May 29, 1953: Death of Earle B. Phelps

0529 Earle B PhelpsMay 29, 1953: Death of Earle B. Phelps. “Earle Bernard Phelps (1876–1953) was a chemist, bacteriologist and sanitary expert who served in governmental positions and as an academic in some of the leading universities in the U.S. He is known for his contributions in sewage disinfection, water chlorination, sewage treatment, milk pasteurization, shellfish control, and for describing the “oxygen sag curve” in surface water bodies….

After graduating from MIT and until 1903, Phelps worked as an assistant bacteriologist at the famous Lawrence Experiment Station in Lawrence, Massachusetts. From 1903 until 1911, he was a chemist/microbiologist with the Sanitary Research Laboratory at MIT. He also taught at MIT during this period as an assistant professor of chemistry and biology. Early in his career, he investigated a typhoid fever epidemic at the State Hospital in Trenton, New Jersey. During this same period, he worked for the U.S. Geological Survey as an assistant hydrographer. In part, he worked on the purification of industrial wastes and he began his investigations on stream pollution with that agency. In 1910 to 1911 he conducted groundbreaking research with Colonel William M. Black of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the pollution of New York Harbor. This work established for the first time the concept of using dissolved oxygen concentrations in the water as a measure of water quality in the harbor.

In 1913, he left MIT and became the head of the Chemistry Division at the U.S. Hygienic Laboratory in Washington, DC., which was part of the U.S. Public Health Service. Phelps worked with H. W. Streeter who was a sanitary engineer with the Public Health service on the characterization of oxygen depletion in a stream receiving organic wastes. The Streeter-Phelps equation was the first quantitative model that was used to determine the impact of biochemical oxygen demand discharges to surface water bodies. Their equation led to deterministic modeling which made it possible to limit specific discharges from waste treatment plants.

In 1919, Phelps left the Hygienic Laboratory to accept an academic position at Stanford University. Later, he also taught at Columbia University from 1925 until 1943. From 1944 until his death in 1953 he was a professor of sanitary science at the University of Florida at Gainesville. He has been described as a gifted teacher who generously shared his knowledge with his associates and students.

Phelps had a long and distinguished career as a consulting sanitary expert. He worked for many cities helping them resolve problems with water treatment and sewage disposal. From 1907 to 1909, he was a consulting expert for the New Jersey Sewerage Commission. He visited all of the sewage disposal plants in the state and made annual reports on the results of his inspections. He also was retained by the Sewerage Commission of Baltimore, Maryland as a consulting expert in relation to experiments with sewage disposal. Phelps supervised the design and construction of a large number of sewage purification plants including those at Toronto, Canada, Tarrytown, New York, Rahway, New Jersey and Torrington, Connecticut.”

Commentary: This article is taken from the Wikipedia entry that I wrote for Phelps. I knew him from his participation as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the second Jersey City trial that I described in The Chlorine Revolution. He was incredibly accomplished and contributed to many of the water specialties that we engage in today.

May 28, 1914: Chlorination of Torresdale Filtration Plant in Philadelphia

0528 Torresdale Cl2May 28, 1914: Municipal Journal article. Disinfecting Philadelphia’s Water Supply. By Francis D. West. “Bleach was first used at Torresdale [now called the Samuel S. Baxter treatment plant] in the form of hypochlorite of soda, produced electrolytically, during September, 1909. Two cells manufactured by the National Laundry Co. were used. A current of 35 amperes at 110 volts was used to decompose a brine solution. The chlorine and soda were allowed to recombine and the temperature was so high (about 110° F) that chlorates were formed. The bleach was applied directly in front of the first valve of one of the preliminary filters operated at a 20 mgd rate, or about 1/4 normal.

The conclusions were in part that the bacterial efficiency of the filter was considerably less than that of filters operated at four times the rate without treatment.

Hypochlorite was again used in December 1910. Due to the fact that the bacterial efficiency of slow sand filters decreases considerably in cold weather and the fecal organism B. coli communis was present in the filtered water, it was decided to use chloride of lime to disinfect the water in the filtered water basin. Treatment was continued until April 1911, when it was stopped; was again started December 1911, and was continued without interruption until February, 1913.

Liquid chlorine was first used Nov. 26, 1913, in conjunction with chloride of lime about 90 lbs. of liquid and 800 lbs. of powder being used daily until Feb. 9, when the use of chloride of lime was stopped.

0528 Torresdale Plant

May 27, 1907: Birth of Rachel Carson; 1755: First Municipal Water Pumping Plant

0927 Rachel-CarsonMay 27, 1907: Birth of Rachel Carson. “Biologist and author of Silent Spring, The Sea Wind and other non-fiction work intended to improve the public understanding of science, Carson became a leading figure in the environmental movement before her death in 1964.”

Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.

Carson began her career as an aquatic biologist in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries,[2] and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s. Her widely praised 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us won her a U.S. National Book Award,[3] recognition as a gifted writer, and financial security. Her next book, The Edge of the Sea, and the reissued version of her first book, Under the Sea Wind, were also bestsellers. This sea trilogy explores the whole of ocean life from the shores to the depths.

Late in the 1950s, Carson turned her attention to conservation, especially environmental problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was Silent Spring (1962), which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented share of the American people. Although Silent Spring was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.”

Bethlehem Pumping Plant

Bethlehem Pumping Plant

May 27, 1755: Hans Christopher Christiansen installed the first municipal water pumping plant in America at Bethlehem, PA; city supplied from a 70 foot high tank that was filled with water pumped from a spring through wooden pipes.

