Monthly Archives: January 2018

#TDIWH—January 20, 1916: Lowell, Mass. Filtration Plant and Watertown, NY Water Supply

January 20, 1916:  Municipal Journal article–New Filtration Plant Completed. “Lowell, Mass.-The city’s new $225,000 filtration plant is now in operation. The building is of concrete, with red tile roof, and is artistic in design. The filtration or purification plant is located on the north side of the boulevard, immediately opposite the lower pumping station. It consists of six coke prefilters, 10 feet in depth and two-fifths of an acre in total area; a settling basin, divided into two units, with a total capacity of 500,000 gallons; six sand filters, with a total area of one acre; and a filtered water reservoir of 1,000,000 gallons capacity. All of the operations involved are controlled in the building shown in the accompanying illustration, where are contained the main valves and recording apparatus. At the rate of 75 million gallons per acre per day through the prefilters. and a 10 million gallon rate through the sand filters the areas provided have a capacity of a 10-million gallon daily output. Allowing for cleaning and for the possible desirability of a lower rate through the coke, the plant is believed to be ample for an average daily supply of 7,500,000 to 8,500,000 gallons, or-if the past growth of the population holds in the future-sufficient for the needs of the city until 1935.”

January 20, 1916:  Municipal Journal article–Engineers’ Report on Water Supplies. “Watertown, N. Y.-The report of Hazen, Whipple & Fuller, the consulting engineers, who for several months past have been investigating available sources from which Watertown might secure its water supply has been presented to city officials. The report is an exhaustive one and is supplemented by maps of the available areas prepared under the direction of the engineers. Four possible sources aside from the one now used are considered in the report, and, while no recommendations are made, statistics of the cost of the works and cost of maintenance all of which are embodied in the report, show that the possible supply from the north branch of Sandy Creek is the most satisfactory and least expensive. The report shows that the proposed Pine Plains source would not furnish a sufficient supply of water from wells alone. While the city at the present time consumes approximately 6,000.000 gallons of water a day, the commissioners decided before the survey started that no supply would he considered satisfactory unless it would furnish at least 12.000,000 gallons per day. This would assure a supply that could be used without addition for many years to come.”

Reference: “Engineers’ Report on Water Supplies.” 1916. Municipal Journal. 40:3(January 20, 1916): 82-3.

Advertisements

#TDIWH—January 19, 1918: Canton, Mississippi Well and Syracuse, NY Sewage Disposal

January 19, 1918:  Municipal Journal article–Well Drilling by Canton Water Department. “The superintendent of the Canton, Miss., electric light and water works, J. T. Sharp, Jr., furnishes the following information, with accompanying photograph, describing work done recently in drilling a new well for the water supply. The water works is owned and operated by the city under a commission, being now in its 13th year. A complete well-drilling outfit forms a part of its equipment, by which the city is able to drill deep wells and do any well repairing that is necessary. Two sources of supply are available to the city, one at 1,020 ft. deep which will rise 12 ft. above the surface, and another at a depth of 375 ft. which will rise to a level of 14 ft. below the surface. A well tapping the latter supply drops only 23 ft. when yielding 300 to 350 gallons per minute, or to a point 37 ft. below the surface.”

Imhoff Tank Sewage Treatment Plant under construction, 1912

January 19, 1918:  Municipal Journal article–“State Demands Adequate Sewage Disposal. Syracuse, N. Y.-Demands that the city proceed immediately to carry out an acceptable plan for disposing of its sewage have been made upon mayor Walter R. Stone and the intercepting sewer board by the state department of health. The state refuses to permit the city to put off for another year the adoption and carrying out of a plan whereby sewage will be removed from Onondaga creek and the barge canal harbor. All of the city’s sewage now flows directly into the harbor and while it will not become objectionable within a year, it must be diverted without unnecessary delay. According to Henry C. Allen, city engineer, the city is only awaiting the result of tests now being made by Glenn D. Holmes, chief engineer of the intercepting sewer board, to determine whether the activated sludge or aerated-filter system js best suited to conditions.”

Reference:  Municipal Journal. 1918. 44:3(January 19, 1918) 56, 59.

