#TDIWH—February 8, 1917: Orthotolidine Test for Chlorine Residual

Orthotolidine Solution

Orthotolidine Solution

February 8, 1917: Municipal Journal article. Test for Chlorine in Water. “Control of Disinfection Process by Ortho-Tolidin Test, With Colored Glass Plates as Color Standards-How to Prepare Plates. By Francis E. Daniels. For an intelligent control of the process of disinfection of water supplies it is highly essential to make frequent use of some quick chemical test in order to be sure that the disinfecting agent is being applied in the proper amounts at all times. By means of such a test the writer has frequently detected improper dosing in a few minutes. Low doses due to breaks, stoppages in feed control apparatus, improper mixing of chemicals, or weak hypochlorite have been shown by such tests, as also overdosing. On more than one occasion it bas been observed that no hypochlorite had been put in the solution tank—only water being fed through the dosing apparatus.

Such a test therefore is very useful for the inspector; but it is more useful to the man in charge in that it gives him a ready means of satisfying himself that the dose is exactly what he has been instructed to make it. It also gives information days in advance of the completion of bacterial tests.

The disinfection by chlorine or its compounds at a good many water plants has been controlled by the so-called starch-iodide or Sims-Woodhead test. This is quite satisfactory in many places, but it is not so delicate and is more cumbersome for the inspector than another test known as the ortho-tolidin test.

The ortho-tolidin test was discovered and used by Prof. Phelps and the writer in 1907; but it was later improved by Messrs. Ellms and Hauser. It is to appear again in the new edition of the Standard Methods of Water Analysis of the American Public Health Association.

Commentary: Earle B. Phelps first revealed his discovery of orthotolidine and its ability to detect chlorine during his testimony on May 11, 1909 at the second Jersey City trial. Reading Daniels’ article reminds us all how fortunate we are to have such good analytical methods to tell us how well we are doing in the killing of pathogens. In the early part of the 20th century, they were just beginning to develop the tools they needed to get the job done.

References:

Daniels, Francis E. 1917. “Test for Chlorine in Water.” Municipal Journal. 42:6(February 8, 1917): 197.

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

#TDIWH—February 7, 1982: Death of Samuel S. Baxter; 1955: Death of Moses N. Baker

Samuel S. Baxter

Samuel S. Baxter

February 7, 1982: Samuel S. Baxter dies one day after his 77th birthday. Sam Baxter was the long-time Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department. “With the exception of military service during World War II, Sam Baxter spent his entire life living and working in Philadelphia. He was born in the city on February 6, 1905, attended public school, and graduated from high school in January 1921, just before his sixteenth birthday. He obtained a job with a sporting goods firm, but spent his evenings at Drexel Institute (now Drexel University) studying municipal engineering. One of his instructors was Thomas Buckley (APWA President, 1937), who was a senior engineer for the city. Buckley encouraged Baxter to take a civil service examination for a surveying position, and the young man became a chainman in a district field office in February 1923. Thus began a 49-year career of service to the city of Philadelphia….

He was an individual of exemplary ability, character, and charm. The roll of his accomplishments is long and enviable, but perhaps his most lasting and memorable legacy was his rare personal qualities. Sam Baxter was truly a public works “man for all seasons,” who, in the conduct of his professional and personal life, served as a paradigm for other engineer-administrators. He was self-effacing, bold, creative, competent, and adhered unwaveringly to the canons of his church and profession. Furthermore, he displayed a high degree of sensitivity to people, political acumen, ethical courage, and level-headedness under pressure that few public works leaders possess.”

Commentary: Sam Baxter is the man who convinced me that public service, especially serving customers safe drinking water, was one of the highest callings an engineer could have. In a town that was slimed with patronage and dirty politics he was special. He had the highest moral principles and he told any Mayor that tried to control him where he could go—in the most gentlemanly fashion. I met him at a seminar at Columbia University for senior engineering students. Here was the guy running the Philadelphia Water Department taking an entire day off to hang out with undergraduates. He intrigued me.

