Tag Archives: drinking water

August 11, 1909: Queen Lane Reservoir Water Treated Chemically

Queen Lane Pump House Boilers

August 11, 1909:  Municipal Journal and Engineerarticle. Queen Lane Reservoir Water Treated Chemically. “Philadelphia, Pa.-Though residents of that section of the city lying south of Allegheny avenue and between Sedgley avenue, Twenty-seventh street and the Schuylkill River have for more than two months supposedly been drinking absolutely raw, unfiltered water from the Queen Lane reservoirs, it became known recently that they have been using water that has been chemically purified by the city. Without letting the public into the secret, Chief Dunlap of the Water Bureau has had the bacteriologists of the Water Department improvise a station at the Queen Lane Reservoir for the oxidization of water by a chemical process which has proved highly effective. A shed has been erected at the intake of the reservoir, and all the water that is pumped from the river to the reservoir is ozonated or oxidized by chemical process as it passes through the shed. By oxidization all the animal or vegetable life is destroyed in the water, and it goes into the reservoir free from harmful impurities. Of course Chief Dunlap says this process does not clarify the water, but this is accomplished to a very large extent by precipitation or sedimentation [in Queen Lane Reservoir].”

Commentary:  It is highly unlikely that ozone was being used to disinfect the water supply in Philadelphia in 1909 (in a shed by the river). More likely, the use of the term ozone referred to the chlorination of water, which supposedly released “nascent oxygen” which was responsible for killing bacteria. The same argument (some might say subterfuge) was used in the second Jersey City trial, which was going on during the time that this article was published. No water utility wanted to admit that it was using chlorine during this period. After the New Jersey Supreme Court approved the use of chlorine for drinking water disinfection in 1910, the linguistic jujitsu exemplified in this article was not as widely used.


August 10, 1916: Sterilizing Water and Flushing Mains

August 10, 1916:  Municipal Journalarticle. Sterilizing Water and Cleaning Mains. “In connection with the information concerning their water works furnished by more than six hundred officials and published in our June 1st issue, these officials also answered the questions: “Is the capacity of your mains diminished by corrosion?” “Do you clean them?” “If so, how and how often?” “Do you sterilize the water?” “If so, by what process?” Their answers are given in the table on the following pages.

These answers are given as furnished, and no attempt made to change them with a view to uniformity. For instance, some report sterilizing by “liquid chlorine,” others by “chlorine gas,” and some by “chlorine”; but we suppose that all refer to the same treatment. Also “hypochlorite,” “chloride of lime” and “bleach,” all probably refer to the same material.

In the answers concerning cleaning mains, quite a number report doing this by flushing or blowing out. This is generally believed to remove only sediment deposited in the mains, mostly that brought into them by the water, and to have no effect upon tuberculation or corrosion. A few, however, report “cleaning,” which refers in probably all cases to the actual removal by some application of force of tuberculation or other incrustation on the pipes.

It is interesting to note that, of the cities reporting, 96 employ some sterilizing agent, 53 of these using liquid chlorine, which is the latest form of applying chlorine for sterilizing purposes but from these figures appears to have become undoubtedly the most popular. The use of liquid chlorine or hypochlorite is reported from 33 states scattered over the entire country; and it is known that several cities use one or the other which failed to report it, some probably because of local popular prejudice against putting “chemicals” in the water supply.”

Commentary:  Disinfection information in this article is fascinating on several levels. First, we see details of which cities were actually disinfecting their water supplies (and those that were not). We also read that there was STILL a fear of chemicals in drinking water even after the overwhelming evidence that typhoid fever and diarrheal diseases could be stopped by such a practice. Finally, this survey documents the conversion from chloride of lime to the use of liquid chlorine that was occurring during this period of water treatment history. Chloride of lime was first used on the Jersey City water supply, which started the disinfection craze (see my book, The Chlorine Revolution). However, the availability of liquid chlorine in pressurized cylinders and the ease of its application ultimately converted everyone to this newer technology.

