Tag Archives: fire

June 22, 1969: Fire on the Cuyahoga River…Again

June 22, 1969:  The June 22, 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga is the “seminal” event in the history of water pollution control in America, helping to spur the growth of the environmental movement and the passage of national environmental legislation. “Never before had an image so thoroughly driven home the deteriorating plight of our nation’s waterways,” one environmental group explained on the fire’s thirtieth anniversary. “The burning river mobilized the nation and became a rallying point for passage of the Clean Water Act.”17 Despite its national importance as a symbol of environmental decline, the 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga was a relatively minor story in Cleveland at the time.18 For northeast Ohio, and indeed for many industrialized areas, burning rivers were nothing new, and the 1969 fire was less severe than prior Cuyahoga conflagrations. It was a little fire on a long-polluted river already embarked on the road to recovery.

Reference: Adler, Jonathan H. “Fables of the Cuyahoga: Reconstructing a History of Environmental Protection.” Fordham Environmental Law Journal. 14 (2003): 89-146.

Commentary: There was a long history of fires on the Cuyahoga—by one count a total of 13 with the first occurring in 1868. Other fires of note occurred in 1868, 1883, 1887, 1912, 1922, 1936, 1941, 1948, and in 1952.

Commentary Update: In 2019, there have been several articles about how the Cuyahoga River has been dramatically cleaned up and is now considered an asset for the City of Cleveland. No doubt this is due in part to the 50thanniversary of the 1969 fire. Check out:  Cuyahoga Named River of the Year; Cleveland River Now a Hot Spot(groan).

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January 17, 1896: Drought Cartoon; 1994: Northridge Earthquake Damages Los Angeles Infrastructure; 1900: Missouri v Illinois over Chicago Sewage; 1856: Charles V. Chapin Born; 1859: Death of Lemuel Shattuck

January 17, 1896:  Drought Cartoon. The Los Angeles Times has published cartoons over more than 100 years that depict the many droughts that California has suffered and the reactions to them. Here is one that I think you will enjoy.

January 17, 1994:  Northridge earthquake does significant damage to water infrastructure in Los Angeles.“The Northridge earthquake was an earthquake that occurred on January 17, 1994, at 04:31 Pacific Standard Time and was centered in the north-central San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, California. It had a duration of approximately 10–20 seconds….In addition, earthquake-caused property damage was estimated to be more than $20 billion, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history….Numerous fires were also caused by broken gas lines from houses shifting off their foundations or unsecured water heaters tumbling. In the San Fernando Valley, several underground gas and water lines were severed, resulting in some streets experiencing simultaneous fires and floods. Damage to the system resulted in water pressure dropping to zero in some areas; this predictably affected success in fighting subsequent fires. Five days after the earthquake it was estimated that between 40,000 and 60,000 customers were still without public water service.”

Commentary:  One of the most memorable sights from the earthquake aftermath was the massive natural gas fire occurring while water was spewing from a huge water main break (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA1m3UgJ8nU).

Breaking the Dam on the Canal

January 17, 1900:Fifteen days after Chicago opened the Sanitary and Ship Canal and reversed the course of the Chicago River to discharge sewage into the Mississippi River, Missouri sued Illinois, “…praying for an injunction against the defendants from draining into Mississippi River the sewage and drainage of said sanitary district by way of the Chicago drainage canal and the channels of Desplaines and Illinois river.”

The Bill of Complaint alleged in part:

“That if such plan is carried out it will cause such sewage matter to flow into Mississippi River past the homes and waterworks systems of the inhabitants of the complainant…

That the amount of such undefecated [huh?] sewage matter would be about 1,500 tons daily, and that it will poison the waters of the Mississippi and render them unfit for domestic use, amounting to a direct and continuing nuisance that will endanger the health and lives and irreparably injure the business interests of inhabitants of the complainant…

That the water of the canal had destroyed the value of the water of the Mississippi for drinking and domestic purposes, and had caused much sickness to persons living along the banks of said river in the State of Missouri.”

