Monthly Archives: February 2019

February 16, 1974: Chlorine Shortage

February 16, 1974:  New York Timesheadline– Chlorine Shortage: Threat to Drinking Water. “LINCOLN, Neb.-The nation faces a threat to its safe drinking water that could grow into a serious crisis it .steps are not taken soon to head it off. The problem traces back to the chlorine shortage that has been building since early 1973.”

Wilmington Star-News Headline-Chlorine Shortage May Affect Cities. “An Environmental Protection Agency official said Tuesday some municipalities will be hit this year by a shortage of chlorine to purify drinking wager, but that the supply should improve in 1975. Deputy Administrator John T. Rhett urged approval of legislation giving the government standby authority to impose a mandatory allocation system on the industry ‘to cope with serious shortage situations if such should develop during 1974.’

Rhett told a Senate Commerce subcommittee that chlorine was forecast ‘to be in short supply throughout most of 1974 if current economic conditions continue.’…The manager of the Denver Water Department said he has had difficulty obtaining a adequate supply of chlorine and warned that the health of ‘literally millions of Americans is threatened unless immediate action is taken’ on a mandatory allocation bill.”

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February 15, 1917: Sewer Pipe Failures

Vitrified clay pipe (15-inch diameter) crushed by improper backfill conditions

February 15, 1917:  Municipal Journal editorial. Sewer Pipe Failures. “There is probably no type of structure or kind of material that was not at some time figured in a more or less complete failure. In most cases such failure is due to carelessness or ignorance in the use of the material and not to the fault of the material as such. Concrete bridges have failed, so have steel and wooden ones; yet each properly used has given most satisfactory service in hundreds of cases to one in which it has failed.

The same comments apply to the failures of sewer pipe described in this issue. Thousands of miles of vitrified pipe and hundreds of miles of cement pipe (the latter having come much more recently into general use) have given and are giving satisfaction in the sewerage systems of this and other countries. That there have been failures is only a repetition of the history of all materials. But it is desirable to occasionally call attention to such failures as a caution against careless or ignorant use of the materials, or to enlist all those interested in a study of the cause of the failure.

In the case of the vitrified pipe it appears from the illustration, that the pipe was laid close to the surface of a street carrying heavy traffic (assumed from the fact that the street was paved with stone block), that the reconstructed base over the trench failed to support the load, which was thereupon transmitted to the pipe.

In the case of the cement pipe, the reason is not so apparent; but it would seem probable that that advanced by the engineer is correct-that the pipe was sufficiently porous to permit ground water to pass through it, and that in doing so it dissolved certain constituents of the cement (or possibly of the sand or broken stone used as aggregate). It is certainly desirable that the cause be ascertained in order that the manufacturers of cement pipe may avoid its future occurrence.

Reference: “Sewer Pipe Failures.” 1917. Municipal Journal 42:7(February 15, 1917): 237.

February 14, 1884: Teddy Roosevelt’s Mother Dies of Typhoid

Mittie Roosevelt

February 14, 1884:1884, Martha Bullock (“Mittie”) Roosevelt, mother of Theodore Roosevelt, died of typhoid fever.“Roosevelt was at work in the New York state legislature attempting to get a government reform bill passed when he was summoned home by his family. He returned home to find his mother, Mittie, had succumbed to typhoid fever. On the same day, his wife of four years, Alice Lee, died of Bright’s disease, a severe kidney ailment. Only two days before her death, Alice Lee had given birth to the couple’s daughter, Alice.

The double tragedy devastated Roosevelt. He ordered those around him not to mention his wife’s name. Burdened by grief, he abandoned politics, left the infant Alice with his sister Bamie, and, at the end of 1884, struck out for the Dakota territories, where he lived as a rancher and worked as a sheriff for two years. When not engrossed in raising cattle or acting as the local lawman, Roosevelt found time to indulge his passion for reading and writing history. After a blizzard wiped out his prized herd of cattle in 1885, Roosevelt decided to return to eastern society. Once back in New York in 1886, he again took up politics and took over raising his precocious daughter, Alice, who later became a national celebrity.”

