October 22, 1914: Trenton Water Treatment Plant

1022 Trenton Treatment PlantOctober 22, 1914: Municipal Journal feature article–Water Purification at Trenton. “For fifteen years the improvement of the public water supply at Trenton, N.J., which was drawn from the Delaware River without treatment, has been a question that has received much consideration. Johnson and Fuller, consulting engineers, of New York City, who were retained to design a plant, in 1912 presented plans for rapid sand filters with a capacity of 30,000,000 gallons per day. This plant is now practically completed….For several years past, the typhoid death rate in Trenton has shown the need of a modern filtration plant. The average death rate from that cause for the ten years ending 1900 was 28 [per 100,000 people], while for the years 1908, 1909 and 1910 it was 54, 36 and 53, respectively. In 1911 the use of hypochlorite was adopted and was effective in reducing the typhoid death rate, but the unfiltered water is very unsatisfactory, especially in appearance. The plant, which is located at the foot of Calhoun street, just above the present pumping works, consists of covered sedimentation basins, sixteen filters, a clear water basin, a low-lift pumping plant, a head house, conduits and complete filter equipment.”

Reference: “Water Purification at Trenton.” Municipal Journal. 37:17 (October 22, 1914): 589-91.

Commentary: There were people in Trenton who opposed any move to treat the disease-laden water from the Delaware River. It is incomprehensible that they resisted all attempts. Below is an excerpt from my book The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight To Save Lives.

“Trenton, the capital of New Jersey, was home to about 97,000 citizens in 1911. The city’s water source was the Delaware River, which had been grossly contaminated with sewage for decades. Typhoid fever was ever-present in the city, and occasionally epidemics broke out, causing much higher death rates. The typhoid fever death rate during 1902–1911 ranged from 26.2 to 84.3 per 100,000 people, with an average of 49.7 per 100,000.

Despite the water supply’s wholesale killing of Trenton’s citizens, there was tremendous opposition to installing filtration or any other kind of effective treatment. Outstanding treatment experts such as Allen Hazen and George Warren Fuller prepared two separate designs for filtration plants, both of which languished without being implemented. Finally, the New Jersey Board of Health had had enough. In early 1910, the board issued a “compulsory order” for Trenton to treat its water supply and made the order effective shortly thereafter, on June 15. The Trenton Water Board began to install a chloride of lime feed system, but, incredibly, the local health board vetoed the plan. Wasting no time, the New Jersey Board of Health filed a lawsuit shortly after the June 15 deadline to compel the city to move forward with its plans.”

Even after all of this, it would still take a long time to get filtration and disinfection into place.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s