Tag Archives: Earle B. Phelps

July 10, 1876: Birth of Earle B. Phelps

July 10, 1876: Birth of Earle B. Phelps. “Earle Bernard Phelps (1876–1953) was a chemist, bacteriologist and sanitary expert who served in governmental positions and as an academic in some of the leading universities in the U.S. He is known for his contributions in sewage disinfection, water chlorination, sewage treatment, milk pasteurization, shellfish control, and for describing the “oxygen sag curve” in surface water bodies….

After graduating from MIT and until 1903, Phelps worked as an assistant bacteriologist at the famous Lawrence Experiment Station in Lawrence, Massachusetts. From 1903 until 1911, he was a chemist/microbiologist with the Sanitary Research Laboratory at MIT. He also taught at MIT during this period as an assistant professor of chemistry and biology. Early in his career, he investigated a typhoid fever epidemic at the State Hospital in Trenton, New Jersey. During this same period, he worked for the U.S. Geological Survey as an assistant hydrographer. In part, he worked on the purification of industrial wastes and he began his investigations on stream pollution with that agency. In 1910 to 1911 he conducted groundbreaking research with Colonel William M. Black of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the pollution of New York Harbor. This work established for the first time the concept of using dissolved oxygen concentrations in the water as a measure of water quality in the harbor.

In 1913, he left MIT and became the head of the Chemistry Division at the U.S. Hygienic Laboratory in Washington, DC., which was part of the U.S. Public Health Service. Phelps worked with H. W. Streeter who was a sanitary engineer with the Public Health service on the characterization of oxygen depletion in a stream receiving organic wastes. The Streeter-Phelps equation was the first quantitative model that was used to determine the impact of biochemical oxygen demand discharges to surface water bodies. Their equation led to deterministic modeling which made it possible to limit specific discharges from wastewater treatment plants.

In 1919, Phelps left the Hygienic Laboratory to accept an academic position at Stanford University. Later, he also taught at Columbia University from 1925 until 1943. From 1944 until his death in 1953 he was a professor of sanitary science at the University of Florida at Gainesville. He has been described as a gifted teacher who generously shared his knowledge with his associates and students.

Phelps had a long and distinguished career as a consulting sanitary expert. He worked for many cities helping them resolve problems with water treatment and sewage disposal. From 1907 to 1909, he was a consulting expert for the New Jersey Sewerage Commission. He visited all of the sewage disposal plants in the state and made annual reports on the results of his inspections. He also was retained by the Sewerage Commission of Baltimore, Maryland as a consulting expert in relation to experiments with sewage disposal. Phelps supervised the design and construction of a large number of sewage purification plants including those at Toronto, Canada, Tarrytown, New York, Rahway, New Jersey and Torrington, Connecticut.”

Commentary: This article is taken from the Wikipedia entry that I wrote for Phelps. I knew him from his participation as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the second Jersey City trial that I described in The Chlorine Revolution. He was incredibly accomplished and contributed to many of the water specialties that we practice today.

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May 29, 1953: Death of Earle B. Phelps

May 29, 1953: Death of Earle B. Phelps. “Earle Bernard Phelps (1876–1953) was a chemist, bacteriologist and sanitary expert who served in governmental positions and as an academic in some of the leading universities in the U.S. He is known for his contributions in sewage disinfection, water chlorination, sewage treatment, milk pasteurization, shellfish control, and for describing the “oxygen sag curve” in surface water bodies….

After graduating from MIT and until 1903, Phelps worked as an assistant bacteriologist at the famous Lawrence Experiment Station in Lawrence, Massachusetts. From 1903 until 1911, he was a chemist/microbiologist with the Sanitary Research Laboratory at MIT. He also taught at MIT during this period as an assistant professor of chemistry and biology. Early in his career, he investigated a typhoid fever epidemic at the State Hospital in Trenton, New Jersey. During this same period, he worked for the U.S. Geological Survey as an assistant hydrographer. In part, he worked on the purification of industrial wastes and he began his investigations on stream pollution with that agency. In 1910 to 1911 he conducted groundbreaking research with Colonel William M. Black of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the pollution of New York Harbor. This work established for the first time the concept of using dissolved oxygen concentrations in the water as a measure of water quality in the harbor.

