November 19, 1914: Operations of Sewage Plants; 1914: Racine Sanitary Policies

Wisconsin Wastewater Operator Short Course Attendees 1937.

Wisconsin Wastewater Operator Short Course Attendees 1937.

November 19, 1914Operation of Sewage Disposal Plants. By Francis E. Daniels. “A man in charge of a sewage disposal plant should know what each unit of his works is doing every day. A skilled observer may detect faults and short-comings with some degree of certainty by mere inspection; and if the output is bad and a heavy pollution is occurring or a local nuisance is resulting, it is not at all difficult to recognize the trouble. If the break-down has been sudden and due to a wash-out, a broken bed or wall or some other equally obvious cause, an expert is not needed to diagnose the case. But suppose the output of a plant or of some of its units is gradually falling below the requirements. In that case the gradual decline cannot be detected by observation and in order that one may know what is actually happening, tests are made….Careful attention paid to tank effluents will delay for years the expenditure of thousands of dollars for the removal, washing and replacing of the stone in contact beds. Poor effluents discharged upon sand beds cause clogging quickly, which results in undue expense for frequent cleaning and often the sand filter effluent is seriously impaired.

To the trained man in charge of a plant equipped with a laboratory, little advice is necessary. His training and facilities enable him to keep close check upon his charge; but for the good of the cause he is especially urged to do routine work along the standard lines and so record it that his results can be of use to others besides himself. His tests should conform to the requirements laid down in the ‘Standard Methods of Water Analysis,’ published by the American Public Health Association.”

Commentary: Of course, no mention is made the consequences of violating an NPDES permit or other regulation governing the quality of the effluent. Also, it gets tiresome to read these old articles that are directed to “men” when we now have a substantial number of women operators.

Main Street at Night, Racine, WI 1914.

Main Street at Night, Racine, WI 1914.

November 19, 1914Sanitary Policy for Racine. “The city of Racine, Wis., over a year ago employed John W. Alvord to recommend to it a policy to be followed in connection with its sewerage and water supply. The study of the problem, in which Mr. Alvord was assisted by Edward Bartow, director of the Illinois State Water Survey, occupied most of the year 1913, and a report has recently been made to the city giving the method and results of the investigation and the recommendations of the consulting engineer.

The report outlined six different policies, either of which might be pursued, but one of which was recommended….The problems at Racine are common to many lake cities which are similarly situated at the mouth of a river and which draw their water supplies from inlets in the lake.

Investigation disclosed that the water supply, which is drawn from the Jake, is threatened and occasionally polluted by the sewage from the city which is discharged into Root river, which in turn discharges in to the lake. Pollution was found to exist for about two and a half miles from the shore, although the distance is variable, depending upon the influence of winds, lake drift, the volume of flow in the river and the effect of severe storms.

The water filtration plant recommended is of the mechanical type designed to filter and sterilize at least six million gallons of lake water daily. The sewage collected by the intercepting sewer system would consist of the normal or dry weather flow, which would be raised by electric pumps and delivered to the disposal plant. For this plant it is recommended that an area of not less than twenty-five acres be purchased. The plant itself is recommended to consist essentially of screens, tanks, dosing contact beds and sprinkling filters, the first installation having a capacity of ten million gallons a day.”

Commentary: Racine found itself entangled in the Sewer Pipe, Water Pipe Death Spiral that I have described in my book The Chlorine Revolution to be published in the spring of 2013. Chicago found itself with the exact same problems and solved them in part by chlorinating their water supply to break the Death Spiral. It appears that Mr. Alvord recommended a vast change in the way Racine conducted the business of sanitation—build an intercepting sewer, a sewage disposal plant and a water filtration plant. I am in favor of Mr. Alvord’s multi-barrier approach to public health protection.

References: Daniels, Francis E. 1914. “Operation of Sewage Disposal Plants.” Municipal Journal. 38:21, November 19, 1914, 735.

“Sanitary Policy for Racine.” 1914. Municipal Journal. 38:21, November 19, 1914, 740.

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