Tag Archives: filtration

July 23, 1800: French Water Filter Patent Issued

Notre Dame de Paris on the Seine River

July 23, 1800: French patent granted to James Smith, ‘Citizen’ Ciuchet and Denis Monfort for an elaborate filtration device consisting of layers of wool, 2 inches crushed sandstone, 12 inches coarse powdered charcoal pressed into a solid with river sand, and 12 inches of sand or crushed sandstone.

“In 1800, the basic Smith-Cuchet-Montfort patent was granted by France and, in 1806, the Quai des Celestins filters, which operated for a half century or more, were established in Paris. James Smith, a gunsmith from Glasgow, for a short time helped Richard Younger of Edinburgh, formerly a brewer, to assemble filters, the manufacture of which Younger began in or about 1795. These filters, wrote John Wilson, in 1802, were the most remarkable of the devices proposed up to that time to purify water by the use of charcoal, in accordance with the proposals of Lowitz (see Chap. 111) and others.

Smith, having brought the Lowitz process to the attention of the French Minister of Marine “as an important secret,” says Rochon, was sent to Brest. Numberless experiments were made there in the presence of twelve representatives of different branches of the Marine Department. An official report on the experiments was made in 1798. Smith went to Paris and, with others, took out a filter patent.”

Reference: ‘Baker, Moses N. 1981. The Quest for Pure Water: the History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. 2nd Edition. Vol. 1. Denver, Co.: American Water Works Association, 38-9.

July 21, 1909: Filters for Providence, RI

July 21, 1909: Municipal Journal and Engineer article. Water Filters of Providence, R.I. “Final construction is just about being completed on the ten filter beds which constitute the plant designed some years ago for the purification of the water supply of Providence, R.I. The first contract was dated July 15, 1902, and called for six slow sand filters each approximately one acre in effective area; a regulating house containing the measuring and controlling apparatus; a pumping station, and a laboratory building. When the plans for these filters were under consideration the subject of covering the beds was considered at some length. In view of the fact that at Lawrence, Mass., 50 miles further north, little trouble had been experienced with snow and ice or with any serious interruption of bacterial efficiency on account of cold, and inasmuch as a considerable saving in cost could he made by omitting the covers the Commissioner of Public Works decided to adopt open filter beds.

Part of the first six beds was put in operation in the summer of 1904 and a second contract was let on February 13, 1905 calling for another regulating house and two additional beds. The winter of 1905-06 was particularly severe in New England and the formation of ice on the water over the filter beds then in service made the cleaning of them very difficult and at times almost impossible. Ice fourteen inches thick formed over the filters, and not only the full force of water works employees but a number from the sewer department also were utilized, the force at times reaching 150 men; but even with these it was impossible to remove the ice as fast as it formed. In consequence the beds had to be operated with much greater loss of head than had been intended. The same difficulty was found in the winter of 1906-07 and at times it was found necessary to draw water directly from the river to supply the demand.

This experience convinced those in charge that it would conduce not only to greater efficiency of filtration in winter time, but to greater economy also, to have the filters covered. Accordingly on June 11, 1906, a contract was let to the Pettaconset Construction Company of Providence, which firm also obtained the two previous contracts for the filters, for placing covers over the beds then under construction, and also over the six already completed; also to construct two more covered beds, making ten beds in all.”

Commentary: Note the highlighted section. If the filters are not used because the cold weather causes the water to freeze, then they are not much good as a barrier to disease. In The Chlorine Revolution, I noted that the typhoid fever rate was not much reduced after slow sand filtration was introduced into Lawrence, MA. Perhaps they were drawing raw water out of the Merrimac River during the winter and not telling anyone.