In 1913, he left MIT and became the head of the Chemistry Division at the U.S. Hygienic Laboratory in Washington, DC., which was part of the U.S. Public Health Service. Phelps worked with H. W. Streeter who was a sanitary engineer with the Public Health service on the characterization of oxygen depletion in a stream receiving organic wastes. The Streeter-Phelps equation was the first quantitative model that was used to determine the impact of biochemical oxygen demand discharges to surface water bodies. Their equation led to deterministic modeling which made it possible to limit specific discharges from waste treatment plants.

In 1919, Phelps left the Hygienic Laboratory to accept an academic position at Stanford University. Later, he also taught at Columbia University from 1925 until 1943. From 1944 until his death in 1953 he was a professor of sanitary science at the University of Florida at Gainesville. He has been described as a gifted teacher who generously shared his knowledge with his associates and students.

Phelps had a long and distinguished career as a consulting sanitary expert. He worked for many cities helping them resolve problems with water treatment and sewage disposal. From 1907 to 1909, he was a consulting expert for the New Jersey Sewerage Commission. He visited all of the sewage disposal plants in the state and made annual reports on the results of his inspections. He also was retained by the Sewerage Commission of Baltimore, Maryland as a consulting expert in relation to experiments with sewage disposal. Phelps supervised the design and construction of a large number of sewage purification plants including those at Toronto, Canada, Tarrytown, New York, Rahway, New Jersey and Torrington, Connecticut.”

Commentary: This article is taken from the Wikipedia entry that I wrote for Phelps. I knew him from his participation as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the second Jersey City trial that I described in The Chlorine Revolution. He was incredibly accomplished and contributed to many of the water specialties that we engage in today.

March 26, 1914: Typhoid in Rockville, MD

March 26, 1914: Municipal Journal letter to the editor. Typhoid Epidemic at Rockville, MD. “Prof. Earle B. Phelps for the United States Government at Washington, Robert B. Morse, chief engineer Maryland State Board of Health, a number of others and the writer were recently called upon by the authorities at Rockville to inquire into and alleviate a typhoid epidemic in which two per cent. of the entire population were stricken with the disease. There have been more than 20 cases, but to date there have been no deaths.

Rockville, a small town of 1,100 inhabitants, lies about 18 miles distant from Washington, D. C. It is built on the backbone of a ridge draining into three watersheds. Since 1897 the town has operated its own waterworks, obtaining a supply from two driven wells about 40 feet apart and some 225 feet deep, located in the valley in the direct line of the storm water run off from the town which takes approximately one-half the runoff.

The district surrounding the pumping station is sparsely built up, the town is unsewered and has few storm water drains. Kitchen and bath wastes are permitted to pass into the street and down the gutter. Cesspools and open closets dot the hillside. A small stream passing near the pumping station serves as an outlet for floods, kitchen wastes, etc. The normal flow of the creek does not exceed 4 cubic feet per minute.

The soil formation is clay (disintegrated rock), which is in turn underlaid with rock in layers, the seams of the rock containing clay, broken stone, etc., and in some instances forming open crevices and pockets….

The wells have been in service for nearly 17 years and the people have, until now, suffered no ill therefrom. However, after the installation of the supply, it was noticed from time to time during large storms that inundated the valley, that No. 1 well occasionally supplied turbid water. It was noticed further, that by pumping No. 1 well continuously for several hours, the water level was lowered very materially in well No. 2. Also that when No. 2 well was pumped the water was never turbid. and that the water level in well No. 1 was very little affected. Well No. 1 always seemed to have a surplus of water, whereas well No. 2 dropped fully 70 feet, in fact to such depth that the deep well pump would just draw all the well flowed.

This information should have indicated at once both to the town authorities and the public that No. 1 well was drawing from a surface supply; that the well was not tight, and that it should have been fixed or abandoned.

The sketch enclosed shows the approximate location of pumping station, creek, topography of ground and position of nearest dwellings….About one hour after the water containing dye would flood the elderberry bush the dye would appear in well No. 1. When examined, this water showed gross pollution, whereas water in well No. 2 gave practically no indication of pollution. More than a week was consumed in locating the source of pollution. The first home in which the typhoid had occurred was the one nearest the wells and the one which was polluting the well.

