December 18, 1913: Atlanta Public Health; 1913: Fox River Pollution

1218 Atlanta Public HealthDecember 18, 1913: Municipal Journal article—Organizing Public Health Service. “Like most other municipal departments which have developed from small beginnings, the boards of public health in most of our cities are in need of reorganization, not only within themselves but in their relations to other departments of the city government generally. Several cities have employed experts in this line of business to make a survey of the public health situation and recommend improvements therein. One of the latest reports resulting from such a survey is that recently made to the Chamber of Commerce of Atlanta, Ga., by Franz Schneider, Jr., of the Russell Sage Foundation.

It does not appear from this report that conditions at Atlanta were found to be either very much better or very much worse than those in the majority of our reasonably well-governed cities. It is found, for instance, that a large part of the energy of and appropriation made to the Board of Health is used in street cleaning and garbage disposal, which have a comparatively small effect upon the health of the community—a condition that can be found in a great many cities.”

Commentary: Vestiges of the miasma theory of disease lasted well into the 2oth century. Removing bad smells by cleaning streets did nothing to reduce the incidence of disease. If the money used to clean streets had been spent on treating the water supply, many lives could have been saved in the U.S.

Reference: Municipal Journal. 1913. 35:25, 828 and 833.

1218 Fox River PollutionDecember 18, 1913: Municipal Journal article—To Prevent Fox River Pollution. “Geneva, Ill.-Acting under authority conferred at the last session of the legislature, the State Rivers and Lakes Commission has ordered officials of the cities of Batavia, Aurora, Geneva, Elgin and St. Charles to take immediate steps to prevent the pollution of Fox river by sewage and factory wastes. The five cities were given until April 7, 1914, to prepare plans and specifications for filtration or sewage disposal plants or otherwise prepare to discontinue the emptying of sewage into the river. The Fox river cases are the first of the sort to be acted upon by the commission. Similar action will be taken in numerous other cities located along Illinois rivers or lakes if complaints are made and substantiated. Lake Forest and other North Shore cities that have complained of lake water pollution by factories are expected to take their grievances to the commission. Witnesses before the commission testified that during low water periods the Fox river was polluted to such an extent as to he a serious menace to the health of 200,000 inhabitants of the Fox river valley. It was also shown that thousands of tons of ice were taken from the river every year and sold in these cities and in Chicago. Another objection to the emptying of sewage into the river was the fact that fish were unable to survive.”

Commentary: River commissions in several states were beginning to take action against the grossest pollution problems in the early part of the 20th century.

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