Tag Archives: disinfection

July 12, 1868: Birth of Frank S. Wesbrook

July 12, 1868:  Birth of Frank S. Wesbrook. In 1909, Frank F. Wesbrook was Professor of Pathology and Bacteriology at the University of Minnesota and Director of the State Board of Health Laboratories of Minnesota.  He obtained a bachelors degree at the University of Manitoba in 1887 and several advanced degrees from the same institution in 1890 including that of doctor of medicine.  In the 1890s, he spent several years at Cambridge University in England and at an academic institution in Marburg, Germany researching bacteriology topics especially those related to cholera.  Along with George W. Fuller, he was an early member of the APHA committee developing standardized bacteriological methods in the early 1900s.  He was recruited for the second trial of the Jersey City lawsuit by John L. Leal in Winnipeg in August 1908 at the APHA meeting.   Of particular note, Dr. Wesbrook (often misspelled in various documents as Westbrook) was President of the APHA in 1905, the year preceding the presidency of Franklin C. Robinson.  In years past, he had conducted studies on the quality of water supplies for many cities in Minnesota and Canada.

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

Born in Oakland, Ontario, Wesbrook received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from the University of Manitoba in 1887 and 1888. He received his M.D. and C.M. degrees from the University of Manitoba and McGill College. From 1891 to 1893, he was a Professor of Pathology at the University of Manitoba. From 1893 to 1895, he studied pathology at Cambridge University.

In 1895, he was appointed director of the Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Hygiene at the University of Minnesota. His chief work was in Bacteriology relating to public health. He helped in diphtheria research and was in favor of chlorine sterilization of water. He was also a Director of the Minnesota Board of Health Laboratories and was a member of the Minnesota State Board of Health.

In 1906, he was appointed Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School. In 1913, he was appointed the first president of the University of British Columbia. He served until his death in 1918.”

July 9, 1977: Death of Harriette Chick

July 9, 1977:  Death of Harriette Chick. “Dr. Dame Harriette Chick, DBE (6 January 1875 – 9 July 1977) was a notable British protein scientist and nutritionist. She developed the first relationship showing bacterial kill as a function of disinfectant concentration and contact time. Educated at Notting Hill & Ealing High School, She served as secretary of the League of Nations health section committee on the physiological bases of nutrition from 1934 to 1937. In 1941 she was a founding member of the Nutrition Society, of which she served as president from 1956 to 1959.

Chick and Charles James Martin discovered that the process of protein denaturation was distinct from protein coagulation (or flocculation), beginning the modern understanding of protein folding. She is known for having formulated Chick’s Law in 1908, giving the relationship between the kill efficiency of organisms and contact time with a disinfectant. Chick’s Law was later modified by Dr. H.E. Watson in 1908 to include the coefficient of specific lethality. The Chick-Watson Equation is still used today.

In 1915, she went to the Lister Institute in Elstree to test and bottle tetanus antitoxin for the army. Together with Dr. Elsie Dalyell, she led a team from the Lister Institute and the Medical Research Institute in 1922 to study the relation of nutrition to bone disease. They discovered the nutritional factor causing rickets, and proved that fat-soluble vitamins present in cod liver oil, or exposure to ultra violet light, could cure and prevent rickets in children. She worked at the Lister Institute for over fifty years, and isolated vitamin C in various other fruits and vegetables.”

Chick’s Law-Basis of Disinfectant validation and D value. “In 1908 a British scientist, Dr. Harriet Chick, described a method for estimating the destruction of microorganisms by chemical disinfectants (Chick 1908). She postulated that the microbial mortality would follow what in physical chemistry would be called ‘first-order kinetics’—that is, mortality vs time data plots as a straight line on a semi-logarithmic graph. In practice, her postulate was correct and the law works for all liquid disinfectants and for many sterilization processes (for example, Chick’s Law has evolved into what is now referred to as D-value in autoclave sterilization).

