Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

January 19, 1918:  Municipal Journalarticle–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.”

January 19, 1918:  Municipal Journalarticle–“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.

September 1, 2019: Milestone for This Day in Water History

As of today, I have been posting this daily blog for seven years which (as of today) totals 2,519 posts. I have 643 followers who get notifications of the daily posts in their emails. The blog has been viewed over 250,000 times which is amazing to me. I tag each blog post and not surprising the most used tags are water, water history, public health and drinking water.

Many thanks to all of the people who have enjoyed exploring water history, one day at a time!

March 18, 1915: Chlorination at Bubbly Creek Filtration Plant

Chicago, Union Stockyards, 1908

March 18, 1915:  Engineering Newsarticle. Liquid Chlorine at the Bubbly Creek Water-Filtration Plant. By C. A. Jennings. “The Bubbly Creek filter plant at the Chicago Stock Yards set the lead in the use of hypochlorite of lime in this country for water disinfection. This was during the summer of 1908. Subsequently experiments were begun at this plant with an electrolytic cell for the production of chlorine from salt brine. These experiments were carried out very extensively and thoroughly. The writer finally concluded that in comparison with hypochlorite and liquid chlorine, the production of chlorine for water disinfection by means of an electrolytic cell was expensive, uncertain and demanded considerable attention.

Very recently a liquid-chlorine apparatus was purchased. Chlorine is received in cylinders that hold 105 lb. of the liquefied gas. From the experience gained by operating this apparatus during the past month the writer has concluded that in comparison with the use of hypochlorite at the Bubbly Creek filter plant–

  1. There is considerably less labor involved.
  2. The absorption of the gas by the water is more rapid.
  3. There is no loss of chlorine, and smaller quantities can be used to accomplish equivalent results.
  4. There is no deterioration of the chlorine in the cylinders while using or while stored.
  5. The changing of the rate of application is easily, quickly and accurately accomplished.
  6. There is no odor of chlorine about the plant.
  7. The cost is considerably less.

Reference:  Jennings, C.A. 1919. “Liquid Chlorine at the Bubbly Creek Water-Filtration Plant.” Engineering Newsarticle 73:11(March 18, 1915): 555.

Commentary:  Jennings is one of the engineers who spread the myth that chlorination of water at the Bubbly Creek plant was somehow a breakthrough for water disinfection. Publications by him and the man who wrongly claimed credit for the first use of chlorine in drinking water (George A. Johnson) resulted in Dr. John L. Leal not receiving the proper credit for his work at Boonton Reservoir on the Jersey City, New Jersey water supply in 1908. The water from the Bubbly Creek plant was fed to cows and pigs and was not considered suitable for human consumption.

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.

November 11, 1990: Underground Tanks in New York; 1991: Bottled Water Use in NYC

November 11, 1990New York Times headline–State Is Taking Action On Underground Tanks. “Through one of the strictest programs of its type in the country, the State Department of Environmental Protection has forced the replacement of 12,000 underground gasoline tanks that were leaking or were so old that they were in danger of leaking. Now the state is going after the 350 to 400 old tanks it estimates are still in use, including some of its own.

‘In the last three years, more tanks have been replaced at gasoline stations in Connecticut than in the previous 30,’ said Charles S. Isenberg, executive vice president of the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association.

Unearthing the tanks has shown that more were leaking than the state anticipated — as many as 80 percent, compared with the expected one-third — said G. Scott Deshefy of the environmental agency’s underground-tank program.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s coordinator for Connecticut, Jonathan M. Walker, said the program has become a model for other states. Even in cases where the tanks are in good shape, he said, the inspections are revealing leaks from pipes.”

Scare tactics have been employed by unscrupulous individuals trying to sell bottled water.

November 11, 1991New York Times headline–It’s Wet, Free and Gets No Respect. “In the tea department of Fortnum & Mason, which has guided the palates of England for 300 years, a few rules must never be broken: drink only premium blends; keep air out of the canister, and brew your beverage with the finest water available — New York City’s if possible.

It may surprise the people who live in the city, having turned to bottled water in numbers that mystify even those who are paid to sell it, but New York’s tap water remains as good as it gets. Just ask an expert.