I decided to write a senior project paper on wastewater reuse. That’s right, sewage to drinking water. I took a chance and asked Mr. Baxter (that’s what everyone called him; never “Commissioner”) if I could interview him. He agreed and was very kind to a kid who knew nothing about nothing having to do with wastewater reuse. In the course of my two interviews with him, I was impressed with him as a man and as a leader of this field of water and wastewater services. When the time came to choose among my job offers, I accepted a position with the Research and Development Unit of the Philadelphia Water Department.

I owe him a lot. I will never forget what he did for me and for the drinking water community.

0126 Moses N BakerFebruary 7, 1955: Moses N. Baker dies in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. “Moses N. Baker (1864–1955) was a noted editor and author in the field of drinking water history and technology. His most important book is still used today: The Quest for Pure Water: The History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. He was also active in the field of public health holding several positions on boards of health at the state and local levels….

Baker started his long career as author and editor in November 1887 when he was hired as the Associate Editor of Engineering News. This publication and the consolidated weekly Engineering News-Record which began on April 1, 1917 were the definitive sources of news about advances in the control and treatment of drinking water and sewage for decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He retired in 1932 after 45 years of service.

Baker collected a large library of books and source documents that he used to write his most important book, The Quest for Pure Water: The History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century, which was first published in 1948. It was reprinted and published in 1981. He donated his collection to the American Water Works Association which transferred it to the Engineering Societies Library in New York City in 1945 for safe keeping. Unfortunately, the Engineering Societies Library went out of business in 1998 and his entire collection was dispersed….”

Baker was a member of a number of professional organizations and societies including the New England Water Works Association, American Water Works Association and the American Economic Association. He was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Municipal League from 1911 to 1918. He was a member of the Montclair, New Jersey Board of Health for 20 years and served as its president from 1904 to 1915. Baker was a member and vice president of the New Jersey Department of Health in 1915-16. He served as President of the New Jersey Sanitary Association in 1904 following the term of John L. Leal.”

Commentary: I have been in touch with his great grandson, Paul Vaerlien, who was kind enough to send me photos of a 1939 Baker Family reunion centered around the 50th wedding anniversary of Moses and Ella Baker. I hope you enjoy them.

 

Moses N. Baker 50th

 

Moses N. Baker 50thb

Moses N. Baker 50th anv

#TDIWH—February 6, 1905: Birth of Samuel S. Baxter

Samuel S. Baxter

Samuel S. Baxter

February 6, 1905: Samuel S. Baxter was born in Philadelphia. Sam Baxter was the long-time Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department. “With the exception of military service during World War II, Sam Baxter spent his entire life living and working in Philadelphia. He was born in the city on February 6, 1905, attended public school, and graduated from high school in January 1921, just before his sixteenth birthday. He obtained a job with a sporting goods firm, but spent his evenings at Drexel Institute (now Drexel University) studying municipal engineering. One of his instructors was Thomas Buckley (APWA President, 1937), who was a senior engineer for the city. Buckley encouraged Baxter to take a civil service examination for a surveying position, and the young man became a chainman in a district field office in February 1923. Thus began a 49-year career of service to the city of Philadelphia….

He was an individual of exemplary ability, character, and charm. The roll of his accomplishments is long and enviable, but perhaps his most lasting and memorable legacy was his rare personal qualities. Sam Baxter was truly a public works “man for all seasons,” who, in the conduct of his professional and personal life, served as a paradigm for other engineer-administrators. He was self-effacing, bold, creative, competent, and adhered unwaveringly to the canons of his church and profession. Furthermore, he displayed a high degree of sensitivity to people, political acumen, ethical courage, and level-headedness under pressure that few public works leaders possess.”

Commentary: Sam Baxter is the man who convinced me that public service, especially serving customers safe drinking water, was one of the highest callings an engineer could have. In a town that was slimed with patronage and dirty politics he was special. He had the highest moral principles and he told any Mayor that tried to control him where he could go—in the most gentlemanly fashion. I met him at a seminar at Columbia University for senior engineering students. Here was the guy running the Philadelphia Water Department taking an entire day off to hang out with undergraduates. He intrigued me.