July 17, 1913: Water Purification at Erie, PA

Erie Water Works

July 17, 1913: Municipal Journal article. Water Purification at Erie. “The year 1912 was the second for the use of hypochlorite by the water works commissioners, of Erie, Pa., and they report that it has proved beyond a doubt the value of this treatment as a water purifier. “The treated water has at all times been free from pathogenic germs and perfectly safe to be used for drinking purposes.” From January 1 to June 9 7 pounds of hypochlorite was applied to the million gallons of water pumped. The amount was increased to 8 pounds from June 9 to October 10, after which it was again reduced to 7 pounds. The number of bacteria per c. c. in the water immediately after treatment averaged as follows for each of the twelve months: 26, 37, 10, 20, 36. 56, 26, 26, 26, 33, 30 and 24. It was found that the number of bacteria generally increased in the mains, and water as drawn from the taps contained an average of 24 bacteria in February and 554 in June, these being the minimum and maximum monthly averages. It is extremely probable that the additional bacteria were perfectly harmless varieties. The cost of operating and maintaining the sterilization plant for the year was approximately 79 cents per million gallons of water pumped. The average daily pumpage for the year was 15,679,132 gallons.

On July 25, 1912. a contract was let by the commissioners for a pumping station, boilers, and 24-million gallon rapid sand filter plant, the contract price of which was $446,380. Part of this contract is completed, and the whole is expected to be finished by next spring.”

Commentary: Erie was one of the many cities who jumped on the chlorination bandwagon and then realized that they also need to filter their water to fully protect their customers.

July 11, 1908: Filtered Water for Springfield, MA

July 11, 1908: Engineering Record article. The Little River Water Supply for Springfield, Mass. “The present water supply of Springfield, Mass., is derived from the Ludlow Reservoir, and has for many years been the source of much trouble on account of the growth of anabaena during warm weather. Repeated investigations and reports had been made on the causes of the growth and the best means of rendering the water, as delivered in the city, free from objection, with the result that a decision was reached to abandon the Ludlow supply altogether and develop the Little River watershed, an entirely new source. While the construction of the new work is under way, the Ludlow Reservoir water is being rendered usable during the anabaena season by a temporary intermittent filter plant.

The supply from the Little River is as good as other waters used in a raw state by Massachusetts cities, but in this case, in recognition of the advancing requirements of quality, it was decided to filter the water, and, accordingly, sand filters of a nominal capacity of 15,000,000 gal. per day will be built to filter the entire supply. The watershed will be developed in part only at the present time, as the run-off is far above the immediate needs of the city. The Little River is a branch of the Westfield River, and the catchment area is located almost directly west of Springfield, the intake dam being about 12~ miles from the city. From this dam the water will flow through a tunnel, not quite a mile long, cut through the rock under Cobble Mountain. The sedimentation basin and the filtration plant will be located near the end of the tunnel and the pure water will flow through a steel pipe line a distance of 74 miles to a covered reservoir on Provin Mountain.

Commentary: Stubborn opinions by sanitary experts in Massachusetts stalled the efforts for many years to install filtration on water supplies in the state. The prevailing view was that water supplies should only be taken from sources fully protected against contamination and that it was wrong to treat marginal or substandard water supplies. With the “recognition of the advancing requirements of quality” at least this Massachusetts city was able to insure the delivery of safe and palatable drinking water. This wrong-headed water supply viewpoint was promoted by Thomas Drown, William T. Sedgwick, George C. Whipple and other professors and graduates of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1909, some of these same individuals testified against the first use of chlorine on the Jersey City water Supply at Boonton Reservoir.

June 25, 1914: Drifting Sand Filtration

June 25, 1914: Engineering News article. A Novel Water-Filtration Plant for Toronto. “It is not often that a city takes up a novelty in water filtration or in any other class of engineering work on so large a scale as the proposed 72,000-U. S.-gal. “drifting sand” filtration plant for which the city council of Toronto awarded the contract on June 8. It is true, as stated elsewhere in this issue, that two plants of a few hundred thousand gallons capacity are already in operation elsewhere and that contracts for two other and much larger plants are well under way. It is also true that a working unit was tested for 33 days at Toronto under the direction of the local medical officer of health and city analyst, and that this same test plant has been under observation for over a year. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the drifting-sand filter is as yet in the working-scale experimental stage, with few data yet available regarding its efficiency and less to be had regarding operating costs.