#TDIWH—January 18, 1825: Birth of Sir Edward Frankland; 1911: Sewer Explosion, Spitters and Sanitary Sewers

Sir Edward Frankland

January 18, 1825:  Birth of Sir Edward Frankland. “English chemist who was one of the first investigators in the field of structural chemistry, invented the chemical bond, and became known as the father of valency. He studied organometallic compounds – hybrid molecules of the familiar organic non-metallic elements (such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus) with true metals. By 1850, he had prepared small organic molecules containing such metals as zinc. Subsequently, he devised the theory of valence (announced 10 May 1852), that each type of atom has a fixed capacity for combination with other atoms. For his investigations on water purification and for his services to the government as water analyst, Frankland was knighted in 1897.”

Commentary:  Frankland applied his theoretical discoveries directly to the analysis of water.

January 18, 1911:  Several interesting stories from the Municipal Journal and Engineer. “Sewer Explosion. Erie, Pa.-An explosion occurred in a sewer at the intersection of Twelfth and Cranberry streets, Jan. 4. Manhole covers were thrown high in the air, the roadway was torn up and telegraph poles thrown down. The explosion is attributed to gas or gasoline.

Anti-Spitting Ordinances to Be Rigidly Enforced. Walla Walla, Wash.-Chief of Police Mike Davis has announced that hereafter the anti-spitting ordinance will be rigidly enforced. By way of warning the large Red Cross anti-spitting cards will again be posted conspicuously about the city. One of the most impressive of these is the following: “A world without careless spitters would soon be a world without consumption.”

Commentary: While this is a blog about the history of water, it should be realized that at the same time that engineers and city leaders were trying to build treatment plants and sewage disposal facilities, they were also battling the scourge of tuberculosis. The anti-spitting campaign was one of the chief weapons in that fight.

Sanitary Sewer Connections with Storm Sewers Condemned. Duluth, Minn.-In the annual report which he filed with Health Commissioner H. E. Webster, Plumbing Inspector George Kreager strongly recommends a discontinuance of the practice of allowing sanitary sewer connections to be made with storm sewers. He declares that it has come to be a most serious problem to the city. He states that in the dry season the stench from the catch basins of storm sewers which have sanitary sewer connections emptying into them is ‘awful.’”

Reference:  Municipal Journal and Engineer. 30:3(January 18, 1911) 90-1.

#TDIWH—January 17, 1896: Drought Cartoon; 1994: Northridge Earthquake Damages Los Angeles Infrastructure; 1900: Missouri v Illinois over Chicago Sewage; 1856: Charles V. Chapin Born; 1859: Death of Lemuel Shattuck

January 17, 1896:  Drought Cartoon. The Los Angeles Times has published cartoons over more than 100 years that depict the many droughts that California has suffered and the reactions to them. Here is one that I think you will enjoy.

January 17, 1994:  Northridge earthquake does significant damage to water infrastructure in Los Angeles. “The Northridge earthquake was an earthquake that occurred on January 17, 1994, at 04:31 Pacific Standard Time and was centered in the north-central San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, California. It had a duration of approximately 10–20 seconds….In addition, earthquake-caused property damage was estimated to be more than $20 billion, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history….Numerous fires were also caused by broken gas lines from houses shifting off their foundations or unsecured water heaters tumbling. In the San Fernando Valley, several underground gas and water lines were severed, resulting in some streets experiencing simultaneous fires and floods. Damage to the system resulted in water pressure dropping to zero in some areas; this predictably affected success in fighting subsequent fires. Five days after the earthquake it was estimated that between 40,000 and 60,000 customers were still without public water service.”

Commentary:  One of the most memorable sights from the earthquake aftermath was the massive natural gas fire occurring while water was spewing from a huge water main break (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA1m3UgJ8nU).

Breaking the Dam on the Canal

January 17, 1900: Fifteen days after Chicago opened the Sanitary and Ship Canal and reversed the course of the Chicago River to discharge sewage into the Mississippi River, Missouri sued Illinois, “…praying for an injunction against the defendants from draining into Mississippi River the sewage and drainage of said sanitary district by way of the Chicago drainage canal and the channels of Desplaines and Illinois river.”