The water is now being sterilized with hypochlorite and use of well No. 1 discontinued, and it has been recommended to extend a 6-inch casing down well No. 2 to the 6-inch well barrel, using a piece of jute to make a temporary joint between pipe and well and to fill the well barrel between the new casing and the rock with cement, to pump and test well as originally tried when the contamination was established, and if it still shows contamination from an analysis after sterilizing and pumping, to drive a new well.”

Reference: Hatton, Herbert W. 1914. Letter to the Editor. Municipal Journal. 36:13(March 26, 1914): 428-9.

Commentary: Well No. 1 would certainly qualify today as a Ground Water Under the Direct Influence of Surface Water. If anyone wonders why state health departments make such a big deal out of GWUDISW, they should read this article. Earle B. Phelps was one of the expert witnesses in the second Jersey City trial that evaluated the use of chlorine for drinking water disinfection. He opposed the use of chlorine in 1909, but he seems to have come around five years later.

#TDIWH—February 8, 1917: Orthotolidine Test for Chlorine Residual

Orthotolidine Solution

Orthotolidine Solution

February 8, 1917: Municipal Journal article. Test for Chlorine in Water. “Control of Disinfection Process by Ortho-Tolidin Test, With Colored Glass Plates as Color Standards-How to Prepare Plates. By Francis E. Daniels. For an intelligent control of the process of disinfection of water supplies it is highly essential to make frequent use of some quick chemical test in order to be sure that the disinfecting agent is being applied in the proper amounts at all times. By means of such a test the writer has frequently detected improper dosing in a few minutes. Low doses due to breaks, stoppages in feed control apparatus, improper mixing of chemicals, or weak hypochlorite have been shown by such tests, as also overdosing. On more than one occasion it bas been observed that no hypochlorite had been put in the solution tank—only water being fed through the dosing apparatus.

Such a test therefore is very useful for the inspector; but it is more useful to the man in charge in that it gives him a ready means of satisfying himself that the dose is exactly what he has been instructed to make it. It also gives information days in advance of the completion of bacterial tests.

The disinfection by chlorine or its compounds at a good many water plants has been controlled by the so-called starch-iodide or Sims-Woodhead test. This is quite satisfactory in many places, but it is not so delicate and is more cumbersome for the inspector than another test known as the ortho-tolidin test.

The ortho-tolidin test was discovered and used by Prof. Phelps and the writer in 1907; but it was later improved by Messrs. Ellms and Hauser. It is to appear again in the new edition of the Standard Methods of Water Analysis of the American Public Health Association.

Commentary: Earle B. Phelps first revealed his discovery of orthotolidine and its ability to detect chlorine during his testimony on May 11, 1909 at the second Jersey City trial. Reading Daniels’ article reminds us all how fortunate we are to have such good analytical methods to tell us how well we are doing in the killing of pathogens. In the early part of the 20th century, they were just beginning to develop the tools they needed to get the job done.

References:

Daniels, Francis E. 1917. “Test for Chlorine in Water.” Municipal Journal. 42:6(February 8, 1917): 197.

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

July 10, 1876: Birth of Earle B. Phelps

0529 Earle B PhelpsJuly 10, 1876: Birth of Earle B. Phelps. “Earle Bernard Phelps (1876–1953) was a chemist, bacteriologist and sanitary expert who served in governmental positions and as an academic in some of the leading universities in the U.S. He is known for his contributions in sewage disinfection, water chlorination, sewage treatment, milk pasteurization, shellfish control, and for describing the “oxygen sag curve” in surface water bodies….

After graduating from MIT and until 1903, Phelps worked as an assistant bacteriologist at the famous Lawrence Experiment Station in Lawrence, Massachusetts. From 1903 until 1911, he was a chemist/microbiologist with the Sanitary Research Laboratory at MIT. He also taught at MIT during this period as an assistant professor of chemistry and biology. Early in his career, he investigated a typhoid fever epidemic at the State Hospital in Trenton, New Jersey. During this same period, he worked for the U.S. Geological Survey as an assistant hydrographer. In part, he worked on the purification of industrial wastes and he began his investigations on stream pollution with that agency. In 1910 to 1911 he conducted groundbreaking research with Colonel William M. Black of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the pollution of New York Harbor. This work established for the first time the concept of using dissolved oxygen concentrations in the water as a measure of water quality in the harbor.