This simple ‘Law’ (actually an equation) was modified quickly to account for varying disinfectant concentrations, and the pH of the disinfectant solution and the modified equation is now commonly called the ‘Chick-Watson Law.’”

Reference:  Chick, Harriette. (1908). “An Investigation of the Laws of Disinfection.” The Journal of Hygiene. 8:1 92-158.

June 15, 1934: Death of George W. Fuller

George Warren Fuller, 1903, 35 years old

June 15, 1934:  Death of George Warren Fuller in New York City. George Warren Fuller was, quite simply, the greatest sanitary engineer of his time, and his time was long—lasting from 1895 to 1934.  In truth, we have not seen his like since.  How did he reach the pinnacle of his field?  What early influences led him on his path? There is a biography of Fuller on Wikipedia that I wrote which summarizes his life from a “neutral point of view.” The material below is taken in part from Chapter 7 of The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight To Save Lives. By design, it gives more of a personal flavor to his life.

George Warren Fuller was born in Franklin, Massachusetts on December 21, 1868—ten years after the death of Dr. John Snow and ten years after the birth of Dr. John L. Leal.  He was the son of George Newell Fuller and Harriet Martha Craig. There is not much known about his father who was simply described as a farmer.  His father was born on the Fuller family property in Franklin, Massachusetts on November 22, 1819.

Harriet Martha Craig was born on February 2, 1841, grew up near Leicester, Massachusetts, and attended Mount Holyoke College, but she did not graduate.  Her final year at the institution was 1865.  They were married on November 15, 1866 when he was 46 and she was only 25.  They settled down in the Franklin-Medway area of rural Massachusetts for a quiet life of farming on the ancestral Fuller family property.  They had two children, George W. and Mabel B. who was born in 1876.  We know that George kept in touch with his younger sister in later years.  She married Carl W. DeVoe and moved to Jerome, Idaho. George owned a ranch in Idaho and must have visited her there.

Place names in Massachusetts have changed over the past several hundred years as the land area covering certain towns changed due to the expansion and contraction of town boundaries or as a result of new towns being carved off from old ones.  Towns that figured prominently in Fuller’s history, Dedham, Franklin and West Medway, all describe the same general area, which is about 10-25 miles southwest of Boston.

We know only a little about his early education.  One report observed:

“George Warren Fuller was at the head of his class when he attended the Dedham schools. His scholarship was, of course, a source of great satisfaction to his mother. At sixteen he passed the examination for entrance at MIT but, his father having died a few weeks before, it was thought best for him to have a fourth year in high school….”

After his father’s death on May 3, 1885, his mother moved 2,500 miles away to Claremont, California where she lived until she died in 1915.  George must have felt that he had lost both parents at the same time.  We do not know if he was looking for a stable family life to replace the one he had lost, but we do know that he married when he was only two years out of high school, in 1888.  His first wife, Lucy Hunter was born in October 1869 and died far too young on March 18, 1895. Lucy came from a family who immigrated to America from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  Her father was born about 1830 and listed his occupation as farmer.  Her mother, Sarah, was born about 1845.  The farming family had seven children, three boys and four girls.  They must have moved to Boston from New Brunswick sometime between 1877 and 1880.  The youngest boy, Harry, was born in New Brunswick about 1877. I recently heard from a descendant of Lucy Fuller who was researching her family. According to her second cousin, three times removed, the family was sailing from Northern Ireland to Philadelphia in 1767 when their ship was wrecked off of Nova Scotia. Lucy’s family eventually made it to Boston while many of the other Hunters moved on to Ontario, Canada.

In 1880, the U.S. census showed that her family lived in Boston at 218 Bennington Street, which is now near Boston Logan International Airport and was located near cultivated land in the late 1800s.  The address is about three miles from the MIT campus, as the crow flies.

