April 17, 1888: Fanning Paper on Water Supply and Treatment

Frontpiece in book on Hydraulics written by J.T. Fanning

April 17, 1888:  Paper read at AWWA national conference by J.T. Fanning, President. Water Supply Treatments and Sources. “The first and highest among municipal duties is that of securing the most wholesome public water supply and thereafter faithfully protecting the same. If charged with this duty the municipality goes to the river, the lake, or the hill-side stream in search of a pure supply, it will learn that all these waters have their sediments and solutions, and most of them have such impurities as will catch the attention of even a careless observer.

When the public eye observes, or the public receives a rumor that these impurities are flowing from its taps, there is a liability of exceedingly capricious opinion. This capriciousness over real, and more often over supposed, impurities, is one of the chief difficulties with which projectors and managers of water supply have to contend, and out of it have grown discussions and hatreds and divisions that have almost rent communities asunder.

Sometimes the consumers of water accept a supply graciously when to do so is to endanger their community, and on the other hand lack of funds or probable profit may influence the acceptance of a pernicious source until a change is more feasible.”

Commentary:  It is no wonder that contaminated water supplies were killing people by the trainload during the late 1800s. Water professionals did not think much of customer service back then.

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April 16, 1914: Condemn All Wells in Bridgeport

April 16, 1914:  Municipal Journalarticle. Would Condemn All Wells. “Bridgeport, Conn.-“Condemn every well within the city limits.” is the way in which Commissioners E. A. Lambert and Frank W. Stevens of the Board of Health expressed their views of one means whereby the illness and death rate of the city can be reduced. At a special meeting of the Board of Health the two commissioners, one a sanitary engineer and the other a physician, declared that from their studies of the subject, every well in Bridgeport should be condemned. “The danger of an epidemic is great,” they declared, and in neighborhoods where contagious diseases exist a nearby well would prove the breeding place for millions of germs. This action may take place before the present board goes out of existence. Already all four members are prejudiced against wells and are taking steps to get rid of the more dangerous ones.”

Reference:  “Would Condemn All Wells.” 1914. Municipal Journalarticle 36:16(April 16, 1914): 542.

Commentary:  This story is part of the broad movement away from shallow, contaminated urban wells towards central water supplies that had been going on in the US for 20 years. If Bridgeport added chlorine to their new water supply, death rates would have plummeted.

April 15, 1923: New York City Harbor Pollution

Cleveland Waterworks in 1903 before the installation of filtration

April 15, 1923: New York Times headline. Pollution of City’s Harbor Growing Peril to Health. By George A. Soper. “After having been apparently forgotten for some years there are signs that the pollution of New York Harbor may again receive official attention. The Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, which took a leading part in bringing about the construction of the first rapid transit subway, the Catskill water supply and the Port Authority, has been inquiring into the state of the harbor waters with a view to the adoption of remedial measures. On Nov. 3, 1921, the Chamber passed a resolution urging municipal authorities in New York and New Jersey to take such steps as might be necessary to bring about a study of the matter, and on March 30, 1923, the Merchants’ Association sent a letter to Mayor Hylan calling attention to the polluted condition of the harbor.”

April 14, 1909: Champaign Urbana Water Works

April 14, 1909: Municipal Journal and Engineer article. Champaign Urbana Water Works. “Underground Supply-Wells Pumped by Steam, Electric and Belt-Driven Pumps-Iron Removal by Aeration-Most Services Metered. The Champaign and Urbana Water Company, of which Mr. F. C. Amsbury is superintendent, supplies two Illinois cities from which it gets its name. These have a total combined population of 23,000 or 24,000, and form practically one community. An underground source of supply is tapped by twelve eight-inch wells about 16o feet deep. Each of these wells has its own separate direct-acting pumping head. Both Downey and Luitwieler pumps are used, with long rods extending to valves at the bottom of the wells. A few of the pumps are single-acting, but most are double-acting.

Four of the wells are located along one side of the main pumping station. The pumps in these are connected by belts, running in tunnels underneath the ground, to a main shaft, also in a tunnel, and this in turn is driven from the main engine. Three of the pumps are run by steam heads, the steam pipes being carried in tunnels and thoroughly jacketed. The other five pumps are operated by electric motors which receive their current from a generator in the main station.

Water from all the wells is delivered to a 250,000-gallon reservoir. As all underground water in this section contains more or less iron, which it is quite desirable to remove, aeration is resorted to. From the reservoir mentioned above the water flows over a weir and down a sloping concrete slab which exposes it to the air in a thin sheet. From this it passes to a second reservoir of 750,000 gallons. This method of aeration is fairly effective, but does not accomplish all that could be desired, and it is proposed to provide other arrangements before long.”

Reference: “Champaign Urbana Water Works.” 1909. Municipal Journal and Engineer. 26:15(April 14, 1909): 625.

Commentary:  I am not surprised that the method of aeration is only “fairly effective.” The author was probably being kind. It would take a few more decades before efficient aeration devices were created to oxidize ferrous iron in groundwaters. Note the “security” fence around the reservoir.