In 1913, he left MIT and became the head of the Chemistry Division at the U.S. Hygienic Laboratory in Washington, DC., which was part of the U.S. Public Health Service. Phelps worked with H. W. Streeter who was a sanitary engineer with the Public Health service on the characterization of oxygen depletion in a stream receiving organic wastes. The Streeter-Phelps equation was the first quantitative model that was used to determine the impact of biochemical oxygen demand discharges to surface water bodies. Their equation led to deterministic modeling which made it possible to limit specific discharges from wastewater treatment plants.

In 1919, Phelps left the Hygienic Laboratory to accept an academic position at Stanford University. Later, he also taught at Columbia University from 1925 until 1943. From 1944 until his death in 1953 he was a professor of sanitary science at the University of Florida at Gainesville. He has been described as a gifted teacher who generously shared his knowledge with his associates and students.

Phelps had a long and distinguished career as a consulting sanitary expert. He worked for many cities helping them resolve problems with water treatment and sewage disposal. From 1907 to 1909, he was a consulting expert for the New Jersey Sewerage Commission. He visited all of the sewage disposal plants in the state and made annual reports on the results of his inspections. He also was retained by the Sewerage Commission of Baltimore, Maryland as a consulting expert in relation to experiments with sewage disposal. Phelps supervised the design and construction of a large number of sewage purification plants including those at Toronto, Canada, Tarrytown, New York, Rahway, New Jersey and Torrington, Connecticut.”

Commentary: This article is taken from the Wikipedia entry that I wrote for Phelps. I knew him from his participation as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the second Jersey City trial that I described in The Chlorine Revolution. He was incredibly accomplished and contributed to many of the water specialties that we practice today.

water, drinking water, public health, water history, Earle B. Phelps

May 29, 1953: Death of Earle B. Phelps

0529 Earle B PhelpsMay 29, 1953: Death of Earle B. Phelps. “Earle Bernard Phelps (1876–1953) was a chemist, bacteriologist and sanitary expert who served in governmental positions and as an academic in some of the leading universities in the U.S. He is known for his contributions in sewage disinfection, water chlorination, sewage treatment, milk pasteurization, shellfish control, and for describing the “oxygen sag curve” in surface water bodies….

After graduating from MIT and until 1903, Phelps worked as an assistant bacteriologist at the famous Lawrence Experiment Station in Lawrence, Massachusetts. From 1903 until 1911, he was a chemist/microbiologist with the Sanitary Research Laboratory at MIT. He also taught at MIT during this period as an assistant professor of chemistry and biology. Early in his career, he investigated a typhoid fever epidemic at the State Hospital in Trenton, New Jersey. During this same period, he worked for the U.S. Geological Survey as an assistant hydrographer. In part, he worked on the purification of industrial wastes and he began his investigations on stream pollution with that agency. In 1910 to 1911 he conducted groundbreaking research with Colonel William M. Black of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the pollution of New York Harbor. This work established for the first time the concept of using dissolved oxygen concentrations in the water as a measure of water quality in the harbor.

In 1913, he left MIT and became the head of the Chemistry Division at the U.S. Hygienic Laboratory in Washington, DC., which was part of the U.S. Public Health Service. Phelps worked with H. W. Streeter who was a sanitary engineer with the Public Health service on the characterization of oxygen depletion in a stream receiving organic wastes. The Streeter-Phelps equation was the first quantitative model that was used to determine the impact of biochemical oxygen demand discharges to surface water bodies. Their equation led to deterministic modeling which made it possible to limit specific discharges from waste treatment plants.

In 1919, Phelps left the Hygienic Laboratory to accept an academic position at Stanford University. Later, he also taught at Columbia University from 1925 until 1943. From 1944 until his death in 1953 he was a professor of sanitary science at the University of Florida at Gainesville. He has been described as a gifted teacher who generously shared his knowledge with his associates and students.