The opinion in the case was written by Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes and read in part:

“The data upon which an increase in the deaths from typhoid fever in St. Louis is alleged are disputed. The elimination of other causes is denied. The experts differ as to the time and distance within which a stream would purify itself. No case of an epidemic caused by infection at so remote a source is brought forward and the cases which are produced are controverted. The plaintiff obviously must be cautious upon this point, for if this suit should succeed many others would follow, and it not improbably would find itself a defendant to a bill by one or more of the States lower down upon the Mississippi.The distance which the sewage has to travel (357 miles) is not open to debate, but the time of transit to he inferred from experiments with floats is estimated at varying from eight to eighteen and a half days, with forty-eight hours more from intake to distribution, and when corrected by observations of bacteria is greatly prolonged by the defendants. The experiments of the defendants’ experts lead them to the opinion that a typhoid bacillus could not survive the journey, while those on the other side maintain that it might live and keep its power for twenty-five days or more, and arrive at St. Louis. Upon the question at issue, whether the new discharge from Chicago hurts St. Louis, there is a categorical contradiction between the experts on the two sides.”

Commentary:  In effect, Justice Holmes ruled in favor of Chicago. The experts for St. Louis had failed to prove their case.

Reference:  Leighton, Marshall O. 1907. “Pollution of Illinois and Mississippi Rivers by Chicago Sewage: A Digest of the Testimony Taken in the Case of the State of Missouri v. the State of Illinois and the Sanitary District of Chicago.” U.S. Geological Survey, Water Supply and Irrigation Paper No. 194, Series L, Quality of Water, 20, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Charles V. Chapin

January 17, 1856:  Charles V. Chapin was born.“Charles Value Chapin (January 17, 1856 – January 31, 1941 in Providence) was a pioneer in public-health practice, serving as one of the Health Officers for Providence, Rhode Island between 1884 and 1932. He also served as President of the American Public Health Association in 1927. His observations on the nature of the spread of infectious disease were dismissed at first, but eventually gained widespread support. His book, The Sources and Modes of Infection, was frequently read in the United States and Europe. The Providence City Hospital was renamed the Charles V. Chapin Hospital in 1931 to recognize his substantial contributions to improving the sanitary condition of the city of Providence.”

Commentary:  Chapin defined the new public health movement at the beginning of the 20thcentury. His career expressed the advances in public health that we all now take for granted.

January 17, 1859:  Lemuel Shattuck died in Boston.“Lemuel Shattuck was born on October 15, 1793 in Ashby, Massachusetts… He is remembered as a public health innovator, and for his work with vital statistics. Shattuck was one of the early prime-movers of public hygiene in the United States. With his report to the Massachusetts Sanitary Commission in 1850, he accomplished for New England what such men as Chadwick, Rarr, and Simon had done for England. There had been in the United States few advances in public health aside from a few stray smallpox regulations until this report. Shattuck’s report pointed out that much of the ill health and debility in the American cities at that time could be traced to unsanitary conditions, and stressed the need for local investigations and control of defects.

Shattuck was a prime mover in the adoption and expansion of public health measures at local and state levels. In 1850, he published a Sanitation Report that established a model for state boards of health in Massachusetts (1869) and other parts of the United States….”

November 1, 1836: Birth of Hiram Mills; 1952: Cuyahoga River Catches Fire…Again

November 1, 1836Birth of Hiram Francis Mills.“Born in Bangor, Maine, in the year 1836 and receiving his early schooling there, the young Hiram Mills moved on to the newly-established Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute to be graduated before he was twenty. When he was in his middle thirties he was appointed Chief Engineer of the Essex Company, the corporate owner of the Merrimack River dam at Lawrence, Massachusetts. Ever research-minded, Mr. Mills induced the Essex Company to set up an outdoor laboratory on the riverbank below the power dam. Here was installed a long pipe of large diameter — stoutly supported and shed-covered — by means of which Mills proposed to carry out new and accurate measurements of water flow under varying structural conditions.

In the year 1886…he was appointed a member of the recently reorganized State Board of Health. At the first meeting he was chosen by his associates to be chairman of the Board’s Committee on Water Supplies and Sewage, and from hydraulics, Hiram Mills’ chief scientific concern in life turned to sanitation.

The law of 1886, re-creating the State Board of Health, empowered the members to investigate methods for the disposal of sewage, and Hiram Mills lost little time in seeing that the law’s intent was carried out. As the place for his projected studies in the best practical methods for safe sewage disposal, he persuaded the Essex Company to lend to Massachusetts — for a nominal rental — the experimental plant the company had created for his hydraulic researches. With State funds, a modest laboratory building was added to the existing structures, and the whole was renamed the Lawrence Experiment Station — the first research enterprise of its kind in our country.