Lucy was 18 years old and Fuller was 20 years old when they were married.  Fuller was only in his second year at university (1886-1890).  They had one son, Myron E. Fuller who was born in Boston on June 4, 1889. We do not know much about the marriage, but we do know that George W. Fuller was issued a passport on May 2, 1890 for his trip to Germany and his continued studies. There is no record that Lucy or Myron applied for a passport or accompanied Fuller to Germany.  Massachusetts death records listed her cause of death as “enteritis” which was a general term used for diseases caused by the ingestion of pathogens from food or water.  The death records listed her as “married” which meant that her marriage to Fuller was not dissolved prior to her death. There is no evidence that George W. Fuller lived with her and their son after 1889.

From a 1910 census report, it is clear that Myron lived with his father in Summit, New Jersey.  One recorded connection we know of between Myron and his father was mentioned in the preface of Fuller’s 1912 book, Sewage Disposal. Fuller acknowledged Myron (who was 22 years old at the time) for creating the index to the book.  One source showed that Fuller and McClintock employed Myron from 1911 to 1916 and again from 1919 until at least 1922. In 1918, Myron registered for the draft and listed his occupation as civil engineer. The same reference showed Myron working for the City of Philadelphia in the Bureau of Surveys—the same occupation as his great-great-great-great grandfather, Ensign Thomas Fuller.  He lived in Philadelphia with his wife and one child.

While Fuller was in Louisville working on the filtration investigations, he met Caroline L. Goodloe who came from a fine, old Louisville family.  In November 1899, Fuller married her in Louisville. They were both 31 years old when they were married.  In May of 1900, husband and wife went on a trip to Europe—a somewhat delayed honeymoon. Their son, Kemp Goodloe Fuller, was born on March 10, 1901. On November 11, 1903, while living in New York City, their second son, Asa W. Fuller was born.

We know from records published in the annual report of the APHA and other sources that Fuller had his offices in New York City at 220 Broadway for many years beginning in 1899, which was the same address given by Allen Hazen for his offices for a short period of time.

Tragically, Caroline Goodloe Fuller died in June 21, 1907, while George W. Fuller was most heavily engaged in numerous water and sewage disposal projects all over the U.S.  At her death, George W. Fuller was living at 309 West 84th Street in New York City with his wife and their sons.  She was 38 years old.

The 1910 Census form showed that Fuller was living at 160 Boulevard, Summit, New Jersey with Alice C. Goodlow (sic) who was identified as his sister-in-law, Mary L. Goodlow (sic) identified as his mother-in-law and his three sons Myron, Kemp G. and Asa.  George’s in-laws had come up from Louisville to help him raise the boys.  Also listed at the same residence was an interesting guest, Grace F. Thomson, 43, born in China of English ancestry and claiming a trade of metal working.  In addition, there were three servants (two Irish and one Greek) making it a full and busy household.  The census form showed him as widowed, so by 1910 he had not remarried.

We know from several accounts, that George Warren Fuller was, in many ways, a big man.  Physically, he was tall.  An account by a colleague said that he was over six feet tall, but passport application forms that Fuller filled out showed that his height was 5 feet 10 inches. Pictures of him from 1903 until at least 1928 showed that he was, to use a descriptor from the time, stout. One description had him at 285 pounds with a size 18 collar.

His hair was dark brown and, in the style of the day, slicked down and parted in the middle.  As time marched on, he began to gray at the temples and then the gray seemed to take over his thinning head of hair.  He was clean-shaven except for his days in Louisville during the filtration studies, when he sported a bushy mustache.  He had blue eyes that could bore into someone who did not please him and twinkle when he was trying to charm a lady.  The round spectacles that he always wore did not detract from the intensity of his blue eyes.

George Warren Fuller Comes to California…in 2013

On April 3, 2013, I gave a talk at the California Nevada Section Conference of the American Water Works Association. I teamed up with John Marchand who gave a talk on Dr. John Snow of Broad Street Pump fame. We made a pact to give our talks in costume, which incredibly we both followed through on. Below are links to my talk broken up into three parts (YouTube restrictions). It describes Fuller’s life and the first use of chlorine on the Jersey City water supply in 1908.