‘Naturally, there are many fine reasons to visit New York,’ said Eugene Hayes, director of the tea department at Fortnum & Mason in London, which among its dozens of specialty offerings carries a dark Ceylon brand called New York Blend. ‘But I would have to say one of the best is the water.’

For generations, New Yorkers rejoiced in the high quality of their drinking water, which runs swiftly and practically untouched to their faucets from the peaks of the Catskills 100 miles away. But that trust has disappeared during the last 10 years, eroded by an epidemic of nervousness that has left many people convinced that water with a label has to be better than water from a pipe.”

CommentaryMy how times have changed. Bottled water is given failing marks these days because of the cost and impact on the environment. Good old tap water gets high marks.

November 1, 1836: Birth of Hiram Mills; 1952: Cuyahoga River Catches Fire…Again

November 1, 1836Birth of Hiram Francis Mills.“Born in Bangor, Maine, in the year 1836 and receiving his early schooling there, the young Hiram Mills moved on to the newly-established Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute to be graduated before he was twenty. When he was in his middle thirties he was appointed Chief Engineer of the Essex Company, the corporate owner of the Merrimack River dam at Lawrence, Massachusetts. Ever research-minded, Mr. Mills induced the Essex Company to set up an outdoor laboratory on the riverbank below the power dam. Here was installed a long pipe of large diameter — stoutly supported and shed-covered — by means of which Mills proposed to carry out new and accurate measurements of water flow under varying structural conditions.

In the year 1886…he was appointed a member of the recently reorganized State Board of Health. At the first meeting he was chosen by his associates to be chairman of the Board’s Committee on Water Supplies and Sewage, and from hydraulics, Hiram Mills’ chief scientific concern in life turned to sanitation.

The law of 1886, re-creating the State Board of Health, empowered the members to investigate methods for the disposal of sewage, and Hiram Mills lost little time in seeing that the law’s intent was carried out. As the place for his projected studies in the best practical methods for safe sewage disposal, he persuaded the Essex Company to lend to Massachusetts — for a nominal rental — the experimental plant the company had created for his hydraulic researches. With State funds, a modest laboratory building was added to the existing structures, and the whole was renamed the Lawrence Experiment Station — the first research enterprise of its kind in our country.

It may fairly be said that the investigations which Mills was to plan and carry through to conclusion in this physically limited and always economically equipped plant laid the foundations for many of the scientific methods of treatment of municipal and industrial wastes. Instead of investing in elaborate equipment and costly facilities, Mills invested in brains, as frequently he was pleased to point out. To man his researches, Mr. Mills drew upon the faculty and recent graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and thus employing their varied scientific skills, he perfected a unique investigating team whose inventiveness and productiveness are not likely to be seen again.” (edited by MJM)

Members of the research team included George W. Fuller, Allen Hazen, William T. Sedgwick, and Thomas M. Drown.

November 1, 1952: Cuyahoga River catches fire. “In 1952, leaking oil from the Standard Oil Company facility was accused of creating, ‘the greatest fire hazard in Cleveland,’ a two inch thick oil slick on the river. In spots, the slick spanned the width of the river. Although many companies had taken action to limit oil seepage on the river, others failed to cooperate with fire officials.

It was only a matter of time before disaster struck. On the afternoon of November 1, 1952, the Cuyahoga ignited again near the Great Lakes Towing Company’s shipyard, resulting in a five-alarm fire. (Many sources incorrectly put the date of the fire at November 3, 1952) The next morning’s Cleveland Plain Dealer led with a banner headline, ‘Oil Slick Fire Ruins Flats Shipyard.’ Photos taken at the scene are incredible; the river was engulfed in smoke and flame. Losses were substantial, estimated between $500,000 and $1.5 million, including the Jefferson Avenue bridge. The only reason no one died was that it started on a Saturday afternoon, when few shipyard employees were on duty.”

Commentary: There was a long history of fires on the Cuyahoga—by one count a total of 13 with the first occurring in 1868. Other fires of note occurred in 1868, 1883, 1887, 1912, 1922, 1936, 1941, and 1948. A relatively minor fire on June 22, 1969 was reported nationwide and became part of the impetus for passing the Clean Water Act in 1972.