The Bill of Complaint alleged in part:

“That if such plan is carried out it will cause such sewage matter to flow into Mississippi River past the homes and waterworks systems of the inhabitants of the complainant…

That the amount of such undefecated [huh?] sewage matter would be about 1,500 tons daily, and that it will poison the waters of the Mississippi and render them unfit for domestic use, amounting to a direct and continuing nuisance that will endanger the health and lives and irreparably injure the business interests of inhabitants of the complainant…

That the water of the canal had destroyed the value of the water of the Mississippi for drinking and domestic purposes, and had caused much sickness to persons living along the banks of said river in the State of Missouri.”

The opinion in the case was written by Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes and read in part:

“The data upon which an increase in the deaths from typhoid fever in St. Louis is alleged are disputed. The elimination of other causes is denied. The experts differ as to the time and distance within which a stream would purify itself. No case of an epidemic caused by infection at so remote a source is brought forward and the cases which are produced are controverted. The plaintiff obviously must be cautious upon this point, for if this suit should succeed many others would follow, and it not improbably would find itself a defendant to a bill by one or more of the States lower down upon the Mississippi. The distance which the sewage has to travel (357 miles) is not open to debate, but the time of transit to he inferred from experiments with floats is estimated at varying from eight to eighteen and a half days, with forty-eight hours more from intake to distribution, and when corrected by observations of bacteria is greatly prolonged by the defendants. The experiments of the defendants’ experts lead them to the opinion that a typhoid bacillus could not survive the journey, while those on the other side maintain that it might live and keep its power for twenty-five days or more, and arrive at St. Louis. Upon the question at issue, whether the new discharge from Chicago hurts St. Louis, there is a categorical contradiction between the experts on the two sides.”

Commentary:  In effect, Justice Holmes ruled in favor of Chicago. The experts for St. Louis had failed to prove their case.

Reference:  Leighton, Marshall O. 1907. “Pollution of Illinois and Mississippi Rivers by Chicago Sewage: A Digest of the Testimony Taken in the Case of the State of Missouri v. the State of Illinois and the Sanitary District of Chicago.” U.S. Geological Survey, Water Supply and Irrigation Paper No. 194, Series L, Quality of Water, 20, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Charles V. Chapin

January 17, 1856:  Charles V. Chapin was born. “Charles Value Chapin (January 17, 1856 – January 31, 1941 in Providence) was a pioneer in public-health practice, serving as one of the Health Officers for Providence, Rhode Island between 1884 and 1932. He also served as President of the American Public Health Association in 1927. His observations on the nature of the spread of infectious disease were dismissed at first, but eventually gained widespread support. His book, The Sources and Modes of Infection, was frequently read in the United States and Europe. The Providence City Hospital was renamed the Charles V. Chapin Hospital in 1931 to recognize his substantial contributions to improving the sanitary condition of the city of Providence.”

Commentary:  Chapin defined the new public health movement at the beginning of the 20th century. His career expressed the advances in public health that we all now take for granted.

January 17, 1859:  Lemuel Shattuck died in Boston. “Lemuel Shattuck was born on October 15, 1793 in Ashby, Massachusetts… He is remembered as a public health innovator, and for his work with vital statistics. Shattuck was one of the early prime-movers of public hygiene in the United States. With his report to the Massachusetts Sanitary Commission in 1850, he accomplished for New England what such men as Chadwick, Rarr, and Simon had done for England. There had been in the United States few advances in public health aside from a few stray smallpox regulations until this report. Shattuck’s report pointed out that much of the ill health and debility in the American cities at that time could be traced to unsanitary conditions, and stressed the need for local investigations and control of defects.

Shattuck was a prime mover in the adoption and expansion of public health measures at local and state levels. In 1850, he published a Sanitation Report that established a model for state boards of health in Massachusetts (1869) and other parts of the United States….”

#TDIWH—January 16, 1806: Death of Nicolas Leblanc; 1913: Chicago Drainage Canal Decision

January 16, 1806:  Death of Nicolas Leblanc. “French surgeon and chemist who in 1790 developed the process for making soda ash (sodium carbonate) from common salt (sodium chloride). This process, which bears his name, became one of the most important industrial chemical processes of the 19th century. In the Leblanc process, salt was treated with sulphuric acid to obtain salt cake (sodium sulphate). This was then roasted with limestone or chalk and coal to produce black ash, which consisted primarily of sodium carbonate and calcium sulphide. The sodium carbonate was dissolved in water and then crystallized. The Leblanc process was simple, cheap, and direct, but because of the disruption of the French Revolution, he profited little from it. He died by suicide in 1806.”

