Monthly Archives: December 2019

December 30, 1908: Spring Water Supply for Abilene

View of Spring and Pumping Station From Across the Smoky Hill River

December 30, 1908:  Municipal Journal and Engineerarticle–Spring Water Supply of Abilene. By A.C. Romig, City Engineer. “The source of water supply for the city of Abilene, Kan., is a remarkably strong spring of pure, soft water located on the left bank of Smoky Hill River, four miles west of Abilene, fifty feet north of the shore line and one foot above low-water mark in the river to the surface of the spring. It is on the line of the old Fort Riley and Santa Fe trail, and on the present route of three Trans-Continental lines of railway….In the late [eighteen] forties, during the California gold fever, and in the fifties and sixties, this point was a noted camping ground for emigrants crossing the plains, and at an earlier date a resting place for the Indians in their migration north and south, who attached to the spring a multiplicity of Indian folk-lore and superstitions, and poured into the waters of the spring oblations in propitiation of their god Mantau.

In order to control and utilize this water, we found it necessary to build a wall…around the spring 30 feet in diameter, and to make it 29 feet high to carry it above the high water mark. In excavating for the foundation we struck bed rock at a depth of four feet and found the water issuing from a crevice between two slabs of limestone rock….

From data obtained in 1889 by measuring the end area, the length of channel and the velocity of current in the channel of discharge, we computed the output of the spring at 1,036,000 gallons per day….We think we have an ample supply for many years to come, and the acme in purity of running water…

This is a wholesome drinking water; it contains excellent, soft appetizing mineral ingredients, and is of great organic purity, as is shown by the very small amount of albumenoid ammonia and organic matter amounting to not much more than traces.”

Reference: “Spring Water Supply of Abilene.” (1908). Municipal Journal and Engineer. 25:27(December 30, 1908): 924.

The home built by Fred Mehl outside of Abilene, Kansas.

December 29, 1855: Birth of William T. Sedgwick

December 29, 1855:William T. Sedgwick is born. William Thompson Sedgwick (December 29, 1855, West Hartford – January 25, 1921, Boston) was a key figure in shaping public health in the United States. He completed his college education at the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale University in 1877 and received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1881. He taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1883 until his death in 1921, aged 65, initially as Associate Professor (1884), as tenured Professor (1891) and eventually as head of the department of Biology and Public Health. Also, he was curator of the Lowell Institute from 1897 on.

Sedgwick was the first president of the Society of American Bacteriologists (now American Society for Microbiology) in 1899-1901.” He was a mentor to George Warren Fuller and George C. Whipple who would both go on to notable careers in water and wastewater technology.

Reference: “William Thompson Sedgwick.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_T._Sedgwick, retrieved December 27, 2012.

December 28, 1918: Minneapolis Filtration; 1918: Influenza Pandemic

Water filtration beds at the original filtration plant at Columbia Heights.

December 28, 1918:  Municipal Journalarticle—Water Filtration at Minneapolis. “The Minneapolis water filtration plantconsists of a 7.5-million-gallon sedimentation basin, four coagulation basins, sixteen filter beds. and a 45-million-gallon covered clear-water reservoir. The water is treated with sulphate of alumina, thoroughly mixed and coagulated and allowed to settle, after which it is filtered by rapid sand filters. After filtration it is treated with chlorine gas. It is planned to provide a plant for softening the water which will involve the construction of appliances for softening, filtration and semi-direct pumping of the water….

Some interesting figures on the effect of the use of filtered water upon the health of the community are reported. For thirteen years prior to the filtration of the city supply (which went into service in 1913), the average death rate from typhoid fever per 100,000 population was 31. Since the city began using filtered water, the rate has been reduced to an average of 9, the rate for 1916 having been 5 per 100,000. The book value or cost of the filtration plant is given as $963,709.”

December 28, 1918:  Municipal Journalarticle—To Investigate Cost of Influenza. “Harrisburg, Pa.-An investigation is to be conducted by the state department of health into the cost of the epidemic of influenza, which has taken 47,000 lives. Dr. B. Franklin Royer, acting state health commissioner, has announced that every phase of the social and economic cost of the disease will be surveyed. Doctor Royer has sent letters to men and women in charge of the work of fighting the epidemic in various parts of the state and asked that the information desired be returned at once to the department. ‘Professor J. P. Lichtenberger, of the Wharton School of Finance, of the University of Pennsylvania’ he said, ‘has been engaged by the department to undertake this work, and a large corps of clerks, stenographers and other officers of the state department of health have been designated to cooperate in gathering the data….’” Commentary:  In the midst of a national construction push for more filtration plants, the U.S. was devastated by the influenza pandemic. It has been estimated that 500,000 to 675,000 people died in the U.S. alone and 20 to 50 million people worldwide.

Reference: “Water Filtration at Minneapolis.” Municipal Journal. 45:26(December 18, 1918): 502-4.

December 27, 1822: Birth of Louis Pasteur

December 27, 1822:  Birth of Louis Pasteur.“Pasteur was a French chemist and self-taught microbiologist who was one of the most important founders of medical microbiology. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and preventions of diseases. His discoveries reduced mortality from puerperal (or childbed) fever, and he created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax. His experiments and writings were responsible for the definition of the germ theory of disease. He was best known to the general public for inventing a method to stop milk and wine from causing sickness, a process that came to be called pasteurization. He is regarded as one of the three main founders of microbiology, together with Ferdinand Cohn and Robert Koch.”

December 26, 2004: Tsunami Devastates Indonesia and Many Other Countries

Countries affected by 2004 tsunami

December 26, 2004:  Massive earthquake and deadly tsunami devastate Indonesia and other countries.“The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea megathrust earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC (about 0800 local time) on Sunday, 26 December 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.…

The earthquake was caused by subduction and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing over 230,000 people in fourteen countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 meters (98 ft) high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.

