Monthly Archives: June 2013

July 1

0701 Holly A CornellJuly 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

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.

June 29

0629 SWTR Federal RegisterJune 29, 1989:  Surface Water Treatment Rule and Total Coliform Rule promulgated on this date. These are two of the most important drinking water regulations adopted by the USEPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. A summary of the SWTR stated:  “This notice, issued under the Safe Drinking Water Act, publishes maximum contaminant level goals for Giardia lamblia viruses, and Legionella; and promulgates national primary drinking water regulations for public water systems using surface water sources or ground water sources under the direct influence of surface water that include (1) criteria under which filtration (including coagulation and sedimentation, as appropriate) are required and procedures by which the States are to determine which systems must install filtration, and (2) disinfection requirements. The filtration and disinfection requirements are treatment technique requirements to protect against the potential adverse health effects of exposure to Giardia lamblia, viruses, Legionella, and heterotrophic bacteria, as well as many other pathogenic organisms that are removed by these treatment techniques. This notice also includes certain limits on turbidity as criteria for (1) determining whether a public water system is required to filter; and (2) determining whether filtration, if required, is adequate.”

Commentary:  The SWTR has been changed substantially by subsequent regulations and the Total Coliform Rule has been radically altered. However, these two regulations contributed significantly to the improvement of public water supplies in the U.S. in the later part of the twentieth century.

June 28

U.S. Army Cantonment

U.S. Army Cantonment

June 28, 1917:  Municipal Journal article. Preparation of Water Supply for Army. “San Diego, Cal.-The [local] health department has received the following communication from the state board of health signed by C. G. Gillespie, director of the bureau of sanitary engineering: ‘While the San Diego supply easily surpasses any other surface source in California in the amount of laboratory and field supervision given, we are anxious that it be placed in the rank of the best in the country. This is most imperative now by reason of the location of a large army cantonment in your midst. I believe that we shall insist upon chlorination of all water furnished to the troops. In addition, laboratory facilities should be hastened to enable your office to make daily analysis of samples collected on each individual supply, both before and after treatment. Occasionally the sampling should be done early in the day to check up night operation. Within a few weeks I plan to return to San Diego to devote entire attention to the water system. It is hoped that you will have prepared new forms and begun the more systematic collection of pertinent data by that time. I beg to report that we appreciate the steps along this line now undertaken and the good showing in the absence of B. coli with the present frequency of sampling.’”

Commentary:  This article is interesting because the State of California has obviously extended its regulatory powers over a water supply for a federal facility—an army camp constructed to train soldiers for the first world war. In due time, the Department of the Army would take over those responsibilities.

June 27

0627 Los Angeles Water SupplyaJune 27, 1912:  Municipal Journal article. Los Angeles New Water Supply. “The plan and construction of the Los Angeles aqueduct  have invited the interest and admiration of the engineer and layman generally throughout the United States both from the great distance-240 miles-that the water is to be carried into the city and the unusual obstacles that have presented themselves. The spectacular and novel methods of building the conduit across the Mojave desert, tunneling mountain ranges and bridging chasms naturally have received the most attention from technical and popular writers. The quality and the quantity of the water have been generally overlooked. For instance, it is not commonly known that Los Angles, after going so far for her water supply, will not depend entirely upon the flow of the Owens River and its tributaries, but will have in addition a very dependable supplementary supply from a large artesian area in the Owens Valley, where a number of wells have been bored. It is the purpose of this article to discuss briefly these two features. The final acquisition of approximately 25,000 acres of artesian lands from the United States Government now makes it possible to discuss this feature of the project.

The principal diversion, of course, is the Owens River at a point in the Owens Valley 11 miles north of the town of Independence, Inyo County, California, and at an elevation of 3,812 feet.”

0627 Los Angeles Water Supplyb

June 26

Modern Chlorination Facility

Modern Chlorination Facility

June 26, 1913:  Hypochlorite addition to disinfect the municipal water supply was initiated in Richmond, VA. Following a typhoid fever outbreak, Dr. E.C. Levy, who was the Chief Health Officer for the City, recommended the addition of hypochlorite.  Levy was President of the American Public Health Association in 1923–six years before George W. Fuller.

“In 1914, apparatus for applying liquid chlrine was installed. But not until August 29, 1924, was a complete purification plant available, with coagulation basins, mechanical filters, aerators and a clear-water basin, the whole of 30-mgd capacity.”

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, 130.

June 25

0625 Drifting Sand FiltrationJune 25, 1914:  Engineering News article. A Novel Water-Filtration Plant for Toronto. “It is not often that a city takes up a novelty in water filtration or in any other class of engineering work on so large a scale as the proposed 72,000-U. S.-gal. “drifting sand” filtration plant for which the city council of Toronto awarded the contract on June 8. It is true, as stated elsewhere in this issue, that two plants of a few hundred thousand gallons capacity are already in operation elsewhere and that contracts for two other and much larger plants are well under way. It is also true that a working unit was tested for 33 days at Toronto under the direction of the local medical officer of health and city analyst, and that this same test plant has been under observation for over a year. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the drifting-sand filter is as yet in the working-scale experimental stage, with few data yet available regarding its efficiency and less to be had regarding operating costs.

The drifting-sand filter may be described as a deep mechanical filter with reversion to the early type in the way of absence of coagulation basins and rate-controllers and with the addition of continuous washing and replacing of filter sand. It is claimed that this added feature makes up for the lack of a coagulating basin. To what extent this claim will be made good by experience at Toronto and on different waters at other places, it will be interesting to learn a few years hence.”

Commentary:  The filter plant was built in 1917 and used until 1981 by the City of Toronto. No other large-scale filtration plants adopted this unique design.