Commentary:  Soda ash is one of the common treatment chemicals used in precipitative water softening plants.

January 16, 1913:  Engineering News editorial– Far Reaching Decision Respecting the Use of the Chicago Drainage Canal. “The denial by the Secretary of War of the application of the Sanitary District of Chicago for authority to withdraw 10,000 cu. ft. per sec. from Lake Michigan in place of the 4167 ft. authorized by a previous Secretary which we print in full elsewhere in this issue, seems to leave Chicago only two alternatives. Either it must fight the question out in Congress, and if successful there which is very doubtful, it must then fight it out again in a probable arbitration proceeding between the United States and Canada with possibilities of a fight with navigation and other interests in the courts as well. Otherwise Chicago must, at an early date, begin the construction of a plant to purify its sewage, at least partially, before discharging it into the drainage canal, and this plant must eventually become one of the largest sewage-treatment plants in the world.

The necessity for purifying its sewage arises not alone from the doubt whether the city will be permitted to permanently divert from Lake Michigan even the amount of water it is now taking but because the towns and cities along the course of the Illinois River will be apt to begin litigation if Chicago sends its sewage past their doors diluted with a smaller proportion of water than that agreed upon when the state legislation authorizing the construction of the sanitary canal was enacted.”

Reference:  “Far Reaching Decision Respecting the Use of the Chicago Drainage Canal.” Engineering News. 69:3(January 16, 1913): 125.

Commentary:  Even 13 years after the opening of the Chicago Drainage Canal, it was clearly a large point of contention between Chicago and its neighbors to the south. Ultimately, of course, Chicago had to build one of the largest sewage treatment plants in the world.

#TDIWH—January 15, 2009: PFOA Provisional Health Advisory; 1917: Death of William J. Magie

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

January 15, 2009:  On January 15, 2009, the USEPA set a provisional health advisory level for PFOA of 0.4 parts per billion in drinking water. “Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8 and perfluorooctanoate, is a synthetic, stable perfluorinated carboxylic acid and fluorosurfactant. One industrial application is as a surfactant in the emulsion polymerization of fluoropolymers. It has been used in the manufacture of such prominent consumer goods as Teflon and Gore-Tex. PFOA has been manufactured since the 1940s in industrial quantities. It is also formed by the degradation of precursors such as some fluorotelomers.

PFOA persists indefinitely in the environment. It is a toxicant and carcinogen in animals. PFOA has been detected in the blood of more than 98% of the general US population in the low and sub-parts per billion range, and levels are higher in chemical plant employees and surrounding subpopulations. Exposure has been associated with increased cholesterol and uric acid levels, and recently higher serum levels of PFOA were found to be associated with increased risk of chronic kidney disease in the general United States population, consistent with earlier animal studies. ‘This association was independent of confounders such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, and serum cholesterol level.’”

Boonton Reservoir Hypochlorination Station

January 15, 1917:  Death of William J. Magie. 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. William J. Magie was selected by Vice Chancellor Frederic W. Stevens to hear the second part of the case in which the use of chlorine for disinfection was a contentious issue.  One might assume that someone relatively junior might be appointed as the Special Master to hear the highly technical and excruciatingly long arguments from both sides of the case.  Not so.  William Jay Magie was one of the most revered judges of this time period.  He took the role of Special Master in 1908 after completing 8 years as Chancellor of the Court of Chancery.  Prior to that, he was a member of the New Jersey Senate (1876-1878), Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court (1880-1897) and Chief Justice of the same court from 1897 to 1900. (Marquis 1913)

“As a trial judge his cases were handled with notable success, as he had ample experience in trying causes before juries and a just appreciation of the worth of human testimony…” (Keasbey 1912) Judge Magie would need all of his powers of appreciation of human testimony in the second trial, which boiled down to which of the expert witnesses could be believed when both sides marshaled some of the most eminent doctors, scientists and engineers in the land.

Judge Magie was born on December 9, 1832 in Elizabeth, New Jersey and lived his life in that town.  He graduated from Princeton College in 1852 and studied law under an attorney in Elizabeth.  He was admitted to the bar of New Jersey in 1856.  At the time of the second trial in 1909 he was 77 years old and near the end of his distinguished career.

