Monthly Archives: August 2019

August 22, 1908: New Sewage Pumping Station for Washington DC

August 22, 1908:  The Engineering Recordarticle. The New Sewage Pumping Station, Washington, DC. “The pumping station is…housed in a 138 x 304-ft. structure that is located centrally in a 200 x 6oo-ft. plot, between the lower extensions of New Jersey Ave. and Second St. and between N St. and the river. It is of steel frame and brick construction, with trimmings in light stone. The design of the building has been rendered particularly attractive architecturally for the purpose of concealing to a degree the purpose for which the station is intended, and the grounds surrounding the station have, in fact, been carefully parked and attractively laid out, rendering the structure a decided advantage to the locality….

The design of the sewage pumping equipment has, like that of the revised sewerage system…and the outfall, been based on the requirements for the handling of the dry weather sewage flow from a population of 1,000,000 inhabitants in the city. There are installed five sewage pumps in all, which have an aggregate capacity of about 360 cu. ft. of sewage per second, which is, however, a capacity largely in excess of the present normal requirements. Two of the sewage pumps are, in fact, reserve equipments, the flow capacity of the outfall line being but 250 cu. ft. per second.”

Commentary:  This pumping station was a monster. It is hard to imagine the amount of money it cost. It is also hard to imagine that the sewer system could not have been designed to obviate the need for this incredible white elephant. While many other water infrastructure structures have survived since 1908, nothing remains today of this behemoth. I see the hand of pork barrel politics in here somewhere.

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August 21, 1939: Manteno State Hospital Typhoid Epidemic; 2003: Anthony Andrews Water Intoxication

Old people were dumped at the hospital by their families

August 21, 1939:  Manteno State Hospital TyphoidEpidemic.A report written by the Illinois Department of Public Health “is concerned with various public-health aspects of an epidemic of typhoid fever which occurred in a State hospital for the mentally ill at Manteno, Illinois, in 1939, involving 453 cases  and resulting in 60 deaths. Although the epidemic began early in August, and continued into October, the material incorporated in the report was gathered, for the most part, subsequent to August 21, and the report covers  a period of several months after the subsidence of the epidemic…

A Department of Public Health sanitary engineer arrived at the institution on August 21 and proceeded with preliminary surveys on sanitary conditions at the institution. A Department of Public Health physician and a bacteriologist also arrived at the institution on August 21, and from that date through the remainder of the epidemic representatives of the Department of Public Health were present at the institution at all times. It soon became evident that a thorough and complete investigation of the cause of the epidemic, and the development and execution of measures to control it, would require the services of many persons experienced in public-health work…

Old People were dumped at the hospital by their families

As a result of these investigations, it appears that there was not only an outright leakage of sewage from the sanitary sewers into the creviced limestone, but also that this sewage seeped through the limestone and found its way into the wells which supplied the institution with water. Up until August 19, the water from these wells was pumped directly into the institution distribution system without treatment.”

Commentary:  Besides the tragedy of the typhoid fever epidemic, there were the additional tragedies of old people being dumped at the hospital after their families declined to care for them any longer. As far as I can tell, this was the last waterborne typhoid fever epidemic in the U.S. that resulted in multiple deaths. A later outbreak in a South Florida Labor Camp in January 1973 infected at least 173 people but no one died because of the improved medical care that was available at that time.

Anthony Andrews

August 21, 2003:  Actor Anthony Andrews almost dies of water intoxication. The Telegrapharticle. My Battle with the Bottle. “Actors must expect their excessive drinking habits to be breakfast table gossip, especially if they become too intoxicated to perform. But the curious case of Anthony Andrews, whose addiction to water almost killed him, must rank as one of the more bizarre forms of theatrical unwellness.