Phelps had a long and distinguished career as a consulting sanitary expert. He worked for many cities helping them resolve problems with water treatment and sewage disposal. From 1907 to 1909, he was a consulting expert for the New Jersey Sewerage Commission. He visited all of the sewage disposal plants in the state and made annual reports on the results of his inspections. He also was retained by the Sewerage Commission of Baltimore, Maryland as a consulting expert in relation to experiments with sewage disposal. Phelps supervised the design and construction of a large number of sewage purification plants including those at Toronto, Canada, Tarrytown, New York, Rahway, New Jersey and Torrington, Connecticut.”

Commentary: This article is taken from the Wikipedia entry that I wrote for Phelps. I knew him from his participation as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the second Jersey City trial that I described in The Chlorine Revolution. He was incredibly accomplished and contributed to many of the water specialties that we engage in today.

March 26, 1914: Typhoid in Rockville, MD

0326 Typhoid in RockvilleMarch 26, 1914: Municipal Journal letter to the editor. Typhoid Epidemic at Rockville, MD. “Prof. Earle B. Phelps for the United States Government at Washington, Robert B. Morse, chief engineer Maryland State Board of Health, a number of others and the writer were recently called upon by the authorities at Rockville to inquire into and alleviate a typhoid epidemic in which two per cent. of the entire population were stricken with the disease. There have been more than 20 cases, but to date there have been no deaths.

Rockville, a small town of 1,100 inhabitants, lies about 18 miles distant from Washington, D. C. It is built on the backbone of a ridge draining into three watersheds. Since 1897 the town has operated its own waterworks, obtaining a supply from two driven wells about 40 feet apart and some 225 feet deep, located in the valley in the direct line of the storm water run off from the town which takes approximately one-half the runoff.

The district surrounding the pumping station is sparsely built up, the town is unsewered and has few storm water drains. Kitchen and bath wastes are permitted to pass into the street and down the gutter. Cesspools and open closets dot the hillside. A small stream passing near the pumping station serves as an outlet for floods, kitchen wastes, etc. The normal flow of the creek does not exceed 4 cubic feet per minute.

The soil formation is clay (disintegrated rock), which is in turn underlaid with rock in layers, the seams of the rock containing clay, broken stone, etc., and in some instances forming open crevices and pockets….

The wells have been in service for nearly 17 years and the people have, until now, suffered no ill therefrom. However, after the installation of the supply, it was noticed from time to time during large storms that inundated the valley, that No. 1 well occasionally supplied turbid water. It was noticed further, that by pumping No. 1 well continuously for several hours, the water level was lowered very materially in well No. 2. Also that when No. 2 well was pumped the water was never turbid. and that the water level in well No. 1 was very little affected. Well No. 1 always seemed to have a surplus of water, whereas well No. 2 dropped fully 70 feet, in fact to such depth that the deep well pump would just draw all the well flowed.

This information should have indicated at once both to the town authorities and the public that No. 1 well was drawing from a surface supply; that the well was not tight, and that it should have been fixed or abandoned.

The sketch enclosed shows the approximate location of pumping station, creek, topography of ground and position of nearest dwellings….About one hour after the water containing dye would flood the elderberry bush the dye would appear in well No. 1. When examined, this water showed gross pollution, whereas water in well No. 2 gave practically no indication of pollution. More than a week was consumed in locating the source of pollution. The first home in which the typhoid had occurred was the one nearest the wells and the one which was polluting the well.

The water is now being sterilized with hypochlorite and use of well No. 1 discontinued, and it has been recommended to extend a 6-inch casing down well No. 2 to the 6-inch well barrel, using a piece of jute to make a temporary joint between pipe and well and to fill the well barrel between the new casing and the rock with cement, to pump and test well as originally tried when the contamination was established, and if it still shows contamination from an analysis after sterilizing and pumping, to drive a new well.”

Reference: Hatton, Herbert W. 1914. Letter to the Editor. Municipal Journal. 36:13(March 26, 1914): 428-9.

Commentary: Well No. 1 would certainly qualify today as a Ground Water Under the Direct Influence of Surface Water. If anyone wonders why state health departments make such a big deal out of GWUDISW, they should read this article. Earle B. Phelps was one of the expert witnesses in the second Jersey City trial that evaluated the use of chlorine for drinking water disinfection. He opposed the use of chlorine in 1909, but he seems to have come around five years later.