Banda Aceh, Indonesia before tsunami

With a magnitude of Mw 9.1–9.3, it is the third largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph. The earthquake had the longest duration of faulting ever observed, between 8.3 and 10 minutes. It caused the entire planet to vibrate as much as 1 centimetre (0.4 inches) and triggered other earthquakes as far away as Alaska. Its epicentre was between Simeulue and mainland Indonesia. The plight of the affected people and countries prompted a worldwide humanitarian response. In all, the worldwide community donated more than $14 billion (2004 US$) in humanitarian aid.”

Banda Aceh, Indonesia after tsunami

Commentary:  Unfortunately, the 2004 Indonesian Tsunami has been the biggest water history story world-wide so far in the 21stcentury.

December 25, 1908: Drought Cartoon; 1913: Water Stories Wrapped Up in a Bow

December 25, 1908:  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.

December 25, 1913:  A number of interesting water stories from the pages of the Municipal Journal.

Hetch Hetchy Dam

Hetch-Hetchy Bill Signed.“Washington, D. C.-The bill giving the city of San Francisco the right to secure its water supply from Hetch Hetchy Valley, in Yosemite National Park, to which considerable objection has been taken, was signed by President Wilson. President Wilson attached a statement to the bill in which he set forth his reasons for signing it: he is of the opinion that the pressing public needs of San Francisco will be best served, and that the usefulness of the park will not be impaired.” Commentary:  This is the bill that killed John Muir one year and one day later.

Investigate Possible Sources of Water Supply.“Sacramento, Cal.-It was decided by the City Commission to begin an investigation of possible sources of mountain water supply beginning January 1st. The work will be in charge of City Engineer Albert Givan. The investigation will be of a preliminary nature and will occupy three months. The cost is limited to $2,400. Three men will be employed to analyze the waters of the middle and south tributaries of the American River, the middle and south tributaries of the Cosumnes River and the Mokelumne River. Gauge measurements also will be made. The total cost of the investigation is expected to reach $10,000.” Commentary:  We know now, of course, that the city decided to tap the American River in the city limits. The Mokelumne River was left to the East Bay Municipal Utilities Department to develop as a water resource.

Sewer Work in Watertown N.Y.“Watertown, N. Y.-There are 46.2 miles of sewer within the city at the present time, according to totals secured by City Engineer Earle W. Sayles in figuring up the work done this season and in previous years….Mr. Sayles believes that by the expenditure of $5,000 for its purchase and maintenance the city could secure a sewer cleaning machine which would result in fixing up some of the old sewers in the city and cause a big saving. There are in use in the city at the present time some sewers that are close to a half-century old.” Commentary:  They had aging infrastructure problems in 1913!

Combining Municipal Water Systems.“Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va., neighboring cities, have municipal water works systems, each of which has been found to be reaching the limit of its resources, especially for meeting unusual demands; and the cities are now considering an arrangement for combining the plants for the mutual benefit of both. The consulting engineer of the Norfolk Water Commission, Allen Hazen, in a communication to the commission points out a number of advantages which would he obtained by such combination.

According to the conditions as outlined by him, the two systems would in an important measure supplement each other. This is because of the fact that the Norfolk system contains a storage capacity which is larger than is warranted by the tributary drainage area, while on the other hand the Portsmouth drainage area supplies more water than it has storage capacity to fully utilize. Commentary:  Once again the outstanding engineer, Allen Hazen, steps in to solve a thorny water problem at the beginning of the 20thcentury.”

Reference:  Municipal Journal. 1913. 35:26(December 25, 1913): 856, 866-7.

December 24, 1896: Large Centrifugal Pump; 1914: Death of John Muir

December 24, 1896:  Engineering Newsarticle–A Large Direct-Driven Centrifugal Pump. “We illustrate herewith a centrifugal sewage pump designed and built for the city of Norfolk, Va., by the Morris Machine Works, Baldwinsville, N. Y. The pump has 20-in. suction and 18-in. discharge, the latter connected to a 20-ln. piping. The actual head worked against Is 26 ft., but when the pump is driven to Its maximum capacity, discharging about 9,000 gallons of water per minute and forcing It through the discharge pipe, which is 1,600 ft. long, the total head pumped against Is equivalent to about 5 ft….

The sewage and drainage from the city flows into a well from which the pump takes its supply, discharging it in the river. The side and sectional views, Fig. 2, show the construction of the pump. The runner is made completely of bronze, so as to withstand the corroding action of sewage and the gases contained therein.”

Commentary: Great pump. Unfortunately, they used it to pump raw sewage into the river, which was a common occurrence in the 1890s. Sewage treatment plants were rare during this period. It would take several decades before sewage treatment was the rule instead of the exception.

Reference: “A Large Direct-Driven Centrifugal Pump.” Engineering News. 36:26(December 24, 1896): 421.

December 24, 1914:  John Muir dies.“John Muir (21 April 1838 – 24 December 1914) was a Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States. One of the most well-known hiking trails in the U.S., the 211-mile (340 km) John Muir Trail, was named in his honor. Other places named in his honor are Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach, John Muir College, Mount Muir, Camp Muir and Muir Glacier.

In his later life, Muir devoted most of his time to the preservation of the Western forests. He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing both Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Because of the spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings, he was able to inspire readers, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large nature areas. He is today referred to as the “Father of the National Parks,” and the National Park Service produced a short documentary on his life.”

Commentary:  Dam construction to create the Hetch Hetchy water supply for San Francisco in Yosemite National Park was approved by Congress in early December of 1913.  This was a major defeat for Muir and some say that it affected his health so much that he died of a broken heart.