Tag Archives: drinking water

September 21, 1906: Death of Robert E. Hungate, Grandfather of Anaerobic Microbiology; 1995: May I fill my birdbath?

September 21, 1906:  Death of Robert E. Hungate, Grandfather of Anaerobic Microbiology. “The development of methods to grow anaerobes was an important stepping stone in microbiology, one that paved the way for the discovery of many new bacteria and radically changed our understanding of microbial metabolism. Many of these discoveries could not have been possible without the pioneering work of Robert E. Hungate. Affectionately referred to as “Mr. Rumen” or even “Bob” by his students and colleagues, Hungate was the first to develop refined methods to grow strict anaerobes. Accordingly, he dedicated his career to advance new techniques to culture and study anaerobes in anoxic environments. The ‘Hungate technique’ is widely known and used in many labs today, but I believe that his life and scientific impact deserve greater appreciation by today’s young microbiologists….

Hungate’s method to cultivate anaerobes, now commonly known by his name, involves several steps to make a growth medium with a reduced anoxic en­vi­ron­ment in a sealed airtight test tube. First, a freshly auto­claved growth medium is heated to maintain a steady boil. Second, after the medium is distributed into rubber-stoppered ‘Hungate tubes, it is ‘sparged’ with a steady stream of an anoxic gas (usually a mixture of CO2, H2, or N2) passed through the medium via a metal cannula. The tube is then quickly sealed with a rubber stopper, using a screw cap to prevent any oxygen from entering. Third, molten agar is added and the tube is rolled horizontally over cold water to produce a thin layer of solidified medium over the inner glass surface. Using a needle and syringe, the inoculum can then be injected through the rubber stopper. To observe the growth of cellulolytic bacteria, an opaque suspension of cellulose is added to the medium beforehand. A clearing around cellulose-degrading colonies can be easily seen after incubation.”

September 21, 1995New York Times headline–May Birdbath Be Filled? “Water Curbs Raise Queries. Can a birdbath be refilled from a bucket of water? Can dusty high school football and soccer fields be sprayed from private wells? Can a car be washed during a rainstorm? The answers given callers to New Jersey’s new drought-emergency telephone line: yes, no and yes, but only with the rainwater.

So goes life — and the dos and don’ts of outdoor water use — after government intervenes in a prolonged dry spell and orders people to start conserving. For now, the mandatory water restrictions imposed Sept. 13 apply to about three million people in 119 communities in northeastern New Jersey.

But, officials warn, millions more in New York City and much of the rest of New Jersey will face mandatory rules — and questions — unless far heavier rains than last Sunday morning’s arrive to revive the region’s reservoirs. Yesterday, Gov. Tom Ridge decreed similar mandatory restrictions over much of Pennsylvania, in an area affecting about 6.5 million people.”

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September 20, 1981: Hackensack Water Expansion

Hackensack Weehawken Water Tower-Built in 1883

September 20, 1981:  New York Times headline–Hackensack Water Plans Its Largest Expansion. “The future bills of the Hackensack Water Company will present, in stark dollars and cents, the financial legacy of the 1980-81 water shortage: A 47 percent increase for tens of thousands of homes and industries that were forced by state law to save water from last September to May.

The higher rates will generate $21 million in new income for the company. Both it and the state’s Board of Public Utilities, which approved the increase on Sept. 3, emphasize that it is in the best interests of Hackesack Water’s 800,000 customers to pay the money.

They say that new supplies can be developed with it, ending the company’s chronic water shortage and freeing customers from future threats of mandated conservation. The new rates, so the argument goes, are the best and only way to end the ”drought” and prevent future ones.”

September 19, 1886: Houston Water Supply Problems and Successes

September 19, 1886:  Loss of life and property in Houston, Texas demonstrated the inadequacies of the Water Works operations and underscored its failure to supply uncontaminated, potable water and adequate water pressure to Houstonians. Many of the town’s citizens were deeply concerned.

The Houston Post newspaper rallied to the company’s defense in the following article, printed on September 19, 1886:

“A great many people think that the water furnished by the water works is unfit for drinking or culinary purposes, but in that they are greatly mistaken. The supply is obtained from a portion of the bayou which is pregnant with springs, and the water is free from all impurities and is pure and wholesome to drink. Of course, after heavy rains the banks of the bayou wash into the stream and the water is then discolored slightly. But even then it is good and much better at all seasons than Mississippi river water, especially at St. Louis, where the river is muddy and dirty.”

Commentary:  Full acceptance of the germ theory of disease and development of bacteriological monitoring methods would be necessary before the public or the newspapers really understood the quality of their water supplies.

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.