August 7, 1837: Death of Chester Averill

Chester Averill

August 7, 1837:  Death of Chester Averill who was Professor of Chemistry at Union College in Schenectady, New York.  Averill is known for a letter that he wrote to the Mayor of Schenectady, New Yorkduring the 1832 cholera epidemic which praised the disinfecting properties of chloride of lime (chlorine).  The treatise quoted many learned men of the time who demonstrated that chloride of lime eliminated the spread of contagious diseases by attacking the miasmas associated with them.  The letter also made reference to the destruction of certain “viruses” that may have been responsible for transmission of the diseases.

Commentary:  Averill’s letter is an extraordinary document that is worth reading. He was far ahead of his time. Indeed, he preceded Dr. John Snow’s conclusions about cholera transmission (1849) by 17 years.

August 6, 2018: Denver Water Turns 100; 1996: Amendments to Safe Drinking Water Act

Cheesman Dam, completed in 1905, was the tallest dam in the world

August 6, 2018:  100-Year Anniversary of Denver Water.“Long before Denver was born, the South Platte River and Cherry Creek were oases for people who traveled the dry Great Plains. These early pioneers could make do without many things. Water was not one of them. That’s why they camped along the banks of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River, drinking water straight from the source.

Eventually, several private water companies started offering water service to the settlers, competing with each other for business before collapsing or merging with other companies. Then, on Aug. 6, 1918, voters decided to buy the Denver Union Water Company and form the municipal agency now known as Denver Water for a sum of $14 million. In 2018 dollars, that’s roughly just shy of $250 million…In doing so, Denver residents voted to create an entity that would operate independently from city government, keeping water service separate from local politics.

Water quality lab of the Denver Union Water Company in 1896

That progressive move by early Denverites paved the way for 100 years of stable water service.  The last 100 years hold a storied history of transformational, iconic moments, including construction of the world’s longest underground tunnel, the world’s tallest dam, and even a project kicked off with a blast from President Calvin Coolidge. With the help of these engineering feats, we’ve built a complex, intricate system that delivers safe, clean water to 1.4 million people.”

President Clinton signing the 1996 amendments

August 6, 1996:  The 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act became law.“In 1996, Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act to emphasize sound science and risk-based standard setting, small water supply system flexibility and technical assistance, community-empowered source water assessment and protection, public right-to-know, and water system infrastructure assistance through a multi-billion-dollar state revolving loan fund. The amendments were signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 6, 1996.

Main points of the 1996 amendments

  • Consumer Confidence Reports: All community water systems must prepare and distribute annual reports about the water they provide, including information on detected contaminants, possible health effects, and the water’s source.
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis: EPA must conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis for every new standard to determine whether the benefits of a drinking water standard justify the costs.
  • Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.[24] States can use this fund to help water systems make infrastructure or management improvements or to help systems assess and protect their source water.
  • Microbial Contaminants and Disinfection Byproducts: EPA is required to strengthen protection for microbial contaminants, including cryptosporidium, while strengthening control over the byproducts of chemical disinfection. EPA promulgated the Stage 1 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule[25] and the Interim Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule[26] to address these risks.
  • Operator Certification: Water system operators must be certified to ensure that systems are operated safely. EPA issued guidelines in 1999 specifying minimum standards for the certification and recertification of the operators of community and non-transient, noncommunity water systems.[27] These guidelines apply to state operator certification programs. All states are currently implementing EPA-approved operator certification programs.
  • Public Information and Consultation: SDWA emphasizes that consumers have a right to know what is in their drinking water, where it comes from, how it is treated, and how to help protect it. EPA distributes public information materials (through its Drinking Water Hotline, Safewater web site, and Resource Center) and holds public meetings, working with states, tribes, water systems, and environmental and civic groups, to encourage public involvement.
  • Small Water Systems: Small water systems are given special consideration and resources under SDWA, to make sure they have the managerial, financial, and technical ability to comply with drinking water standards.”