I decided to write a senior project paper on wastewater reuse. That’s right, sewage to drinking water. I took a chance and asked Mr. Baxter (that’s what everyone called him; never “Commissioner”) if I could interview him. He agreed and was very kind to a kid who knew nothing about nothing having to do with wastewater reuse. In the course of my two interviews with him, I was impressed with him as a man and as a leader of this field of water and wastewater services. When the time came to choose among my job offers, I accepted a position with the Research and Development Unit of the Philadelphia Water Department.

I owe him a lot. I will never forget what he did for me and for the drinking water community.

#TDIWH—February 5, 1914: Low Typhoid Death Rate in Providence, RI and Sale of Treatment Plant in New Jersey

Charles V. Chapin

Charles V. Chapin

February 5, 1914: Municipal Journal article. Reduce Death Rate from Typhoid. “Providence, R. I.-The death rate from typhoid fever in Providence in 1913 was 10 per 100,000 in an estimated population of 241,000, the lowest rate for ·the disease ever recorded in this city, according to figures compiled for City Registrar C. V. Chapin. Since 1884 the typhoid death rate here has been reduced from 42.62 to its 1913 mark of 10. The average death rate from the disease for the entire period is 24.10. The best previous record was 11.02, attained in 1911. The 1912 rate was 11.65.”

Commentary: Charles V. Chapin was one of the leaders of the public health movement in the U.S. and he spent great energy improving the death rates for waterborne illnesses in his city.

0205 pvwcFebruary 5, 1914: Municipal Journal article. Offers to Sell Plant to New Jersey. “Passaic N. J.-Since the issuance of the State Water Supply Commission’s report, the East Jersey Water Company has accepted the value placed upon its property by the state’s appraisers. Moreover, the property may be acquired without the investment of any cash, for the state can assume the outstanding bonds of the company, amounting to $7,500,000, and give the present owners additional bonds in the sum of $1,300,000 for their equity. These terms were offered, notwithstanding the difference in the inventories of the state’s and company’s appraisers, the East Jersey company estimating the value of their property at $1,171,700 above the commission’s figures. The bonds can be directly assumed by the State Water Supply Commission for the municipalities, and the plan of the commission, if the property is bought, is to lease the plant to the municipalities for the exact sum of the carrying charges. The acquisition of the company system would mean a water supply of 50,000,000 gallons daily.”

Reference: Municipal Journal. 1914. 36:6(February 5, 1914): 181.

#TDIWH—February 4, 1909: Second Use of Chlorine in the U.S.; 1877: Birth of C.E.A. Winslow

Little Falls Water Treatment Plant

Little Falls Water Treatment Plant

February 4, 1909: Dr. John L. Leal testified at the second Jersey City trial about the first use of chlorine for continuous disinfection of a U.S. water supply at Boonton Reservoir, which was the water supply for Jersey City, New Jersey. The transcript from February 5, 1909, revealed that Leal had also installed a chloride of lime feed system at the filtration plant at Little Falls, New Jersey. He stated that he had experimented with chloride of lime addition some months before and that he was now using it daily. Thus, the trial transcript provides the first written evidence of the second continuous use of chlorine to disinfect a drinking water supply. This was also the first time chlorine was used in conjunction with mechanical filtration.

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

0108 CEA WinslowFebruary 4, 1877: Charles-Edward A. Winslow is born. “Charles-Edward Amory Winslow (4 February 1877 – 8 January 1957) was an American bacteriologist and public health expert who was, according to the Encyclopedia of Public Health, “a seminal figure in public health, not only in his own country, the United States, but in the wider Western world.”

Winslow was born in Boston, Massachusetts and attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), obtaining a B.S. in 1898 and an M.S. in 1910.

He began his career as a bacteriologist. He met Anne Fuller Rogers when they were students in William T. Sedgwick’s laboratory at M.I.T., and married her in 1907. He taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while heading the sewage experiment station from 1908 to 1910, then taught at the College of the City of New York from 1910 to 1914.

He was the youngest charter member of the Society of American Bacteriologists when that organization was founded in 1899. With Samuel Cate Prescott he published the first American textbook on the elements of water bacteriology.