Milestones for This Day in Water History

An anniversary happened on September 1, 2018, that I did not mention but deserves some recognition. As of that date, I have been posting this daily blog for six years which (as of today) totals 2,157 posts. I have 572 followers who get notifications of the daily posts in their emails. The blog has been viewed 207,746 times which is amazing to me. I tag each blog post and not surprising the most used tags are water, water history, public health and drinking water.

Many thanks to all of the people who have enjoyed exploring water history, one day at a time!

July 5, 2013: Tel Aviv Water War

July 5, 2013:  Every summer the city of Tel Aviv cools off with a big water fight: the Tel Aviv Water War. 2013 was the ninth year that this event has taken place, and each year it gets bigger and better with thousands of residents and visitors taking part in the unique event in Kikar Rabin in the center of town. In a weird way, the stability and consistency of the water war, has stood as an annual tradition amid an ever-changing world, and ever-changing region! The 2013 Tel Aviv Water War took place on Friday July 5, 2013 at 3:15pm. In 2014, the water war took place on July 4.

The Tel Aviv Water War is of course, free to enter. Be sure to bring your best beach clothes. The Tel Aviv Water War is a totally unique Tel Aviv event! It couldn’t happen anywhere else in the world like it does here!

APOLOGY

On February 1, I tried a new posting system for this blog and it resulted in the folks following me and expecting email delivery to not get their deliveries. I apologize for the mistake and confusion this has caused. I will be going back to the old blog publishing system tomorrow, March 12. Many thanks to all of my faithful readers. 

Mike McGuire

November 28, 1837: Birth of John Wesley Hyatt.

1128 John W HyattNovember 28, 1837: Birth of John Wesley Hyatt. Hyatt was an inventor who developed new materials and machines that resulted in hundreds of patents. He is mostly known for his invention of a commercially viable way of producing solid, stable nitrocellulose, which he patented in the United States in 1869 as “Celluloid.” However, he was one of the early developers of commercial filtration systems in the U.S. He invented improvements to mechanical filtration systems, which are called rapid sand filters or granular media filters today. During the 1880s, mechanical filters were installed to remove particles and “organic matter.” Filtration to control microbial pathogens would come later with better bacteriological methods and the maturation of the germ theory of disease.

“John Hyatt, an inventor and manufacturer of Newark, N.J., applied for a patent February 11, 1881, on what was virtually a stack of Clark’s filters, placed in a closed tank and operated each independently of the others by means of common supply, delivery and wash pipes. His application, like Clark’s, was granted on June 21, 1881, and assigned to the Newark Filtering Co. On the same day, Hyatt obtained a patent in England.

Col. L. H. Gardner, Superintendent of the New Orleans Water Co., after making small-scale experiments on coagulation at New Orleans, was convinced that it was more efficacious than filtration for the clarification of muddy water.

Isaiah Smith Hyatt, older brother of John, while acting as sales agent for the Newark Filtering Co., was baffled in attempts to clarify Mississippi River water for a New Orleans industrial plant. Colonel Gardner suggested using a coagulant. This was a success. Isaiah Hyatt obtained on February 19, 1884, a patent on simultaneous coagulation-filtration. Although unsound in principle, it largely dominated mechanical filtration for many years….

Thus in 1880-85 did four men join in the evolution of mechanical or rapid filtration. Clark soon faded out of the picture. Gardner entered it only by suggesting to Isaiah Hyatt the use of a coagulant, and Isaiah Hyatt, still a young man, died in March 1885. John Hyatt was then alone. Already he had taken out 20 filter patents while only two were granted to his older brother. By the close of 1889, John had obtained about 50 patents. Scattered grants in the 1890’s brought his record above 60. Most notable of all these were three on washing systems, including sectional wash; several on strainers for underdrain systems; and two on aeration, primarily in connection with filtration. The Hyatt aeration patents, like those granted to Professor Albert R. Leeds a little earlier, were of little practical importance, but they marked an era in water purification during which stress was laid on the removal of organic matter.”

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: American Water Works Association, 183-5.

1128 Hyatt Pure Water  Filter