Commentary:  These amendmentsestablished the essential law that water utilities must currently adhere to through compliance with the regulations promulgated under it.

August 5, 1908: New Intake for Erie, PA

August 5, 1908:  Municipal Journal article. Laying Erie’s New Intake. “There is now being carried out into Lake Erie a 72-inch iron intake pipe for the Erie, Pa., water works  which, when completed, will extend one mile into the lake from the shore of Presque Isle peninsula. This work is expected to continue during the summer and possibly part of the fall. The contract for the work was awarded to the T. A. Gillespie Company, which sublet the dredging of the trench for the pipe; but after three concerns in succession had thrown up the work, the Gillespie company was forced to carry it out itself. In I907 about 900 feet were laid. Work this year began about the middle of April and is proceeding at the rate of over 700 feet per month.

The trench is excavated by a suction dredge, the bottom of the lake at this point being of sandy material, at the rate of about 80 lineal feet of trench a day. During the latter part of June the dredge was excavating a trench to a depth of about 34 feet below the surface of the water and 12 feet below the lake bottom. Laying was begun at the crib and is being carried toward the shore. The material excavated by the suction dredge is carried through an 18-inch outlet pipe to where the pipe laying has been completed and is there deposited as back-filling.”

August 3, 1918: Improve Pumping Station Grounds

August 3, 1918:  Municipal Journal article. Improving Pumping Station Grounds. “The average waterworks superintendent believes that a properly-maintained water system is the greatest asset a municipality can own; but it must be conceded that neglected pumping station grounds are about the worst sort of adverse advertising for a community. However, the superintendent who starts out to improve and beautify the grounds around the pumping station will meet with many discouraging conditions, because the average councilman will be satisfied as long as the plant is furnishing an adequate supply of water, and is opposed to spending money in order to beautify the location.

Like many of the pumping station grounds in the west, that of Lewiston, Idaho, is located on a gravel bank beside the river and therefore required considerable expenditure before the grounds were fit to produce vegetation. The location, however, was ideal for a beauty spot, although it was nothing more than a gravel bank, as it afforded the possibilities of providing an exceptionally fine resting place. The grounds are midway between the residential section of the city and its largest and most frequented park, on the south bank of the Clearwater river, which bends gracefully into the city in such a manner as to afford an excellent view of it from the grounds. They also overlook the great fruit farms between the river and the hills to the north. Because of these advantages they are used as a resting place and view point by many citizens.”

Commentary: A good example of form over substance in 1918. People were still dying from typhoid fever and diarrheal diseases.

August 2, 1911: Water Waste in Washington, DC

August 2, 1911:  Municipal Journalarticle. Water Waste in Washington, DC. “The matter of detecting and closing underground leaks in the distribution system is one that the water department of Washington has been working on systematically and rather extensively since 1906.

At that time the rapid increase in both mean consumption and per capita rates made it quite evident that unless radical measures were taken the city would soon be face to face with at least a partial water famine; the increasing danger had been recognized for years, but shortage of funds and the failure of Congress to authorize the general installation of meters had prevented taking up the work on an effective scale.

The per capita rate, based on the entire population, was 169 in 1896 and 217 in 1906, while the mean daily rates for the two years were 44,500,000 and 67,500,000 respectively. During a short period of unusual cold in the winter of 1904-5 the consumption exceeded the capacity of the conduit supplying the city, and the local reservoirs were drawn down close to the danger line. Before the trouble reached the consumer the weather moderated, and conditions again became normal.

Among several means used to decrease the great waste of water was the systematic search for and repair of such underground leaks as showed no evidence on the surface….

The principal instruments used in the work are the pitometer and the aqua phone; the former, as is well known, being a device by means of which the velocity of flow at any point in a main may be determined readily and without undue expense, and the latter an instrument resembling a telephone receiver, by means of which the sound of water escaping under pressure from a leak, flowing through a service pipe or through a partially opened valve may be detected.