Part 1:  http://youtu.be/37WZkp5148w

Part 2:  http://youtu.be/rsicrBvVMc4

Part 3:  http://youtu.be/n6PuOvjjQMI

Commentary:  This article originally appeared on my other blog, safedrinkingwaterdotcom.

May 28, 1914: Chlorination of Torresdale Filtration Plant in Philadelphia

May 28, 1914:  Municipal Journal article. Disinfecting Philadelphia’s Water Supply. By Francis D. West. “Bleach was first used at Torresdale [now called the Samuel S. Baxter treatment plant] in the form of hypochlorite of soda, produced electrolytically, during September, 1909. Two cells manufactured by the National Laundry Co. were used. A current of 35 amperes at 110 volts was used to decompose a brine solution. The chlorine and soda were allowed to recombine and the temperature was so high (about 110° F) that chlorates were formed. The bleach was applied directly in front of the first valve of one of the preliminary filters operated at a 20 mgd rate, or about 1/4 normal.

The conclusions were in part that the bacterial efficiency of the filter was considerably less than that of filters operated at four times the rate without treatment.

Hypochlorite was again used in December 1910. Due to the fact that the bacterial efficiency of slow sand filters decreases considerably in cold weather and the fecal organism B. coli communis was present in the filtered water, it was decided to use chloride of lime to disinfect the water in the filtered water basin. Treatment was continued until April 1911, when it was stopped; was again started December 1911, and was continued without interruption until February, 1913.

Liquid chlorine was first used Nov. 26, 1913, in conjunction with chloride of lime about 90 lbs. of liquid and 800 lbs. of powder being used daily until Feb. 9, when the use of chloride of lime was stopped.

Torresdale Plant now called the Samuel S. Baxter treatment plant

May 23, 1904: Boonton Water Supply Delivered to Jersey City

Boonton Dam on the Rockaway River

May 23, 1904: First delivery of water from the Boonton supply to Jersey City, New Jersey. At the end of the 19th century, the water supply for Jersey City, New Jersey was contaminated with sewage and the death toll from typhoid fever was high. In 1899, the city contracted with a private company for the construction of a new water supply on the Rockaway River, which included a dam, reservoir and 23-mile pipeline. The project was completed on May 23, 1904; however, no treatment was provided to the water supply, because the contract did not require it. The city, claiming that the contract provisions were not fulfilled, filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Court of New Jersey. Jersey City officials complained that the water served to the city was not “pure and wholesome.”

Two trials resulted from the lawsuit. In the second trial, Dr. John L. Leal and several other defendant expert witnesses were able to convince the Special Master, William J. Magie, that the use of chlorine to disinfect the water supply was safe, effective and reliable. After the favorable verdict, the use of chlorine for drinking water disinfection exploded across the U.S. and typhoid fever was eradicated.

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

May 18, 1897: Dow Chemical Founding and Connection to Bleach

May 18, 1897:  “The Dow Chemical Company incorporated, based on Dow’s plan to manufacture, sell bleach on commercial scale; 1898 – first commercial scale production of bleach begins; Dow-in-diamond mark created to resolve product shipping problems.”

Commentary: Bleaching powder (or chloride of lime, also known as calcium hypochlorite) was used by Dr. John L. Leal on the Jersey City water supply in 1908. This was the first continuous use of chlorine on a municipal water supply in the U.S.

April 22, 1970: First Earth Day; 2017: March for Science; 1915: First Use of Chlorine as a Terror Weapon

April 22, 1970:  The first nationwide Earth Day celebrationis organized by Sen. Gaylord Nelson and Dennis Hayes. It creates a national political presence for environmental concerns. Millions of Americans demonstrate for air and water cleanup and preservation of nature.