In a way, it would have been more understandable if Andrews had knocked himself out of the cast of My Fair Lady on vodka. The role of Professor Henry Higgins is a demanding one, and we can all think of actors who’ve lubricated their performances on stronger cordials than rose hip syrup. Not for Andrews the predictability of a few weeks in rehab with anything as common as alcohol abuse. He ended up, comatose, in intensive care for three days, with the dubious distinction of having put water on the nation’s list of dangerous substances.

“In my naivety, I’d never have thought in a million years that I was running the risk of killing myself with water,” he says. “I can hardly believe I am saying it. I thought I was the healthiest person in the world.”

Andrews has to rely on other people for the full account of his recent near-death experience. He has no recollection of what happened after signing autographs at the stage door in the West End and collapsing into his car after the second Saturday performance of My Fair Lady at the end of June. When he came round, three days later, surrounded by his loved ones, the muscles of his face and neck were locked and he was dimly aware that no one could quite make sense of what he was saying. On top of everything else, he’d developed an allergy….

As temperatures soared during the midsummer run of My Fair Lady, Andrews’s three-litres-a-day habit increased to five or six litres as he struggled to refresh his vocal cords. Parched, he would rush back to his dressing room between songs and glug another half-litre. On days when there was a matinee as well as an evening performance, he probably got through eight litres of water – all the while assuming he was doing himself good.”

August 20, 1831: Birth of Eduard Suess; 1914: Disinfection of Sewage Plant Effluents

Edward Suess

August 20, 1831:Birth of Eduard Suess, Austrian geologist.
He developed the plan for a 69-mile (112-kilometre) aqueduct (completed 1873) that brought fresh water from the Alps to Vienna. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/571632/Eduard-Suess

At the age of nineteen he published a short sketch of the geology of Carlsbad and its mineral waters…n 1862 he published an essay on the soils and water-supply of Vienna http://www.nndb.com/people/266/000097972/

In 1864, the Vienna City Council voted the construction of the First Vienna Spring Water Main, which to this day covers approximately 40 percent of Vienna’s water requirements. It was planned by the geologist and City Council member Eduard Suess and implemented under Mayor Cajetan Felder. The main was to safeguard adequate drinking water supply even for the suburbs and to improve its quality, thereby excluding any further health hazards for the population.

After a construction period of only three years, the First Vienna Spring Water Main was inaugurated on 24 October 1873 by Emperor Francis Joseph I concurrently with the Hochstrahlbrunnen Fountain in Schwarzenbergplatz. The pipeline is 120 kilometres long, cost 16 million Gulden to build and soon became a symbol of Vienna’s liberation from water shortages and dangers of epidemics. In residential buildings, the formerly used domestic wells were gradually replaced by communal water taps. In 1888, over 90 percent of residential buildings situated within Vienna’s (then) municipal territory were already connected to the new main.

http://www.wien.gv.at/english/environment/watersupply/supply/history/first-pipeline.html

August 20, 1914:  Municipal Journalarticle. Operation of Sewage Disposal Plants—Disinfection. “Having determined upon the size of the dose, the next thing is to apply it to the sewage or effluent at a uniform rate. The best practice is to dissolve the required number of pounds in a given amount of water and feed the solution at a definite rate proportional to the flow of liquid to be disinfected. This is not so simple as one might at first suspect. Several things have to be looked out for. The commercial dry powder varies in strength and loses strength considerably when exposed to the air. There must be sufficient water to dissolve out the hypochlorite, and care must be used in mixing the solution. The solution is corrosive and acts on tanks, piping, valves, etc., and it also forms incrustations which cause frequent stoppages in pipes, valves and feeding devices.

Unless it is feasible to analyze each lot of bleach, it should be bought with the available chlorine specified by the dealer. As the material deteriorates upon opening, the contents of a whole container should be mixed at once if possible. In many plants, however, this cannot be done; in such cases the unused material must be kept tightly covered in a cool dry place. While the larger sized containers hold about 700 pounds, at a slight increase in price hypochlorite can be obtained in 350-pound or 100-pound drums, and in many cases the smaller sizes are to be preferred, both because of convenience in handling and to avoid the keeping of large quantities exposed to the atmosphere.