On May 9, 1910, William J. Magie submitted his Special Master Report. One of Magie’s findings was of critical importance to the defendants because he laid to rest the concern that chlorine was a poison that would harm members of the public who consumed the water.

“Upon the proofs before me, I also find that the solution described leaves no deleterious substance in the water. It does produce a slight increase of hardness, but the increase is so slight as in my judgment to be negligible.” (Magie, In Chancery of New Jersey, 1910)

The Special Master Report then delivered the finding that defendants had been waiting for:

“I do therefore find and report that this device is capable of rendering the water delivered to Jersey City, pure and wholesome, for the purposes for which it is intended, and is effective in removing from the water those dangerous germs which were deemed by the decree to possibly exist therein at certain times.” (emphasis added) (Magie, In Chancery of New Jersey, 1910)

Magie’s finding summarized in this one sentence approved the use of chlorine for drinking water. After this ruling, the use of chlorine for drinking water disinfection exploded across the U.S. (McGuire 2013)

In a filing after Magie’s final decree, compensation for Judge Magie was noted as $18,000 for the entire second trial with its 38 days of testimony over 14 months, dozens of briefs and hundreds of exhibits.  It must have been the hardest $18,000 he ever earned.

References:

  • Keasbey, E.Q. (1912). The Courts and Lawyers of New Jersey, 1661-1912. Vol. 3, New York:Lewis Historical Publishing Co.
  • Magie, William J. (1910). In Chancery of New Jersey: Between the Mayor and Aldermen of Jersey City, Complainant, and the Jersey City Water Supply Co., Defendant. Report for Hon. W.J. Magie, special master on cost of sewers, etc., and on efficiency of sterilization plant at Boonton, Press Chronicle Co., Jersey City, New Jersey, (Case Number 27/475-Z-45-314), 1-15.
  • Marquis, Albert N. (1913). Who’s Who in America. 7, Chicago:A.N. Marquis.
  • McGuire, Michael J. (2013). The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

#TDIWH—January 14, 1829: First Slow Sand Filter in England

January 14, 1829:  The first slow sand filter in England was put into operation by James Simpson. “Best known of all the filtration pioneers is James Simpson. He was born July 25, 1799, at the official residence of his father, who was Inspector General (engineer) of the Chelsea Water Works Co. The house was on the north bank of the Thames, near the pumping station and near what was to become the site of the filter that was copied the world over. At the early age of 24, James Simpson was appointed Inspector (engineer) of the water company at a salary of £300 a year, after having acted in that capacity for a year and a half during the illness of his father. At 26, he was elected to the recently created Institution of Civil Engineers. At 28, he made his 2,000-mile inspection trip to Manchester, Glasgow and other towns in the North, after designing the model for a working-scale filter to be executed in his absence. On January 14, 1829, when Simpson was in his thirtieth year, the one-acre filter at Chelsea commonly known as the first English slow sand filter, was put into operation….

Skepticism as to the wholesomeness of filtered water in 1828 and Simpson’s reassurances on the subject are amusing today. At the hearing before the Royal Commission a member asked whether any persons had been in the habit of drinking the water filtered on a small scale. ‘Yes,’ answered Simpson. Had they complained of the water ‘being insalubrious, giving them cholic or any other complaints?’ To this, the engineer replied that none of the more than 100 men working on the ground (presumably on the permanent filter) had complained of the filtered water…Fish, the commission was assured, did not die in the filtered water. Simpson willingly admitted that ‘water may contain so many ingredients chemically dissolved, that filtration will not purify it.’ Asked whether the discharge from King’s Scholars Sewer could be ‘so filtered as to be fit to drink,’ Simpson cannily said he had never tried it. Asked whether filtration would remove bad taste from water, Simpson replied that ‘Thames water has a taste according to season, of animal and vegetable matter’; filtration ‘seems to deprive it of the whole of that, and we cannot discover it after it has passed the bed.’”

Commentary:  It is a good thing that fish did not die in the filtered water. That would have been the end of the sanitary engineering profession.

Reference:  Baker, Moses N. 1981. The Quest for Pure Water: the History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. 2nd Edition. Vol. 1. Denver, Co.: American Water Works Association, 99, 109.