February 13, 1913: Cleveland Sewage Treatment

February 13, 1913:  Engineering Newsarticle. Sewage Disposal Investigations at Cleveland. By R. Winthrop Pratt. “SYNOPSIS-Preparatory to the design of sewage-treatment works for Cleveland, Ohio, a series of tests is being made of various methods of treating the sewage. The causes leading up to the decision to treat the sewage, and to make the tests before building the proposed works are outlined and then the testing station is described. The station includes grit chambers, screens and tanks for preliminary treatment, rapid filters or scrubbers, sprinkling filter, auxiliary settling tanks, and a disinfection plant for final treatment; tanks for dilution studies; sludge digestion tanks and sludge-drying beds, and an office and laboratory….

On July 25, 1905, the city appointed a commission of experts, consisting of Rudolph Hering, George H. Benzenberg and Desmond FitzGerald to study the general question of improved water-supply and sewerage for the city. This commission, about six months later, submitted a report in which was recommended:

(1) The extension of the water-works tunnel to a point about four miles from the shore.

(2) The construction of an intercepting sewer system to collect the sewage from the entire city and discharge the same into Lake Erie, at a point about 10 miles east of the Cuyahoga River. This intercepting sewer was to be designed to carry twice the dry-weather flow from one million people, on the basis of 200 gal. per capita, or a total of 400 gal. per capita per day. This plan involved several overflows into the lake and river to take care of the discharge in excess of the above amount.

(3) The construction of a river flushing tunnel and pumping equipment for the purpose of pumping clean lake water into the river above all local pollution, was recommended by two members of the commission.”

Reference: Engineering News 1913. 69:7(February 13, 1913): 287.

February 12, 1914: Detroit Sewer Gas Explosion and Front Royal Water Supply

February 12, 1914:  Municipal Journalarticle. Damaging Sewer Gas Explosion. “Detroit. Mich.-An explosion of gas in the 18th street sewer has sent manhole covers flying skyward, torn up pavements, shattered windows, and wrecked outbuildings in the western part of the city. The district affected covered a dozen or more blocks. No one was seriously injured, but there were scores of narrow escapes from death as the heavy pieces of iron and paving blocks fell back to the ground. Damage to pavements is estimated at $25,000, while the loss to private property probably will exceed that amount.”

February 12, 1914:  Municipal Journalarticle. State Board Commends Water System. Front Royal, Va.-Officers of the State Board of Health who have just made an inspection of the new water supply of Front Royal, expressed high commendation of the system in a statement recently issued. The valley town, they declare, now has one of the best water supplies of the state and can guarantee to all visitors absolute freedom from water borne diseases. Front Royal has proceeded to install its new water supply with very creditable foresight. The town is almost ideally situated for good health and now is in a pos1t10n to protect its water beyond possible contamination. The system just installed includes a coagulation basin, gravity mechanical filters, storage basins for the filtered water, and as an extra precaution, apparatus for sterilizing the water before it is turned into the mains. The work is of concrete with the most modern and up-to-date appliances and the total cost, $17,000 was borne by the town without a bond issue. Since the first of the year the people have been getting a supply of clear, sparkling and pure water of the highest quality. The capacity of the plant is 1,000,000 gallons per day, or more than twice as much as the town now uses.

Reference: Municipal Journal 1914. 36:7(February 12, 1914): 213.

February 11, 1915: Detroit Metering and Burst NYC Water Main

Vintage Bronze 1909 Water Meter

February 11, 1915:Municipal Journalarticle. Metering in Detroit. Detroit, Mich.-“Superintendent Theodore A. Leisen and the water board are asking for about $561,000 to complete the installation of meters. About 21,000 are now in service and about 100,000 are needed altogether. The water officials contend that the cost and maintenance of the system fully metered would be less than at present. The inspection cost would increase, admits Mr. Leisen, and the revenue would not increase-but the pumpage would be materially decreased, affecting a saving in coal and the danger of immediate need of new sources of supply would be put off. The present consumption is 170 gallons per capita and Mr. Leisen says that 50 gallons of this is avoidable waste. A new chlorine purifying plant is to be installed.”