April 13, 1918: Ft. Madison, Iowa Replacing Its Water Treatment Plant

April 13, 1918: Municipal Journal article. Reconstructing Water Plant Without Interrupting Service. “Fort Madison, Iowa, Replaces Old Pumps, Boilers and Buildings with New, One Item at a Time—Also Builds Storage Reservoir and Filtration Plant, and New River Intake. The building of a new water works plant on the exact site of an old plant, and entirely removing every vestige of material and equipment of the old plant and replacing it with new and without interruption of service, calls for an unusually close study of the engineering features and a careful handling of the construction work and material. It is not an unusual thing to replace an old steel bridge with a new one without interfering with traffic, but in bridge work you at least have a few minutes interval between trains; but in supplying a community of fifteen thousand people with continuous water service, a single interruption, even for a minute, not only jeopardizes the property of the city, but the safety of the citizens as well.

Many municipalities and water companies hesitate about carrying out improvements because of the fear of interruption of service and the criticism that this interruption might bring. However, in the case of the Fort Madison, Iowa, water works, criticism had already reached an alarming stage because of the quality of the water and insufficiency of the fire pressure, and it became incumbent upon the city to provide a more satisfactory water and a better fire service. The city was without bond power to provide for a municipal plant, consequently twenty-five of the leading citizens organized the “Citizens’ Corporation,” which was granted a franchise, and they immediately took over the old property and began the reconstruction of the entire water works plant, involving an expenditure of about three hundred thousand dollars. The criticism and suspicion arising from the operation of the old plant was a lesson which caused the new corporation to exert every effort to avoid the errors of the past and to rescue, if possible, an unprofitable business and to adopt measures of economy and efficiency that would make the new project profitable. The consulting engineers, in preparing the plans and specifications for machinery and equipment for the .pumping plant, power plant and filtration system kept in mind the previous unprofitable business and exerted every effort to provide an equipment that would not only give the very best of service but do this at a minimum of expense.

Reference: “Reconstructing Water Plant Without Interrupting Service.” 1918. Municipal Journal article 44:15(April 13, 1918): 293.

April 12, 1958: Death of Edward Bartow

April 12, 1958: Death of Edward Bartow. “Edward Bartow (1870–1958) was an American chemist and an expert in the field of sanitary chemistry. His career extended from 1897 to 1958 and he is best known for his work in drinking water purification and wastewater treatment. He was well known as an educator, and his many students went on to leadership positions in the fields of sanitary chemistry and engineering….

He began his career as an instructor of chemistry at Williams College about 1896. His first academic appointment was as an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Kansas. He taught there from 1897 to 1905. While in Kansas, he worked with the U.S. Geological Survey analyzing the waters of southeastern part of the state.

His next position was as Director of the Illinois State Water Survey. He also held the title of professor of sanitary chemistry at the University of Illinois from 1905 to 1920. He led efforts to eliminate typhoid fever by developing treatment methodologies for water purification. In 1914, he began the first large-scale investigations of the new sewage treatment process called activated sludge. A bronze plaque was placed on the grounds of the Champaign-Urbana Sanitary District to commemorate the work on this process done by Bartow and his colleagues. The Illinois State Water Survey became well known for producing high quality work and the fourteen volumes of bulletins and reports published during his tenure are classics in the field of sanitary chemistry and engineering.

From 1920 until his retirement in 1940, he was professor of chemistry at the University of Iowa. He significantly enhanced the department and when he left, the number of PhD degrees awarded totaled 240 in chemistry and chemical engineering….

Bartow received many honors including an honorary D.Sc. from Williams College in 1923. Several societies honored him with life memberships. In 1971, he was inducted into the American Water Works Association Water Industry Hall of Fame.”

Commentary: This posting is from another one of the biographies of inductees into the Water Industry Hall of Fame that I wrote for Wikipedia.

April 11, 1956: Central Utah Project Authorization

The Bonneville Project was just one component of the Central Utah Project

April 11, 1956: The Central Utah Project (CUP) was authorized under the Colorado River Storage Act. “The CUP is a water resource development project that provides water supplies to the central portion of the state of Utah. It was authorized under the Colorado River Storage Act of April 11, 1956, with planning and construction initially by the Bureau of Reclamation (“BuRec”). The CUP diverts a portion of Utah’s 23 percent share of the Upper Basin of the Colorado River to originally a 12 county area within Utah …. Project features divert water from the southern slopes of the Uinta Mountains and the Colorado River to the Wasatch Front through a collection system consisting of a series of aqueducts, tunnels and dams.

The CUP was considered by local farmers and civic leaders as far back as the turn of the century. In 1902, these leaders began investigating the Strawberry Valley Project, and subsequently it was one of the first in the nation to be constructed in 1905 under the newly passed Reclamation Act of 1903. The original study envisioned a farsighted project that would divert waters from Uinta Mountain streams as far east as the Yellowstone River for storage in a reservoir situated in the Strawberry Valley. The water would then flow by tunnel through the Wasatch Divide into the headwaters of the Spanish Fork River. By 1919 local municipal, agricultural and state leaders began planning for the expansion of the Strawberry Valley Project to obtain additional water supplies. Between 1939 and 1945 the BuRec investigated means of developing additional Colorado River water. In 1945, BuRec studies identified and first named the CUP in a document entitled “Project Planning Interim Report.”

The state of Utah and its congressional delegation worked diligently to gain authorization of the CUP and were successful in having the CUP, Initial Phase, authorized for construction as a participating project under the 1956 Colorado River Storage Project Act.”