The drifting-sand filter may be described as a deep mechanical filter with reversion to the early type in the way of absence of coagulation basins and rate-controllers and with the addition of continuous washing and replacing of filter sand. It is claimed that this added feature makes up for the lack of a coagulating basin. To what extent this claim will be made good by experience at Toronto and on different waters at other places, it will be interesting to learn a few years hence.”

Commentary: The filter plant was built in 1917 and used until 1981 by the City of Toronto. No other large-scale filtration plants adopted this unique design.

June 21, 1961: First Practical Desalination Plant; 1881: Filter Inventions

June 21, 1961: “President John Kennedy pressed a switch installed in his office in Washington DC to dedicate first practical plant for the conversion of seawater to drinking water; built in less than a year at a cost of $1.5 million at Freeport, Texas by the Dow Chemical Co.; capable of producing about a million gallons of water a day, supplying fresh water to the city of Freeport at a cost of about $1.25 per thousand gallons; May 8, 1961 – Office of Saline Water, U.S. Department of the Interior opened the plant; reverse osmosis has replaced large-scale evaporation method used then as scientific advances have produced special polymers suitable for use as filtering membranes.”

Filter Backwash Process

June 21, 1881: “Patrick Clark, of Rahway, NJ, received a patent for a ‘Process of Cleaning Filter-Beds;’ “…the novelty of the process consists in the employment of jets of water for the purpose of agitating a bed of sand or other suitable granular material which forms the upper part of the filter bed. By this means the silt and other impurities are separated from the sand, and, being of inferior specific gravity, rise above the filter bed, and are removed preferably by a natural current of water in which, when practicable, the apparatus will be immersed”; assigned to Newark Filtering Company (incorporated by Clark, John W. Hyatt, Albert Westervelt in December 1880); origin of modern rapid filter; June 21, 1881 – John W. Hyatt also received a patent for a “Filter”; could be cleaned mechanically; assigned to Newark Filtering Company; prototype for rapid filtration concept.”

May 25, 1806: Description of Glasgow Filtration Works

Glasgow Waterworks—Loch Katrine Outlet

May 25, 1806: Letter from Thomas Telford discussing design of the filtration works at Glasgow, Scotland. Glasgow was the third city in the world to receive filtered water (after Paisley, Scotland and Paris). Delivery of water by pipes to customers began in 1807.

“Thomas Telford, who later founded and served as first president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, was engineer for the Glasgow Water Works Co. Correspondence between him and Boulton & Watt (13) affords meager data regarding his plans for the earliest filter at Glasgow. In a letter dated May 25, 1806, he said that “if there is any difficulty in getting the water [from the Clyde] to subside or filtrate so as to be perfectly good-then instead of one reservoir 6 ft. in depth, it will be advisable to have two of 3 ft. in depth each-and each one acre in superficial area.”

About forty years after the works were completed, Donald Mackain, engineer of the company then supplying water to Glasgow (14), described how Telford proposed that water be pumped from the Clyde at a point two miles above the city to three reservoirs each holding a day’s supply. These reservoirs were to be so placed, wrote Telford, in a report no longer available, “that the water in passing from one to another shall be filtrated.” Telford’s plan was followed, says Mackain, but in times of flood the river brought down alluvial matter that did not soon subside, followed by water from sources higher up which had a deep brown color. Telford’s filter yielded water differing little from that of the river.

Again what a pity that Telford and Mackain made only vague references to filters built so early. Neither Telford in his autobiography (15) nor Sir Alexander Gibb in his recent biography of Telford (16) mentions Telford’s filters at Glasgow.

James Simpson, in a discussion (17) of Mackain’s paper, describes Telford’s filters as “a series of cells, filled with sand” through which the water passed in succession. When the water was at its worst it was little changed after passing through the first filter, but at times the filters worked satisfactorily.”

Reference: Baker, Moses N. 1981. The Quest for Pure Water: the History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. 2nd Edition. Vol. 1. Denver, Co.: American Water Works Association, 80-1.