May 22, 1854: Birth of Leonard P. Kinnicutt

May 22, 1854: Birth of Leonard P. Kinnicutt. In 1909, Leonard P. Kinnicutt was Professor of chemistry and director of the chemical laboratory at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1875 from MIT and spent several years in Germany studying under well-known chemists including Professor Bunsen. He completed his Doctor of Science degree at Harvard in 1882. Despite the title of his position and his education, he identified himself as a water bacteriologist. He was experienced in bacteriological analysis of water supplies and he studied sewage disposal for a number of cities.

In 1899, Jersey City, New Jersey contracted for the construction of a new water supply on the Rockaway River, which was 23 miles west of the City. The water supply included a dam, reservoir and 23-mile pipeline and was completed on May 4, 1904. As was common during this time period, no treatment (except for detention and sedimentation fostered by Boonton Reservoir) was provided to the water supply. City officials were not pleased with the project as delivered by the private water company and filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Court of New Jersey. Among the many complaints by Jersey City officials was the contention that the water served to the City was not “pure and wholesome” as required by the contract.

In 1909, Kinnicutt testified as an expert for the defendants in the second trial. He stated that chlorine was safe, effective and reliable. He was recruited by a letter from Dr. John L. Leal in the summer of 1908. Sadly, he also died only two years after his participation in this case.

Reference: McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

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