April 22, 2017:  March for Science.“The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.

The March for Science is a celebration of science.  It’s not only about scientists and politicians; it is about the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.

Nevertheless, the march has generated a great deal of conversation around whether or not scientists should involve themselves in politics. In the face of an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery, we might ask instead: can we afford not to speak out in its defense?

There is no Planet B. Join the #MarchForScience.”

Commentary:  I am proud to support the March for Science. We have no choice but to speak out to protect our freedoms and what we believe in. I believe in truth and the search for it.

Chlorine Gas in WWI

April 22, 1915:  The use of poison gas in World War Iescalates when chlorine gas is released as a chemical weapon in the Second Battle of Ypres. Forevermore, chlorine is not considered a viable alternative disinfectant in Europe.

Commentary:  I am sad to report that this week in 2018, use of chlorine as a war gas was confirmed in Syria. Some sources say that the terrorist President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, has been using chlorine to gas his opponents for years. These are dark days in world history.

February 27, 1913: Croton Chlorination Plant

February 27, 1913:  Engineering Newsarticle. Chlorinating Plants, Croton Water Supply. “Synopsis—Operating results of a temporary plant, which treated with hypochlorite of lime more than 100 billion gallons of Croton water for New York City in 1912, are given. A permanent hypochlorite or chlorinating plant, to treat the flow through both the old and the new Croton aqueducts, is described and fully illustrated. Brief descriptions are given of four other chlorination plants in the Croton drainage area: Three to treat the waters of tributaries of the Croton before it reaches the main supply and one to treat another tributary and a part of the sewage of the village of Brewster, N. Y.”

In June, 1910, I. M. de Varona, chief engineer of the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity of the City of New York, made trials of hypochlorite treatment in connection with the Croton water-supply. The results were so satisfactory that its use has been extended until the city now maintains five of these plants: one on the New Aqueduct at Pocantico, treating the entire supply from the Croton, and the other four upon various tributaries of the reservoirs.

The continuous treatment of the flow of the New Croton Aqueduct was commenced in June, 1911, the plant being located at Shaft No. 9, north of Tarrytown, N. Y., known as the Pocantico plant. It consists of a rough frame building which houses two cement-lined cypress tanks, 12 ft. in diameter and 6 ft. in height, and a constant-level feeding tank with adjustable orifice discharging through a manhole into the crown of the aqueduct. Within the aqueduct, there is suspended a wooden grid to secure a proper mixture of the chlorine solution and the flowing water. The operating floor is just above the solution tanks and in it are two screened mixing pits.

In operation, a drum of lime, weighing about 800 lb., is rolled into position over a pit and the contents washed out into the pit by a hose stream under pressure. Enough ‘bleach’ is dissolved to treat the aqueduct flow for 12 hours. The tank is then filled with water and stirred to assure the thorough absorption of the chlorine. Four men operate the plant, two on the clay shift, making solution, and one on each of the night shifts, maintaining a constant, uniform flow of the solution.

Experience has shown the desirable amount of chlorine to be between 0.40 and 0.65 p.p.m. (parts per million). The lower amount is used in warm weather and when Croton Lake is near the high water line. The amount is gradually increased as the storage in Croton Lake drops or the temperature of the water approaches freezing. The amount of ‘bleach’ to be used daily is determined from a chart (Fig. 1), which shows that the daily amount of chemical is about 4000 lb. Where so much chemical is used, the chart shows the economy resulting from varying the charge of ‘bleach’ in accordance with the amount of its available chlorine, as determined by laboratory analysis.”

Reference:  Coffin, T.D.L. 1913. “Chlorinating Plants, Croton Water Supply.”Engineering News. 69:9(February 27, 1913): 419-21.

Commentary:  New York City began testing chloride of lime to disinfect the Croton water supply shortly after the findings of the special master in the second Jersey City trial which has been described at length in The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives.