In the mixing of the bleach, the active hypochlorite is dissolved while the inert lime and other insoluble impurities remain. Usually the bleach is thoroughly mixed with a small amount of water into a paste or cream so as to break up the lumps, then more water is added and the whole transferred to the solution tank, and agitated until a thoroughly homogeneous solution is obtained.

As it is very important that the solution be of the same strength throughout, and as this mixing is a laborious process, a power mixer should always be installed except, perhaps, for very small quantities. After all the hypochlorite has been dissolved and the solution once properly stirred up, the strength remains the same throughout the tank.

In some plants the contents of a whole container of bleach are washed out into the solution tank by means, of a stream of water from a hose, and the whole agitated until a thorough solution is obtained. In the mixing, care must be used to get the material thoroughly broken up and agitated so that all the hypochlorite will be dissolved or else a considerable amount of material will be wasted. The writer has known of over fifty per cent waste, due to improper methods of mixing. He has suggested a mixer in the form of a mill or grinder, so that the bleach could be fed through and ground with a stream of water. This he believes would break up lumps and hasten the process.

One should not attempt to dissolve too much hypochlorite in a given amount of water. The solubility of bleach is only about five per cent, and a five per cent solution is difficult to obtain and difficult to handle. It is much better, when possible, to use a weaker solution, say two or three per cent. It is usually better to keep the solution the same strength by mixing the required number of pounds according to the strength of the dry powder, and to vary the dose by changing the feeding device. A rod should be laid off, showing the number of pounds to be used for different depths of water in the tank, from the top down, so that if all of the solution is not run out the rod will show immediately the number of pounds to be used for the amount of water necessary to fill up the tank.”

Commentary:  This article was published about six years after the startup of the chloride of lime (calcium hypochlorite) feed system ordered by Dr. John L. Leal and built by George Warren Fuller at Boonton Reservoir—see schematic of Fuller’s chemical feed system below. The description of the chloride of lime feed system for sewage treatment plants (above) is very similar to the one shown below. The article is also quite honest about the many problems with using chloride of lime as a source of chlorine to disinfect water. None of these issues were brought to light during the optimistic testimony given by Leal and the other defendant witnesses at the second Jersey City trial. Over time, chloride of lime feed systems were replaced with pressurized systems feeding chlorine gas from storage tanks of liquid chlorine stored under pressure.

August 19, 1908: Passaic River Pollution Case

1895 Map of Paterson, NJ. Note how the Passaic River practically surrounds the city.

August 19, 1908:  Municipal Journal and Engineerarticle. Stream Pollution Decisions. “In the State of New Jersey an award was recently made by Vice-Chancellor Stevens of the State Court of Chancery in the case of damages claimed to be caused by the pollution of the Passaic river, which introduced some novel methods which may probably be accepted as a precedent in other cases. The city of Paterson discharges sewage into the stream and, the Courts of the State having ruled that riparian owners below the outlets could not claim damages unless the stream received more sewage than it could dilute to an inoffensive condition, no action was taken at first. In time, however, it became evident that a nuisance was being created and complaints to the Paterson Board of Health, to the State Board of Health and to the Legislature having resulted in no abatement of the same, owners of about twenty of the riparian properties, each from 150 to 600 feet deep, brought a suit for injunction to restrain the city from damaging the property owners. The court ruled that an injunction which would prevent the city from using its sewers would work a far greater injury than that being suffered by the property owners, and ordered that instead the city should pay damages in amounts to be settled by a Court of Equity.