February 11, 1915:Municipal Journalarticle. Burst Main Floods New York Theatre Section. New York, N. Y.-“The bursting of a 30-inch main near the heart of the theatre district broke up the pavement in several blocks, put many passers-by in danger and flooded the basements of all the buildings in the area. The lights were put out and the residents of the section were forced to vacate the houses by the police because of danger of undermining. Traffic was suspended. By turning off the mains and then turning them on the broken one was finally discovered. Commissioner Woods and Inspector Dwyer were in charge of the police. Thirty men from the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity under Merrit T. Smith, chief engineer, and Engineer Byrne ripped up the streets to locate the exact spot of the break. Damage to the flooded cellars is estimated at about $100,000.”

Reference: Municipal Journal 38:6(February 11, 1915): 194.

February 10, 1907: Colorado River Levee Repaired—End of Salton Sea Influent Supply; 1990: Perrier Water Recalled

Railroad trestles built across the breach; used to dump rock into the breach

February 10, 1907:  Colorado River Levee Repaired. In late 1904, water from the Colorado River started leaking from irrigation ditches built for the Imperial Valley into what would become the Salton Sea. After a flood on the Colorado River, the sea filled, and it would take two years of effort with many missteps to close the breach and control withdrawals from the River.

Commentary:  There are several accounts of how the breach in the banks of the Colorado River was repaired. One account by Laflin puts the repair date as January 27, 1907. Another by Kennan stated that the dumping of rock from the first trestle began on January 27 and was completed on February 10, 1907. Go to the January 27 blog post for Laflin’s account. Thanks to Ellen Lloyd Trover for bringing this to my attention. Here is Kennan’s version.

Dumping rock to heal breach in Colorado River levee

“The crevasse, at that time, was 1100 feet wide, with a maximum depth of forty feet, and the whole current of the Colorado was rushing through it and discharging into the basin of the Sink about 160,000,000 cubic feet of water every hour…

…so the Southern Pacific engineers determined to build two railway trestles of ninety-foot piles across the break, and then, with a thousand flat cars and “battleships,” bring rocks and dump them into the river faster than they could possibly be swallowed up by the silt or carried downstream. Three times, within a month, the ninety-foot piles were ripped out and swept away and the trestles partly or wholly destroyed; but the pile-drivers kept at work, and on the 27th of January the first trestle was finished for the fourth time and the dumping of rock from it began…

The crevasse was closed and the river forced into its old bed on the 10th of February 1907, fifty two days after President Roosevelt appealed to Mr. Harriman, and fifteen days after the first “battleship” load of rock was dumped from the first completed trestle.”

Reference:  Kennan, George. 1917. The Salton Sea:  An Account of Harriman’s Fight with the Colorado River.” New York:MacMillan.

February 10, 1990:  New York Timesheadline— Perrier Recalls Its Water in U.S. After Benzene Is Found in Bottles. by George James “The company that made bottled mineral water chic is voluntarily recalling its entire inventory of Perrier from store shelves throughout the United States after tests showed the presence of the chemical benzene in a small sample of bottles.

The impurity was discovered in North Carolina by county officials who so prized the purity of Perrier that they used it as a standard in tests of other water supplies.

The Food and Drug Administration said it is testing supplies in California and other states. In a written statement issued last night, Ronald V. Davis, president of the Perrier Group of America Inc., said there was no significant health risk to the public. But the statement did not go into the details of the recall, how it would work, the number of bottles to be recalled and the impact on a company that has built its success on its product’s image of purity and stylishness.

William M. Grigg, a spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration, said his agency’s Hazard Evaluation Board had collected samples of Perrier and found no immediate risk to the public from the benzene in the water.”