November 9, 1974: USEPA Orders Study of Chemical Contaminants; 1992: TTHM Stakeholder Meeting; 1889: Johnstown Flood

Mississippi River Basin

Mississippi River Basin

November 9, 1974New York Times headline–E.P.A. Orders a National Study of Chemical Contaminants in Drinking Water. “The Environmental Protection Agency ordered today an immediate nationwide study of chemical contaminants in drinking water after an agency study showed that 66 chemicals were present in Mississippi River water used by New Orleans and nearby communities. Some of the 66 chemicals had already been identified as potential causes of cancer or harmful in other ways.”

Commentary:  Finding 66 organic chemicals in a water supply occurred at about the same time as a three-part article published in the popular magazine Consumer Reports that discussed the failings of water treatment plants in the U.S. Also presented at this time was a study by the Environmental Defense Fund that alleged the correlation of cancer deaths with use of surface water supplied water from the Mississippi River.  These events put tremendous pressure on the U.S. Congress, which responded by passing the Safe Drinking Water Act later in 1974.  These studies also initiated the concern with trace organic compounds in drinking water. One of the consequences of these concerns is a bottled water industry in the U.S. with sales of about $15 billion per year.

1109 Reg NegNovember 9, 1992: First meeting of stakeholders interested in discussing revisions to the federal Total Trihalomethane and Surface Water Treatment regulations.  This informational meeting led to the establishment of a negotiating committee under the Regulatory Negotiation rules of the USEPA.  The Reg Neg Committee created two documents called Agreements in Principle which led to five drinking water regulations:  Information Collection Rule, Stage 1 Disinfectants/Disinfection By-Products Rule and the Interim Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Regulation, Stage 2 Disinfectants/Disinfection By-Products Rule and the Long-Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Regulation.

Devastation from the Johnstown Flood

Devastation from the Johnstown Flood

November 9, 1889: Article from The Engineering and Building Record—The Johnstown Water-Works and the Flood. The Great Flood of 1889 devastated the city of Johnstown, PA on May 31, 1889. This account describes the devastation of the water works in that city. “In the city every fire hydrant in the course of the flood was broken off; some down at the joint and others broken at the pavement line—the upper part being carried away, leaving the stem and a strong flow of water as a mark to show where the hydrant stood. The work of replacing these was begun the day after the flood as it was imperatively necessary to protect from fire the ruins, under which lay so many bodies. Night and day the work went on. The difficulty attending it may be realized from the fact that not a tool was left to work with. A hastily improvised blacksmith shop furnished tools, such as they were. Lead was procured from the wrecked buildings in the shape of pipe and window weights. Then came the fear of a water famine. Every house, moved from its place, left an open supply-pipe. Men were started out to close them. To reach the curb stops was impossible, so that plugging and battering the pipes was all that could be done. This work was a difficult task and necessitated many a perilous trip beneath the wreck. The supply was never shut off from the city. The office being totally destroyed, all maps of the lines were lost, and nothing but memory could be depended on to locate gates and shut-offs.”

Reference: “The Johnstown Water-Works and the Flood.” The Engineering and Building Record. 20:24 (November 9, 1889): 336.

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