“Begun in 1754 and enlarged in 1762, the Bethlehem Waterworks is thought to be the first municipal pumping system to provide drinking and washing water in the United States. Johann Christopher Christensen devised the system in 1754 to transfer spring water from the Monocray Creek flood plain to the Moravian settlement on the bluff above it. Six years later, Christensen enlarged the waterworks and installed it in a 24-foot-square limestone rubble structure with a red-tile covered hipped-bellcast-gable roof. The system’s 18-foot undershot waterwheel powered three single acting cast-iron pumps which forced spring water through wood (later lead) pipes 320 feet (94 vertical feet) by a collecting tower, and from there water flowed by gravity to strategically placed cisterns throughout the community. Machines to raise water had been in use in Europe for centuries, but until the construction of the Bethlehem Waterworks, none had been erected in the American Colonies.

In 1652 the Water-Works Company of Boston had constructed a gravity conduit system that used bored logs to convey water from wells and springs to a 12-foot-square reservoir, but the system had not fulfilled the expectations of its promoters and had fallen into disuse. Christensen, born in Schleswig-Holstein in 1716 and trained during his youth in a royal mill in Hadersleben, probably took his ideas for the Bethlehem system from his knowledge of the forcing pumps that had been in use in many German cities since the end of the 15th century. The system served the city until 1832.

By the 1960s the area had become an automobile junkyard. The stone pumphouse was restored in the 1970s, and the waterwheel and pumps were subsequently reconstructed based on the original plans that had been preserved in the Moravian Archives in Germany. The Old Waterworks is a National Historic Landmark.”

References: “Business History.” Website http://www.businesshistory.com/index.php and Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/delaware/wat.htm

0527 Bethlehem pumping plant

May 26, 1977: Drought Cartoon; 1928: Birth of Marion Stoddart

0526 Drought CartoonMay 26, 1977: Drought Cartoon. The Los Angeles Times has published cartoons over more than 100 years that depict the many droughts that California has suffered and the reactions to them. Here is one that I think you will enjoy.

0526 Marion StoddartMay 26, 1928: Birth of Marion Stoddart.
Environmental Pioneer and Activist
in Massachusetts.
”During the 1960s, the Nashua River made the top 10 list of most polluted rivers in the U.S. Then Marion Stoddart got involved, building a citizen coalition that changed laws, attitudes, and restored the river. In the process, Marion won the United Nations Global 500 Award, was profiled in National Geographic, and had a widely-read children’s book written about her.” Go to this website for more information:
http://www.workof1000.com/

May 25, 1806: Description of Glasgow Filtration Works

Glasgow Waterworks—Loch Katrine Outlet

Glasgow Waterworks—Loch Katrine Outlet

May 25, 1806: Letter from Thomas Telford discussing design of the filtration works at Glasgow, Scotland. Glasgow was the third city in the world to receive filtered water (after Paisley, Scotland and Paris). Delivery of water by pipes to customers began in 1807.

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, 80-1.

May 24, 1911: Common Cup Banned in Chicago and New Jersey

1211 Skull Common CupMay 24, 1911: Municipal Journal articles.

Drinking Cup Outlawed. “Chicago, Ill.-Chicago physicians are united in praising the action of the Council in outlawing the common drinking cup. Under the terms of the ordinance, public drinking cups must disappear by August 8. All cups and glasses found in schools, office buildings, department stores, physicians’ reception rooms and all public places will be seized.”

Water Cups to Go. “Plainfield, N. ].-The use of the common drinking cup in public places in Plainfield will be a thing of the past after July 4, according to the provisions of the new law enacted by the Legislature, and persons violating the act will be liable to a fine of $25 for each offense. There are a number of places in this city where the law will be effective, such as railroad stations, stores, shops, factories, etc. After July 4 paper cups in slot machines, or some other approved method will have to be adopted, not only here, but all over the State.”

Reference: Municipal Journal. 1911. 30:21(May 24, 1911): 748.

Commentary: The laws passed to ban the common cup had some teeth. They seized any common cups that they found in Chicago and there was a $25 fine in New Jersey. Wait a minute. Common cups were banned in physician waiting rooms? Doctors’ offices? Where people are sick? Gee, that seems kind of harsh.

Common Cup Today in Istanbul; the Common Cup still exists in many countries

Common Cup Today in Istanbul; the Common Cup still exists in many countries

May 23, 1904: Boonton Water Supply Delivered to Jersey City

Boonton Dam

Boonton Dam

May 23, 1904: First delivery of water from the Boonton supply to Jersey City, New Jersey. At the end of the 19th century, the water supply for Jersey City, New Jersey was contaminated with sewage and the death toll from typhoid fever was high. In 1899, the city contracted with a private company for the construction of a new water supply on the Rockaway River, which included a dam, reservoir and 23-mile pipeline. The project was completed on May 23, 1904; however, no treatment was provided to the water supply, because the contract did not require it. The city, claiming that the contract provisions were not fulfilled, filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Court of New Jersey. Jersey City officials complained that the water served to the city was not “pure and wholesome.”

Two trials resulted from the lawsuit. In the second trial, Dr. John L. Leal and several other defendant expert witnesses were able to convince the Special Master, William J. Magie, that the use of chlorine to disinfect the water supply was safe, effective and reliable. After the favorable verdict, the use of chlorine for drinking water disinfection exploded across the U.S. and typhoid fever was eradicated.

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

Boonton Reservoir, water supply for Jersey City on the Rockaway River

Boonton Reservoir, water supply for Jersey City on the Rockaway River