Action in such a court was accordingly brought and the city agreed that it would cease polluting the river in the manner complained of within five years from that time. The matter therefore resolved itself into a determination of the amount of damages inflicted upon the owners from the time the damage began until the time promised for its discontinuance. In fixing the first date a large amount of testimony, both expert and otherwise, was taken by the court; but the former, calculated to show what amount of sewage can be discharged into a stream without creating a nuisance, was apparently considered of minor importance by the court. The testimony of the property owners indicated that not until 1892 did the condition of the river have any appreciable influence on the use of the stream for fishing or bathing, but that from then on the evidence of sewage pollution became marked. This date was, accordingly, accepted by the court as that when the damage began, although the plaintiff endeavored to have it made earlier on the ground of the water being rendered unfit for drinking purposes as soon as sewage began to be discharged into it. This last contention was not admitted, however, as there was already such danger from other communities before the Passaic sewers were built.

The fixing of the amount of damages was even more complicated and difficult than determining their duration. The city contested that it was not responsible for contamination due to storm water from the streets, and the court admitted this to a degree only, holding that the city was not responsible for such storm water as flowed over the surface to the river, but was responsible for that discharged thereinto through the sewers. The contention of the city that it should not be held responsible for such injury as would have been done the river by a city of the same size as Paterson, but without sewers, was not admitted by the court. It was also contended that the industrial establishments of the city should stand their proportionate parts of whatever award was made, and although the court appeared to consider the city as responsible for about three-fourths of the total pollution and the industries for one-fourth, it does not appear to either admit or deny this contention, probably leaving this for settlement between such industries and the city.”

Commentary: This case shows the evolution of legal and scientific thought on river pollution after the turn of the 20thcentury. Note that the concept of dilution was losing favor as the impacts of sewage discharge into a watercourse were becoming better understood. Also it is interesting to note the discussion of stormwater and its impact on surface water quality. I believe that rulings such as this and new laws passed by the states were the defining events that led to an improvement in the water quality of rivers in the U.S. The judge in this case was Frederic W. Stevens who as vice chancellor of the Chancery Court of New Jersey was handling, at the same time, the case between Jersey City and the private water company that built the new water supply at Boonton Reservoir.

Dr. John L. Leal had interests in both cases. For ten years (1890 to 1899), he was the public health officer for Paterson, New Jersey. In his last few annual reports to the mayor, he urged that a solution to the water contamination from Paterson sewage discharges on the Passaic River be pursued. Ultimately, an intercepting sewer was built along the Passaic River, which collected all manner of domestic and industrial waste for discharge into New York Harbor. Eventually, a sewage treatment plant was built to treat the wastes. Leal’s involvement as an expert witness in the Jersey City lawsuit is covered in my book, The Chlorine Revolution.

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

August 18, 1894: Desert Land (Carey) Act Signed

Milner Dam, 1905. One of the first Carey Act projects in Idaho, Library of Congress.

August 18, 1894:  Desert Land (Carey) Act Signed to Encourage Irrigation in the West.       On August 18, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed the Desert Land Act of 1894, better known as the Carey Act. Sponsored by Wyoming Senator Joseph M. Carey, the Act was meant to improve the success rate for the settlement of the public lands. The law specifically addressed the millions upon millions of acres in the western states that required irrigation for productive farming—the so-called ‘arid lands.’

The Act authorized the Federal Land Office to transfer up to a million acres of arid public lands to individual states that established approved reclamation programs. States would cover expenses by charging fees and selling the land at nominal prices, with the real incentive being the expected increase in tax revenue.

Development companies proposed, designed, and built suitable irrigation projects. They profited by selling water to the settlers, at rates determined in negotiations with the state reclamation office. The development company did not ‘own’ the land itself—technically. However, these firms could place liens on the land and the associated water rights to protect their capital investments so the effect was basically the same.

In 1908 through 1910, developers initiated forty new Carey Act project in Idaho. No other state approaches Idaho in the exploitation of the Carey Act and later related legislation. By one reckoning, 60% of all U.S. acreage irrigated by Carey Act projects is in Idaho.