It may fairly be said that the investigations which Mills was to plan and carry through to conclusion in this physically limited and always economically equipped plant laid the foundations for many of the scientific methods of treatment of municipal and industrial wastes. Instead of investing in elaborate equipment and costly facilities, Mills invested in brains, as frequently he was pleased to point out. To man his researches, Mr. Mills drew upon the faculty and recent graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and thus employing their varied scientific skills, he perfected a unique investigating team whose inventiveness and productiveness are not likely to be seen again.” (edited by MJM)

Members of the research team included George W. Fuller, Allen Hazen, William T. Sedgwick, and Thomas M. Drown.

November 1, 1952: Cuyahoga River catches fire. “In 1952, leaking oil from the Standard Oil Company facility was accused of creating, ‘the greatest fire hazard in Cleveland,’ a two inch thick oil slick on the river. In spots, the slick spanned the width of the river. Although many companies had taken action to limit oil seepage on the river, others failed to cooperate with fire officials.

It was only a matter of time before disaster struck. On the afternoon of November 1, 1952, the Cuyahoga ignited again near the Great Lakes Towing Company’s shipyard, resulting in a five-alarm fire. (Many sources incorrectly put the date of the fire at November 3, 1952) The next morning’s Cleveland Plain Dealer led with a banner headline, ‘Oil Slick Fire Ruins Flats Shipyard.’ Photos taken at the scene are incredible; the river was engulfed in smoke and flame. Losses were substantial, estimated between $500,000 and $1.5 million, including the Jefferson Avenue bridge. The only reason no one died was that it started on a Saturday afternoon, when few shipyard employees were on duty.”

Commentary: There was a long history of fires on the Cuyahoga—by one count a total of 13 with the first occurring in 1868. Other fires of note occurred in 1868, 1883, 1887, 1912, 1922, 1936, 1941, and 1948. A relatively minor fire on June 22, 1969 was reported nationwide and became part of the impetus for passing the Clean Water Act in 1972.

June 22, 1969: Fire on the Cuyahoga River…Again

Cuyahoga River Catches Fire…Again

June 22, 1969:  The June 22, 1969 fire on the Cuyahogais the “seminal” event in the history of water pollution control in America, helping to spur the growth of the environmental movement and the passage of national environmental legislation. “Never before had an image so thoroughly driven home the deteriorating plight of our nation’s waterways,” one environmental group explained on the fire’s thirtieth anniversary. “The burning river mobilized the nation and became a rallying point for passage of the Clean Water Act.”17 Despite its national importance as a symbol of environmental decline, the 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga was a relatively minor story in Cleveland at the time.18 For northeast Ohio, and indeed for many industrialized areas, burning rivers were nothing new, and the 1969 fire was less severe than prior Cuyahoga conflagrations. It was a little fire on a long-polluted river already embarked on the road to recovery.

Reference: Adler, Jonathan H. “Fables of the Cuyahoga: Reconstructing a History of Environmental Protection.” Fordham Environmental Law Journal. 14 (2003): 89-146.

Commentary: There was a long history of fires on the Cuyahoga—by one count a total of 13 with the first occurring in 1868. Other fires of note occurred in 1868, 1883, 1887, 1912, 1922, 1936, 1941, 1948, and in 1952.

#TDIWH—January 17, 1896: Drought Cartoon; 1994: Northridge Earthquake Damages Los Angeles Infrastructure; 1900: Missouri v Illinois over Chicago Sewage; 1856: Charles V. Chapin Born; 1859: Death of Lemuel Shattuck

January 17, 1896:  Drought Cartoon. The Los Angeles Times has published cartoons over more than 100 years that depict the many droughts that California has suffered and the reactions to them. Here is one that I think you will enjoy.

January 17, 1994:  Northridge earthquake does significant damage to water infrastructure in Los Angeles. “The Northridge earthquake was an earthquake that occurred on January 17, 1994, at 04:31 Pacific Standard Time and was centered in the north-central San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, California. It had a duration of approximately 10–20 seconds….In addition, earthquake-caused property damage was estimated to be more than $20 billion, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history….Numerous fires were also caused by broken gas lines from houses shifting off their foundations or unsecured water heaters tumbling. In the San Fernando Valley, several underground gas and water lines were severed, resulting in some streets experiencing simultaneous fires and floods. Damage to the system resulted in water pressure dropping to zero in some areas; this predictably affected success in fighting subsequent fires. Five days after the earthquake it was estimated that between 40,000 and 60,000 customers were still without public water service.”

Commentary:  One of the most memorable sights from the earthquake aftermath was the massive natural gas fire occurring while water was spewing from a huge water main break (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA1m3UgJ8nU).