Hurricane Harvey

 

September 16, 1999: Champlain Water District Receives Partnership Award; 1908: Hetch Hetchy Supply Investigated

Partnership for Safe Water Past-Chair, Steve Hubbs (Corona Environmental – L) and Jim Westrick (USEPA – R), congratulate Champlain Water District representatives, James Fay and Michael Barsotti

September 16, 1999:  Champlain Water District Receives Partnership Award. On this date in 1999, Champlain Water District’s Peter L. Jacob Water Treatment Facility received the Phase IV Excellence in Water Treatment Award from the Partnership for Safe Water program. This prestigious award recognizes water treatment plants that have achieved stringent water quality and operational optimization goals, as determined through a utility peer-review process.  The plant was the first of 14 facilities in North America to be recognized for this level of achievement in the Partnership for Safe Water program.  Champlain Water District has maintained this level of optimized performance for the past 16 years and was recognized with the 15-Year Excellence in Water Treatment Award in 2015.  The utility has been an active participant in and contributor to the Partnership for Safe Water program for the past 20 years.

The Partnership for Safe Water celebrates its 20th Anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1995, the program is an alliance of AWWA, USEPA, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA), the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), and the Water Research Foundation (WRF).  The program was established “for utilities, by utilities” to help utilities assess and optimize water treatment plant and distribution system operation and performance. Over its 20-year history, hundreds of treatment plants and distribution systems, serving a total population of over 100 million, have employed Partnership for Safe Water tools to improve performance beyond regulatory requirements.  More information about the program, including annual water quality reports, may be accessed at www.awwa.org/partnership.

O’Shaughnessy Dam which forms the reservoir for the Hetch Hetchy water supply

September 16, 1908:  Municipal Journal and Engineerarticle. Municipal Party Returns from Sierras. “San Francisco, Cal.-The Supervisors and other city officials have completed their trip of inspection of the Sierra watersheds which it is proposed to acquire for purposes of a municipal water supply for San Francisco and neighboring towns. The members return with the conviction that the opportunity offered to secure water rights should not be allowed to pass even though no immediate use be made of the water. The quality of the water was found to be all that was expected and the quantity sufficient to supply the bay cities for the next hundred years.”

Commentary:  And we all know what happened after that. The Hetch Hetchy water supply project was completed in 1934 and water was delivered to San Francisco and its wholesale customers.

September 15, 1998: Radon in Drinking Water

September 15, 1998The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Reporton Radon in Drinking Water “Risk Assessment of Radon in Drinking Water” was released on this date.  The report is touted as the most comprehensive accumulation of scientific data on the public health risks of radon in drinking water.  The report was required by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).  The NAS report confirmed that radon is a serious public health threat and goes on to refine the risks of radon in drinking water–confirmed that there are drinking water related cancer deaths, primarily due to lung cancer.  The report, in general, confirmed earlier EPA scientific conclusions and analyses for drinking water, and presented no major changes to EPA’s 1994 risk assessment.

September 14, 1986: Cadillac Desert Review; 1989: Rocky Flats Hazard to Drinking Water

September 14, 1986New York Times headline–When the Bill for the Marvels Falls Due.  Cadillac Desert:  The American West and Its Disappearing Water. By Marc Reisner. It’s unlikely that most taxpayers will read Cadillac Desert, but they should. It’s a revealing, absorbing, often amusing and alarming report on where billions of their dollars have gone – and where a lot more are going. The money has gone into Federal water projects in the Western states – some of the projects awesome, some scandalous but all with an uncertain future. More than a century ago John Wesley Powell, the nation’s pioneer hydrographer and an explorer of the Grand Canyon, concluded that so much of the West was virtually desert that if all the flowing water in the region were applied to it, the water would spread too thin to make much difference.

But that didn’t daunt several generations of pioneers, who believed the selective harnessing of available water could yield miracles. And it did. It virtually created modern California, making it the nation’s most populous state and one of the world’s prime agricultural areas. On a smaller scale, similar marvels were wrought in other states – Arizona, Utah, Colorado, the Dakotas, Montana and even Nevada.

UPDATE: Thousands of taxpayers did read Cadillac Desert.  A revised version was published in 1993 and a four-part documentarywas released in 1997.

September 14, 1989New York Times headline–New Hazard Is Seen at Colorado Weapons Plant.  Colorado’s effort to protect drinking water supplies around the highly contaminated Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant has raised a new safety problem: what to do with tainted water that is filling a storage pond now that the state has barred releases from it. State officials briefly declared an alert Tuesday when they feared that the pond, 75 percent full because of recent rain and snow, might breach its earthen dam and cause a flood. At the hour they declared the alert, they were conducting a drill in which the script for a mock disaster included a leak from another storage pond at the plant, which makes triggers for nuclear weapons. The alert was lifted after a quick inspection, but the state and the plant managers are still discussing what to do with the water. The water contains a herbicide, atrazine, at a level exceeding a limit that the Federal Environmental Protection Agency proposes to set for drinking water. It also contains two other chemicals, manganese and sulfide, at levels that could alter the smell and taste of drinking water.

September 12, 1909: Typhoid Fever in Seattle

Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition

September 12, 1909:  Seattle health officials reported an outbreak of typhoid fever, later associated with the contamination of drinking water at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific (A-Y-P) Exposition, on the campus of the University of Washington. Officials were not able to pinpoint the cause of the outbreak. By the end of 1909, 511 people–including about 200 A-Y-P visitors–were sickened by the disease, and 61 died.