December 15, 1989: Cabool, Missouri outbreak of E. coli O157:H7. “Case patients were residents of or visitors to Burdine Township [adjacent to Cabool, Missouri] with bloody diarrhea or diarrhea and abdominal cramps occurring between 15 December 1989 and 20 January 1990…. Among the 243 case patients, 86 had bloody stools, 32 were hospitalized, 4 died, and 2 had the hemolytic uremic syndrome. In the case-control study, no food was associated with illness, but ill persons had drunk more municipal water than had controls (P = 0.04). The survey showed that, during the peak of the outbreak, bloody diarrhea was 18.2 times more likely to occur in persons living inside the city and using municipal water than in persons living outside the city and using private well water (P = 0.001). Shortly before the peak of the outbreak, 45 water meters were replaced, and two water mains ruptured. The number of new cases declined rapidly after residents were ordered to boil water and after chlorination of the water supply. This was the largest outbreak of ECO157 infections [at the time], the first due to a multiply resistant organism, and the first shown to be transmitted by water.”
Commentary: One of the largest outbreaks of waterborne disease in the U.S. in modern times. E. coli O157:H7 was just being recognized as a waterborne pathogen. A significant outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario, Canada in 2000 was caused by the same pathogen.
References: Swerdlow, D.L. et al. 1992. “A waterborne outbreak in Missouri of Escherichia coli O157:H7 associated with bloody diarrhea and death.” Ann Intern Med.117(10):(Nov 15): 812-9.
Geldreich, E.E., et al. 1992. “Searching for a water supply connection in the Cabool, Missouri disease outbreak of Escherichia coli 0157:H7.” Water Research. 26:8 1127-37.
December 15, 1909: Municipal Journal and Engineer articles about water supply and water quality in the early 20th century.
Well Water is Cause of Typhoid Epidemic. Concordia, Kan.-The source of typhoid infection in this city has been located in the well water that has been used by the people in the infected block. All of the families in which a case of the fever has developed have been using well water for drinking purposes. The doctors attending the cases are of the opinion that the city water is free from typhoid fever germs.
Tannic Acid in City Water. Knoxville, Tenn.-.Members of the Knoxville Water Commission are somewhat disturbed over the impurities now found in the Tennessee river water owing largely to the refuse of a tannery which .is being poured into the French Broad river at Newport. At times the water coming out of the French Broad is almost black, owing to the tannic acid. This is killing the fish in the river and it is thought the water with this impurity in it is deleterious to health….Local sportsmen, who are interested in the preservation of the game fish in the river, have also taken the matter up. Commentary: This is an early concern about surface water quality that was not related to human health.
Water Tunnel Under New York City. New York, N. Y.-The Board of Estimates has adopted plans for building a $30,000,000 tunnel in solid rock under Manhattan Island to distribute the water supply from the Catskill system, The report of a committee of engineers to whom the matter has been referred was that the original pipe line plan would cost $10,000,000, whereas the new tunnel plan would cost $25,000,000 or more. However, there is estimated to be a saving in the cost of connecting mains amounting to 50 per cent. The tunnel is to be 17 ½, miles long beginning at Hill View Reservoir, north of the New York City line at an elevation of -20, where the diameter will be 17 ½, feet. Through the city the elevation will range from -140 to -600, according to the solidity of the rock through which it goes. Under the East River, where the tunnel crosses to Brooklyn, the diameter will be 11 feet.
Commentary: This was the first of three tunnels built by New York City for water supply—a unique and impressive engineering marvel.
Will Try Chemical Purification. Hartford, Conn.-Engineer E. M. Peck of the Water Department has been authorized by the Board to conduct experiments in the chemical purification of river water, to see if it can be made safe for use in the lower part of the city, should the supply in the reservoirs fail. This is the chemical treatment used at Harrisburg, which city the engineer, President Henry Roberts and Secretary Fred D. Berry recently visited.
Commentary: Dr. John L. Leal was hired by the city to conduct these studies. He presented his findings to the water department on March 28, 1910.
Reference: Municipal Journal and Engineer. 1909. 27:24(December 15, 1909): 896-7.
December 15, 1909: Municipal Journal and Engineer article–Mechanical Water Filtration. “There are two general classes of water filtration. In one of these a large part of the purification is performed by bacteria, the process involving a slow passage of the water through sand or a similar fine-grained mass [slow sand filtration]. In this there is practically no pressure head, but the water simply trickles through the interstices, although in a greater or less time a collection of mud and fibrous and other organic matter collects on the surface and a slight head of water is necessary for forcing the water to be purified through this material. This was the method of purification originally adopted in England, and is sometimes called the English method.
In mechanical filtration [rapid sand filtration or granular media filtration] the water is passed under greater pressure and at much higher rates of speed through sand or similar material, and the purification is entirely one of straining. Owing to the high speed, however, and the absence of any mat on the surface, it is found necessary to introduce a coagulant into the water before it reaches the filter. This coagulant collects together the suspended matters in the water, including a large percentage of the bacteria, and the suspended matter thus coagulated is strained out by the filter….
The mechanical filters were apparently so named because of the entirely mechanical nature of the purification as distinguished from bacteriological, and because of the fact that the entire apparatus was, in effect, a mechanism of iron and steel, while the English filters consisted of outdoor beds of sand simply retained by earthen banks or stone walls.”
Reference: “Mechanical Water Filtration.” 1909. Municipal Journal and Engineer, 27:24(December 15, 1909): 893.