Breaking the Dam on the Canal

January 17, 1900: Fifteen days after Chicago opened the Sanitary and Ship Canal and reversed the course of the Chicago River to discharge sewage into the Mississippi River, Missouri sued Illinois, “…praying for an injunction against the defendants from draining into Mississippi River the sewage and drainage of said sanitary district by way of the Chicago drainage canal and the channels of Desplaines and Illinois river.”

The Bill of Complaint alleged in part:

“That if such plan is carried out it will cause such sewage matter to flow into Mississippi River past the homes and waterworks systems of the inhabitants of the complainant…

That the amount of such undefecated [huh?] sewage matter would be about 1,500 tons daily, and that it will poison the waters of the Mississippi and render them unfit for domestic use, amounting to a direct and continuing nuisance that will endanger the health and lives and irreparably injure the business interests of inhabitants of the complainant…

That the water of the canal had destroyed the value of the water of the Mississippi for drinking and domestic purposes, and had caused much sickness to persons living along the banks of said river in the State of Missouri.”

The opinion in the case was written by Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes and read in part:

“The data upon which an increase in the deaths from typhoid fever in St. Louis is alleged are disputed. The elimination of other causes is denied. The experts differ as to the time and distance within which a stream would purify itself. No case of an epidemic caused by infection at so remote a source is brought forward and the cases which are produced are controverted. The plaintiff obviously must be cautious upon this point, for if this suit should succeed many others would follow, and it not improbably would find itself a defendant to a bill by one or more of the States lower down upon the Mississippi. The distance which the sewage has to travel (357 miles) is not open to debate, but the time of transit to he inferred from experiments with floats is estimated at varying from eight to eighteen and a half days, with forty-eight hours more from intake to distribution, and when corrected by observations of bacteria is greatly prolonged by the defendants. The experiments of the defendants’ experts lead them to the opinion that a typhoid bacillus could not survive the journey, while those on the other side maintain that it might live and keep its power for twenty-five days or more, and arrive at St. Louis. Upon the question at issue, whether the new discharge from Chicago hurts St. Louis, there is a categorical contradiction between the experts on the two sides.”

Commentary:  In effect, Justice Holmes ruled in favor of Chicago. The experts for St. Louis had failed to prove their case.

Reference:  Leighton, Marshall O. 1907. “Pollution of Illinois and Mississippi Rivers by Chicago Sewage: A Digest of the Testimony Taken in the Case of the State of Missouri v. the State of Illinois and the Sanitary District of Chicago.” U.S. Geological Survey, Water Supply and Irrigation Paper No. 194, Series L, Quality of Water, 20, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Charles V. Chapin

January 17, 1856:  Charles V. Chapin was born. “Charles Value Chapin (January 17, 1856 – January 31, 1941 in Providence) was a pioneer in public-health practice, serving as one of the Health Officers for Providence, Rhode Island between 1884 and 1932. He also served as President of the American Public Health Association in 1927. His observations on the nature of the spread of infectious disease were dismissed at first, but eventually gained widespread support. His book, The Sources and Modes of Infection, was frequently read in the United States and Europe. The Providence City Hospital was renamed the Charles V. Chapin Hospital in 1931 to recognize his substantial contributions to improving the sanitary condition of the city of Providence.”

Commentary:  Chapin defined the new public health movement at the beginning of the 20th century. His career expressed the advances in public health that we all now take for granted.

January 17, 1859:  Lemuel Shattuck died in Boston. “Lemuel Shattuck was born on October 15, 1793 in Ashby, Massachusetts… He is remembered as a public health innovator, and for his work with vital statistics. Shattuck was one of the early prime-movers of public hygiene in the United States. With his report to the Massachusetts Sanitary Commission in 1850, he accomplished for New England what such men as Chadwick, Rarr, and Simon had done for England. There had been in the United States few advances in public health aside from a few stray smallpox regulations until this report. Shattuck’s report pointed out that much of the ill health and debility in the American cities at that time could be traced to unsanitary conditions, and stressed the need for local investigations and control of defects.

Shattuck was a prime mover in the adoption and expansion of public health measures at local and state levels. In 1850, he published a Sanitation Report that established a model for state boards of health in Massachusetts (1869) and other parts of the United States….”

