September 6, 1893: Houston Water Supply Contaminated

September 6, 1893:  The Houston Daily Post ran a series of investigative articles about the Water Works Company and the pollution in Buffalo Bayou–an early surface water supply for the City of Houston, Texas. In a September 6, 1893 article, Houston Cotton Exchange officials charged that the bayou was “an immense cesspool, reeking with filth and emitting a stench of vilest character.” The newspaper noted in 1895 that a dozen privies, a smallpox graveyard, a dead cow, oil mill, and cattle yards had been sighted in the waters above the Water Works’ dam. In another article later that year, reporters wrote that cattle from the Southern Oil Mill stockyards were discovered wading in the bayou alongside decomposing cow carcasses. A drain from the mill ran directly into the bayou creating additional unsanitary conditions. “It is our opinion that the use of this water is a menace to the lives of the people of this community,” avowed the investigative reporters.

Commentary:  How many dead cows per liter are allowed before a water supply can be considered unfit?

Update:  With the devastation of the Houston by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, it is astonishing that water service in Houston was never lost, nor was a boil water order ever issued. Houston OBVIOUSLY made a lot of improvements in their water supply over 124 years.

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