February 4, 1909: Second Use of Chlorine in the U.S.; 1877: Birth of C.E.A. Winslow

Little Falls Water Treatment Plant

February 4, 1909:Dr. John L. Leal testified at the second Jersey City trial about the first use of chlorine for continuous disinfection of a U.S. water supply at Boonton Reservoir, which was the water supply for Jersey City, New Jersey. The transcript from February 5, 1909, revealed that Leal had also installed a chloride of lime feed system at the filtration plant at Little Falls, New Jersey. He stated that he had experimented with chloride of lime addition some months before and that he was now using it daily. Thus, the trial transcript provides the first written evidence of the second continuous use of chlorine to disinfect a drinking water supply.  This was also the first time chlorine was used in conjunction with mechanical filtration.

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

February 4, 1877:  Charles-Edward A. Winslow is born.“Charles-Edward Amory Winslow (4 February 1877 – 8 January 1957) was an American bacteriologist and public health expert who was, according to the Encyclopedia of Public Health, “a seminal figure in public health, not only in his own country, the United States, but in the wider Western world.”

Winslow was born in Boston, Massachusetts and attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), obtaining a B.S. in 1898 and an M.S. in 1910.

He began his career as a bacteriologist. He met Anne Fuller Rogers when they were students in William T. Sedgwick’s laboratory at M.I.T., and married her in 1907. He taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while heading the sewage experiment station from 1908 to 1910, then taught at the College of the City of New York from 1910 to 1914.

He was the youngest charter member of the Society of American Bacteriologists when that organization was founded in 1899. With Samuel Cate Prescott he published the first American textbook on the elements of water bacteriology.

In 1915 he founded the Yale Department of Public Health within the Yale Medical School, and he was professor and chairman of the Department until he retired in 1945. (The Department became the Yale School of Public Health after accreditation was introduced in 1947.) During a time dominated by discoveries in bacteriology, he emphasized a broader perspective on causation, adopting a more holistic perspective. The department under his direction was a catalyst for health reform in Connecticut. He was the first director of Yale’s J.B. Pierce Laboratory, serving from 1932 to 1957. Winslow was also instrumental in founding the Yale School of Nursing.

He was the first Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Bacteriology, serving in that position from 1916 to 1944. He was also editor of the American Journal of Public Healthfrom 1944 to 1954. He was curator of public health at the American Museum of Natural History from 1910 to 1922. In 1926 he became president of the American Public Health Association, and in the 1950s was a consultant to the World Health Organization.”

January 15, 2009: PFOA Provisional Health Advisory; 1917: Death of William J. Magie

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

January 15, 2009:  On January 15, 2009, the USEPA set a provisional health advisory level for PFOA of 0.4 parts per billion in drinking water.“Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8 and perfluorooctanoate, is a synthetic, stable perfluorinated carboxylic acid and fluorosurfactant. One industrial application is as a surfactant in the emulsion polymerization of fluoropolymers. It has been used in the manufacture of such prominent consumer goods as Teflon and Gore-Tex. PFOA has been manufactured since the 1940s in industrial quantities. It is also formed by the degradation of precursors such as some fluorotelomers.

PFOA persists indefinitely in the environment. It is a toxicant and carcinogen in animals. PFOA has been detected in the blood of more than 98% of the general US population in the low and sub-parts per billion range, and levels are higher in chemical plant employees and surrounding subpopulations. Exposure has been associated with increased cholesterol and uric acid levels, and recently higher serum levels of PFOA were found to be associated with increased risk of chronic kidney disease in the general United States population, consistent with earlier animal studies. ‘This association was independent of confounders such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, and serum cholesterol level.’”

Commentary:  In the years 2018-19, the PFOA/PFOS issue became a major national issue as improved analytical methods detected these compounds at low part-per-trillion levels.

Update 2020:  All hell has broken loose with PFAS-type compounds in drinking water. Individual states are establishing health standards at part-per-trillion concentrations.

