmelweis; 1912: Omaha Buys Its Waterworks

Charlotte Blair

Charlotte Blair

July 1, 1861: Charlotte Blair was born in Camden, South Carolina. Miss Blair began an effort in 1905 to build a new iron pipe factory in Birmingham, Alabama, where there were extensive deposits of iron ore, limestone, and coal. She recognized the need for water and sewer pipes for the rapidly growing cities in the midst of the Industrial Revolution. She approached John J. Eagan, a wealthy Atlanta businessman who sought to invest in what he termed “a noble cause” and run the business according to the Christian principle of the Golden Rule. This was the founding of AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company, who 109 years later makes iron and steel pipe for water service from 4-inches through 12-foot diameters, valves, and two lines of fire hydrants. Mr. Eagan and Miss Blair knew that clean water would be the greatest advancement in public health in the history of the world. Miss Blair was AMERICAN’s first corporate Secretary and Sales Manager, and the first female corporate Director in the state of Alabama and among the first in the nation.

Source: Nomination to Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame and AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe archives.

Holly A. Cornell

Holly A. Cornell

July 1, 1997: Holly A. Cornell dies. Co-founder of CH2M Hill. Corvallis, Ore. – “Holly A. Cornell, one of four founding partners of the worldwide engineering firm CH2M Hill, has died. Mr. Cornell, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease and pancreatic cancer, died July 1 at his home in Wilsonville. He was 83. He was remembered at a memorial service Monday as a hard-working, focused and even-tempered man who brought out the best in company employees. Mr. Cornell, born in Boise, Idaho, graduated from Grant High School in Portland in 1932. He earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering from Oregon State College and his master’s degree from Yale. Mr. Cornell managed CH2M Hill’s Seattle office from 1970 to 1980. He served as president and chief executive officer of CH2M Hill before retiring in 1979.”

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris

July 1, 1853: Prices paid to Parisian water companies for filtered water delivered in casks by porter was 0.9 francs per cubic meter. Do-it-yourselfers could buy a bucket full (18-20 liters) of filtered water for 0.025 francs. Best of all, you could water your horse with filtered Seine River water for only 0.05 francs.

Reference: ‘Baker, Moses N. 1981. The Quest for Pure Water: the History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. 2nd Edition. Vol. 1. Denver, Co.: American Water Works Association, 54.

0320 Ignaz SemmelweisJuly 1, 1818: Ignaz Semmelweis born in Buda, Hungary. Semmelweis was a physician who introduced antiseptic procedures into obstetrical clinics. Handwashing with a chlorine solution was found to dramatically decrease the death rate of new mothers from “childbed fever.”

July 1, 1912: Omaha buys the waterworks. The history of water development in Omaha before the Florence Waterworks was open was colorful and rocky. “For thirteen years after Omaha was founded there were no street cars, water mains, gas, or electric lights in the new but growing town….For several years after being founded Omaha was a town without a bath tub. [In later years,] Saturday night ablutions in the old wooden tub in the center of the kitchen floor were no uncommon thing. Or the hardy seekers after cleanliness took a dip in the river. The Saturday bath was an institution not lightly given over to modern changes.

Women carried water from well or cistern, except when they could induce their husbands to carry it for them, and the old wood cook stove…were to be found in every home. The first agitation for a city water works system was started as early as 1857. Several times in the following 20 years the question of a water system was brought up without any action being taken. An artesian well system was the favorite with the early settlers. They looked askance at the Missouri river water.

Before the water plant was built, large cisterns were constructed in the middle of the street intersections in the business district. Water was pumped from those cisterns when a business building caught fire. They proved better than nothing, but at that were far from satisfactory….

The [first water] system was opened in 1881 with 17 miles of pipe. Omaha’s first big municipal scandal developed in connection with the waterworks agitation. A prominent citizen was charged with bribing a councilman, but the charge was not substantiated. On August 1, 1889, the Florence waterworks was opened and a big day it was. Speeches were made and a banquet was served at what is still called the Minne Lusa pumping station.

Service given by the old Omaha waterworks company was not the best in the world and agitation for municipal ownership of the plant started as early as 1896. United States Senator R.B. Howell was the prime mover in the fight to take over the water plant. The city eventually bought the plant on July 1, 1912, for $6,319,000, a rather stiff price.”

June 30, 1906: Los Angeles Gets Its Way with Water

William Mulholland

William Mulholland

June 30, 1906: Federal Law Gives Los Angeles Owens Valley Water. “[In 1906] The City hired a prestigious team of engineers to examine the feasibility of the project. Their report states, “We find the project admirable in conception and outline and full of promise for the continued prosperity of Los Angeles.” The Board of Water Commissioners appointed William Mulholland, Chief Engineer, Bureau of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

That same year, 1906, the final verdict on the Los Angeles aqueduct was rendered by the highest authority. On May 13th, the City submitted an application for rights of way across federal lands for the purpose of constructing the Aqueduct.

In June, California Senator Frank Flint proposed a bill to grant these rights of way. It easily passed the Senate but ran into trouble in the House of Representatives where Congressman Sylvester Smith of Inyo County had organized an opposition to the bill. His argument was that Los Angeles did not require the water now, but was seeking to acquire it for future needs.

The City planned to include power plants in the project. These power plants would require a constant flow of water. This water would be transmitted by the City but was not required for domestic use. The City’s plan was to sell the water for irrigation. Smith argued that irrigation in Southern California should not take place at the expense of irrigation in the Owens Valley. While Smith negotiated a “no irrigation” compromise, Flint went directly to a higher authority.

His appeal to Theodore Roosevelt met with a sympathetic hearing. Roosevelt, on June 25th, called a meeting of Flint, Secretary of the Interior Ethan A. Hitchcock, Bureau of Forests Commissioner Gifford Pinchot, and Director of the Geological Survey Charles D. Walcott. At the end of that meeting Roosevelt dictated the letter which would end the debate,”…yet it is a hundred or a thousand fold more important to the state and more valuable to the people as a whole if used by the city than if used by the people of the Owens Valley.”

On June 30, 1906 Los Angeles had the law which would permit the dream to become a reality. In 1907, the voters of Los Angeles again gave their overwhelming endorsement to this project, approving a $23 million bond issue for aqueduct construction. The only task that remained was to build it.”

Commentary: And thus the Los Angeles water wars began.