November 1, 1836: Birth of Hiram Mills; 1952: Cuyahoga River Catches Fire…Again

November 1, 1836Birth of Hiram Francis Mills. “Born in Bangor, Maine, in the year 1836 and receiving his early schooling there, the young Hiram Mills moved on to the newly-established Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute to be graduated before he was twenty. When he was in his middle thirties he was appointed Chief Engineer of the Essex Company, the corporate owner of the Merrimack River dam at Lawrence, Massachusetts. Ever research-minded, Mr. Mills induced the Essex Company to set up an outdoor laboratory on the riverbank below the power dam. Here was installed a long pipe of large diameter — stoutly supported and shed-covered — by means of which Mills proposed to carry out new and accurate measurements of water flow under varying structural conditions.

In the year 1886…he was appointed a member of the recently reorganized State Board of Health. At the first meeting he was chosen by his associates to be chairman of the Board’s Committee on Water Supplies and Sewage, and from hydraulics, Hiram Mills’ chief scientific concern in life turned to sanitation.

The law of 1886, re-creating the State Board of Health, empowered the members to investigate methods for the disposal of sewage, and Hiram Mills lost little time in seeing that the law’s intent was carried out. As the place for his projected studies in the best practical methods for safe sewage disposal, he persuaded the Essex Company to lend to Massachusetts — for a nominal rental — the experimental plant the company had created for his hydraulic researches. With State funds, a modest laboratory building was added to the existing structures, and the whole was renamed the Lawrence Experiment Station — the first research enterprise of its kind in our country.

It may fairly be said that the investigations which Mills was to plan and carry through to conclusion in this physically limited and always economically equipped plant laid the foundations for many of the scientific methods of treatment of municipal and industrial wastes. Instead of investing in elaborate equipment and costly facilities, Mills invested in brains, as frequently he was pleased to point out. To man his researches, Mr. Mills drew upon the faculty and recent graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and thus employing their varied scientific skills, he perfected a unique investigating team whose inventiveness and productiveness are not likely to be seen again.” (edited by MJM)

Members of the research team included George W. Fuller, Allen Hazen, William T. Sedgwick, and Thomas M. Drown.

November 1, 1952: Cuyahoga River catches fire. “In 1952, leaking oil from the Standard Oil Company facility was accused of creating, ‘the greatest fire hazard in Cleveland,’ a two inch thick oil slick on the river. In spots, the slick spanned the width of the river. Although many companies had taken action to limit oil seepage on the river, others failed to cooperate with fire officials.

It was only a matter of time before disaster struck. On the afternoon of November 1, 1952, the Cuyahoga ignited again near the Great Lakes Towing Company’s shipyard, resulting in a five-alarm fire. (Many sources incorrectly put the date of the fire at November 3, 1952) The next morning’s Cleveland Plain Dealer led with a banner headline, ‘Oil Slick Fire Ruins Flats Shipyard.’ Photos taken at the scene are incredible; the river was engulfed in smoke and flame. Losses were substantial, estimated between $500,000 and $1.5 million, including the Jefferson Avenue bridge. The only reason no one died was that it started on a Saturday afternoon, when few shipyard employees were on duty.”

Commentary:  There was a long history of fires on the Cuyahoga—by one count a total of 13 with the first occurring in 1868. Other fires of note occurred in 1868, 1883, 1887, 1912, 1922, 1936, 1941, and 1948. A relatively minor fire on June 22, 1969 was reported nationwide and became part of the impetus for passing the Clean Water Act in 1972.

June 22, 1969: Fire on the Cuyahoga River…Again

Cuyahoga River Catches Fire…Again

June 22, 1969: The June 22, 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga is the “seminal” event in the history of water pollution control in America, helping to spur the growth of the environmental movement and the passage of national environmental legislation. “Never before had an image so thoroughly driven home the deteriorating plight of our nation’s waterways,” one environmental group explained on the fire’s thirtieth anniversary. “The burning river mobilized the nation and became a rallying point for passage of the Clean Water Act.”17 Despite its national importance as a symbol of environmental decline, the 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga was a relatively minor story in Cleveland at the time.18 For northeast Ohio, and indeed for many industrialized areas, burning rivers were nothing new, and the 1969 fire was less severe than prior Cuyahoga conflagrations. It was a little fire on a long-polluted river already embarked on the road to recovery.

Reference: Adler, Jonathan H. “Fables of the Cuyahoga: Reconstructing a History of Environmental Protection.” Fordham Environmental Law Journal. 14 (2003): 89-146.

Commentary: There was a long history of fires on the Cuyahoga—by one count a total of 13 with the first occurring in 1868. Other fires of note occurred in 1868, 1883, 1887, 1912, 1922, 1936, 1941, 1948, and in 1952.