In 1915 he founded the Yale Department of Public Health within the Yale Medical School, and he was professor and chairman of the Department until he retired in 1945. (The Department became the Yale School of Public Health after accreditation was introduced in 1947.) During a time dominated by discoveries in bacteriology, he emphasized a broader perspective on causation, adopting a more holistic perspective. The department under his direction was a catalyst for health reform in Connecticut. He was the first director of Yale’s J.B. Pierce Laboratory, serving from 1932 to 1957. Winslow was also instrumental in founding the Yale School of Nursing.

He was the first Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Bacteriology, serving in that position from 1916 to 1944. He was also editor of the American Journal of Public Health from 1944 to 1954. He was curator of public health at the American Museum of Natural History from 1910 to 1922. In 1926 he became president of the American Public Health Association, and in the 1950s was a consultant to the World Health Organization.”

#TDIWH—February 3, 1909: Sewage Disposal in Pennsylvania

0203-activated-sludge-plant-at-clevelandFebruary 3, 1909: Municipal Journal and Engineer article. Sewage Disposal in Pennsylvania. “As indicated from time to time in our columns, the matter of sewage disposal is just now assuming more importance in Pennsylvania than in possibly any other State of the Union, this being due largely to the activity of the new State Board of Health under the recent laws endowing it with unusual powers. Two of the latest propositions as well as the largest are those which are ordered for the cities of Harrisburg and Pittsburg. The public press of the former city states that the city officials are about to begin at once preparing plans for works which are roughly estimated to cost one and a half to two million dollars. This does not contemplate the present treatment of the sewage of that city, but only a better location of outlets and the preparation of plans for treatment. Pittsburg, however, is directed to take immediate steps toward building a sewage disposal plant which is estimated to cost fifteen to twenty million dollars; this order possibly being hastened by the typhoid epidemic which is sweeping through the small towns located on the river below Pittsburg.”

Commentary: It was only after the turn of the century that states began to get serious about requiring treatment of sewage before discharge to local streams.

Reference: “Sewage Disposal in Pennsylvania.” Municipal Journal and Engineer. 26:5(February 3, 1909): 167.

February 2, 1918: Sewage Plant Completion in Cleveland and Water Waste Survey

Cuyahoga River Catches Fire...Again

Cuyahoga River Catches Fire…Again

February 2, 1918: Municipal Journal article. Ask Time Extension for Sewage Plant Completion. Cleveland, O. The city council has passed resolutions asking the state department of health for an extension of time in which to complete plants built to prevent the pollution of Lake Erie and Cuyahoga river. The state health department had ordered the city to install sewage works for preventing the pollution of the lake before Feb. 13, 1918. The city has already spent and has contracted for the expenditure of more than $700,000 for the construction of sewers and treatment works in accordance with the order. Because of delay in determining the legal status of a recent act of the legislature, which permitted the raising of the necessary funds authorized at a recent election and of much time consumed by necessary studies and investigations, the city asks extension of time until Feb. 13, 1920. In the case of the Cuyahoga river, the city had been originally ordered to stop pollution by July 1, 1915, and had then had the time extended to July 1, 1917, but now it requests a further extension until July 1, 1920.

Commentary: The reader may recall that we have marked several occasions when the Cuyahoga River caught fire due to the wastes dumped into it. Controlling sewage discharges did not fix all of the river’s problems.

Worker conducting leak survey

Worker conducting leak survey

February 2, 1918: Municipal Journal article. To Complete Water-Waste Survey. Buffalo, N. Y.-On the recommendation of commissioner Kreinheder council has authorized a complete survey of the city’s water waste at a cost of about $44,000. The Pitometer Company of New York is to do .the work along the plans followed by it in a partial survey made some time ago. George C. Andrews, water commissioner, estimates that the survey will result in an annual saving of $80,000 in coal bills and of about $40,000 in wages. The city has been divided into ten districts for the purposes of this survey, one of which has been covered. Two others will be completed in the spring.

Commentary: Founded in 1897, the Pitometer Company (Associates) was in business for 99 years and helped cities save untold billions of gallons of water. In 1996, Severn Trent Environmental Services, Inc. acquired Pitometer Associates, Inc.

Reference: Municipal Journal. 1918. 46:5(February 2, 1918): 98.