October 29, 1855: Taste and Odor in Albany

Algae Bloom in Water Reservoir

Algae Bloom in Water Reservoir

October 29, 1855Severe taste and odor problem in Albany. “A committee of the Albany, New York, City Council complained of severe taste and odor problems in water supply reservoirs. ‘no more alarming event, short of the actual visitation of a pestilence, can befall a large city than the sudden poisoning of its water supply at the commencement of the hot season.’ The problem started in August 1852 and the water became unfit for use. ‘The cause assigned by George W. Carpenter was animalcules which overspread the bottom of one of the reservoirs and decomposed there.’ The problem disappeared for ten years but reappeared with a vengeance in 1865. It was ‘…impossible to convince some that the water so impregnated can possibly be innoxious.’”

Commentary:  Severe taste and odor problems in a water supply are no joke—not in 1855 and not today. Mayors have been fired, city councils have been recalled and senior managers at water utilities have been forced to look for new jobs.

Reference:  Baker, Moses N. The Quest for Pure Water: the History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. 2nd Edition. Vol. 1. Denver: American Water Works Association, 1981, p. 401-2.

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