Boonton Reservoir Hypochlorination Station

January 15, 1917:  Death of William J. Magie. In 1899, Jersey City, New Jersey contracted for the construction of a new water supply on the Rockaway River, which was 23 miles west of the City. The water supply included a dam, reservoir and 23-mile pipeline and was completed on May 4, 1904. As was common during this time period, no treatment (except for detention and sedimentation fostered by Boonton Reservoir) was provided to the water supply. City officials were not pleased with the project as delivered by the private water company and filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Court of New Jersey. Among the many complaints by Jersey City officials was the contention that the water served to the City was not “pure and wholesome” as required by the contract. William J. Magie was selected by Vice Chancellor Frederic W. Stevens to hear the second part of the case in which the use of chlorine for disinfection was a contentious issue.  One might assume that someone relatively junior might be appointed as the Special Master to hear the highly technical and excruciatingly long arguments from both sides of the case.  Not so. William Jay Magie was one of the most revered judges of this time period.  He took the role of Special Master in 1908 after completing 8 years as Chancellor of the Court of Chancery.  Prior to that, he was a member of the New Jersey Senate (1876-1878), Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court (1880-1897) and Chief Justice of the same court from 1897 to 1900. (Marquis 1913)

“As a trial judge his cases were handled with notable success, as he had ample experience in trying causes before juries and a just appreciation of the worth of human testimony…” (Keasbey 1912) Judge Magie would need all of his powers of appreciation of human testimony in the second trial, which boiled down to which of the expert witnesses could be believed when both sides marshaled some of the most eminent doctors, scientists and engineers in the land.

Judge Magie was born on December 9, 1832 in Elizabeth, New Jersey and lived his life in that town.  He graduated from Princeton College in 1852 and studied law under an attorney in Elizabeth. He was admitted to the bar of New Jersey in 1856.  At the time of the second trial in 1909 he was 77 years old and near the end of his distinguished career.

On May 9, 1910, William J. Magie submitted his Special Master Report. One of Magie’s findings was of critical importance to the defendants because he laid to rest the concern that chlorine was a poison that would harm members of the public who consumed the water.

“Upon the proofs before me, I also find that the solution described leaves no deleterious substance in the water. It does produce a slight increase of hardness, but the increase is so slight as in my judgment to be negligible.” (Magie, In Chancery of New Jersey, 1910)

The Special Master Report then delivered the finding that defendants had been waiting for:

“I do therefore find and report that this device is capable of rendering the water delivered to Jersey City, pure and wholesome, for the purposes for which it is intended, and is effective in removing from the water those dangerous germs which were deemed by the decree to possibly exist therein at certain times.”(emphasis added) (Magie, In Chancery of New Jersey, 1910)

Magie’s finding summarized in this one sentence approved the use of chlorine for drinking water. After this ruling, the use of chlorine for drinking water disinfection exploded across the U.S. (McGuire 2013)

In a filing after Magie’s final decree, compensation for Judge Magie was noted as $18,000 for the entire second trial with its 38 days of testimony over 14 months, dozens of briefs and hundreds of exhibits.  It must have been the hardest $18,000 he ever earned.

References:

  • Keasbey, E.Q. (1912). The Courts and Lawyers of New Jersey, 1661-1912. Vol. 3, New York:Lewis Historical Publishing Co.
  • Magie, William J. (1910). In Chancery of New Jersey: Between the Mayor and Aldermen of Jersey City, Complainant, and the Jersey City Water Supply Co., Defendant. Report for Hon. W.J. Magie, special master on cost of sewers, etc., and on efficiency of sterilization plant at Boonton, Press Chronicle Co., Jersey City, New Jersey, (Case Number 27/475-Z-45-314), 1-15.
  • Marquis, Albert N. (1913). Who’s Who in America. 7, Chicago:A.N. Marquis.
  • McGuire, Michael J. (2013). The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.