August 17, 1918: Save Water and Win the War

August 17, 1918:  Municipal Journaleditorial. Save Water and Help Win the War. “If nineteen cities of New York State would cut down their consumption to an average of 100 gallons per capita (which is probably more than is necessary) the result would be a saving of 75,000 tons of coal a year. Almost anyone who lived through last winter in the northern part of the country would have welcomed a minute fraction of one per cent of this amount last February, and may again next winter. It is, however, no longer the mere saving in dollars, although this alone would be well worth while (75,000 tons represents interest at 5 per cent on about six million dollars), but it may mean that much coal released for use in munitions factories, ships or other factors in the prosecution of the war.

The above figures are discussed more at length in an article in this issue referring to a campaign in New York State to effect a saving in coal by reducing waste of water, and similar efforts are being made by numerous other cities, following the attempt made by Municipal Journala few weeks ago to arouse water works superintendents to this opportunity and duty. The Committee on Water Supply of the New York Conference of Mayors has sent to the water works officials of the cities of that state suggestions for bulletins to be printed in the local daily papers, which might well be made use of by cities in other states as well. One is devoted to arguments in favor of metering; another to suggestions of ways in which waste can be avoided. Among these suggestions are the following:

Have all leaky pipes and fixtures repaired immediately, and keep them in good order.

When closing your house for any period of time, see that the water is turned off to insure against a leak occurring during your absence.

Do not neglect leaking toilets and faucets. Large amounts of water are wasted through small leaks which you may think too insignificant to warrant attention. A leak 1/32 of an inch in diameter wastes 8 gallons an hour or over 5,000 gallons a month.

If care is exercised, when installing piping, to keep the hot and cold water pipes at least a foot apart, it will be unnecessary to “let the faucet run to get a cold drink.”

Don’t let water run to get it cold. Use ice, or draw some water off into a receptacle and put in a cool place.

Do not allow roof tanks to overflow. Eliminate this waste by providing tanks with ball cocks.

Don’t leave faucets open on cold nights this winter to prevent freezing of water pipes. Start now to have your pipes properly protected.

A stream 1/4 of an inch in diameter will waste 514 gallons an hour or over 370,000 gallons a month.

To determine the presence of hidden leaks, consumers whose services are metered should occasionally close all outlets and observe the meter to see if it registers or not.

Don’t keep the faucet open while you are washing or bathing. Draw off as much as you need and then turn off the faucet.

It costs just as much for coal, oil and equipment to pump and filter water that is wasted as it does to furnish water for useful purposes.

A gallon of water saved just now will help Uncle Sam to win the war.”

Commentary:  Truly an astonishing editorial when viewed from 95+ years later. Curbing water waste today is considered to be part of our duties as good citizens and stewards of the environment. Water/energy savings are also mentioned today but for reasons that involve saving the planet from global climate change. I guess I am having trouble wrapping my brain around the concept of saving water so that we can make more bullets.

August 16, 1933: Chicago Amoebic Dysentery Outbreak Begins

Entamoeba histolytica

August 16, 1933:  First day of amoebic dysentery outbreak at the Chicago World’s Fair. American Journal of Public Health editorial.“There are many reasons why the outbreak of amebic dysentery in Chicago in 1933 still holds intense interest. Some of these are practical and some scientific. On the practical side it will be recalled that the Exposition for 1934 opened in May. Already some of the daily papers are asking whether precautions have been taken to make the city safe for visitors, and repeating the charge that the news last year was suppressed. On the scientific side it must be pointed out that, as far as we have been able to determine, this is the first epidemic of the sort which has ever been recorded. The health officers had an entirely new problem to deal with, and there is no question that it took them by surprise, as it did everyone else. The paper read before this Association on October 9, 1933, attracted little attention; so little, in fact, that a prominent officer of the Public Health Service who heard it went back to Washington and did not even mention it. Some days later the report of a physician in Indianapolis that there were 5 or 6 cases of the disease in that city, all traceable to Chicago, gave the first intimation of its seriousness. Following this, on November 25, came from Boston what was probably the first information which showed how widespread the infection was, cases in Canada and elsewhere being reported. There was no official publication from the Board of Health of Chicago, as such, until November 18, though on November 14, the radio was used.

The health authorities of Chicago have been blamed severely for suppression of the news and it has been charged that it was done in order not to scare visitors away from the Exposition. A careful and what we believe to be an unbiased investigation fails to substantiate such a motive, though the facts are as just stated.

It must be remembered that very few of these cases occurred in Chicago, two having been reported on August 16, the date which the authorities fixed as the beginning of the outbreak. Owing to the period of incubation, which has been fixed by several observers on epidemiological evidence as from 12 to 30 days for the majority of cases, and even longer for others, visitors had arrived home in Canada and various parts of the United States before being taken sick. Doctors have all been taught that amebic dysentery is a tropical disease, and were not looking for it. Various diagnoses, such as appendicitis, colitis, ulcerative colitis, etc., were made. Operations for appendicitis were entirely too frequent, and the evidence shows that the majority of deaths have occurred among those who were operated on under mistaken diagnoses. Up to January 24, 1934, 721 clinical cases of amebic dysentery in 206 cities have been found and traced to Chicago, in addition to which, 1,049 carriers have been found in Chicago. Ninety-four per cent of the cases detected were guests at either Hotel C or A. Hotel A obtained its water from a tank on the roof of Hotel C. This water had been used for cooling and air conditioning purposes before being pumped to the roof. On January 22, a committee met in Chicago for 6 days and heard reports. Their conclusions have entirely changed the picture if they are accepted. In the meantime engineers have studied the situation, and several men who are specialists in the study of tropical diseases have been called upon.

As early as November 22, the hotels incriminated were directed to improve their plumbing arrangements. The Board of Health has had some 15 engineers or technical assistants making an intensive study of the water and sewage systems of the hotels involved. It must be said that they were in a mess. Like Topsy, the system has just “growed,” without noticeable planning. The house engineers have been in the habit of making repairs and additions without notifying the city. The inspection of hotels is not what it should be. Several city departments have inspectional powers, such as the Building Department, Fire Department, License Department, Department of Gas and Electricity, Smoke Inspection Department, Department for the Inspection of Steam Boilers, Department of Public Works, and Board of Health. It would seem that concentration of responsibility might have led to better results. Since the depression and the bankrupting of the city by the former administration, there is a shortage of inspectors, and even new work is scarcely kept up with, much less watching old work, repairs, alterations, etc. The evidence is that two hotels were responsible for 94 per cent of the cases detected. Careful charts have been made showing the dates of registration of the visitors and the dates when their bills were paid, as well as the appearance of the symptoms and the course of the disease as far as possible. If any considerable number of cases have occurred in the city, they have not been detected.

The hotels involved have been ordered to rearrange entirely their plumbing systems and to install new works throughout. The older part of the chief hotel dates back to the time when steel pipe was considered the best material for such work. The sanitary sewer pipes were found to be badly corroded, so that the writer pushed a five cent kitchen fork through the main pipe. Many leaks existed and, in a number of places, wooden plugs now badly rotted had been used to stop holes. Unfortunately, the sanitary sewer which carried some 62 per cent of the load of the hotel passed directly above the tank in which water was refrigerated for the dining rooms and the floors….”

Commentary:  When I was an undergraduate, my textbooks referred to treatment methods to remove Entamoeba histolyticafrom drinking water. I was always confused about this because I had not heard why this pathogen was such a problem. The editorial from the American Journal of Public Health in 1934 reproduced above (almost in its entirety) gives much of the needed detail about the problem. It appears clear that the outbreak was caused by a cross connection between the sewer system and the drinking water system and that it affected two hotels. I particularly like the visual image of pushing a fork through a corroded sewer pipe. Another report noted that some cases of the disease probably occurred as early as June 1933. A total of 98 deaths were attributed to the outbreak.