Tag Archives: Jersey City

June 24, 1915: Wanaque, NJ Water Supply

Wanaque Reservoir

June 24, 1915:  Municipal Journal article. More Cities Want Wanaque Supply. “Trenton, N. J.-Jersey City has also asked to be considered in the Wanaque plan. Commissioner George F. Brensinger told the commission that Jersey City would probably need an additional supply of water if the plan to consolidate the Hudson towns was carried out in the near future. The daily capacity of the present reservoirs which store the supply developed at Boonton is 50,000,000 gallons. The city has actually used that quantity at some periods, but just now is consuming about 47,000,000 to 49,000,000 gallons daily. Jersey City has a protective contract with the New York and New Jersey Water Company. Morris R. Sherrerd, engineer of the commission, suggested that Jersey City could obtain water from the Wanaque watershed through its pipe line that now passes through Belleville. The engineer pointed out that the prospect of getting water in this way within four or five years would enable Jersey City to postpone incurring the expense of building additional pipe lines to Boonton or increasing its storage capacity there.

There is a possibility that Essex municipalities not hitherto considered may want Wanaque water. West Orange is looking forward to new sources now. Its contract with the West Orange Water Company expires in 1918 and its representatives have been talking to the state commission about the prospect of getting a new supply from the Wanaque. Elizabeth put up more money than any other municipality for the Wanaque survey, but the commission has heard nothing officially that would indicate what attitude it will take on the development plans.”

June 15, 1934: Death of George W. Fuller

George Warren Fuller, 1903, 35 years old

June 15, 1934:  Death of George Warren Fuller in New York City. George Warren Fuller was, quite simply, the greatest sanitary engineer of his time, and his time was long—lasting from 1895 to 1934.  In truth, we have not seen his like since.  How did he reach the pinnacle of his field?  What early influences led him on his path? There is a biography of Fuller on Wikipedia that I wrote which summarizes his life from a “neutral point of view.” The material below is taken in part from Chapter 7 of The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight To Save Lives. By design, it gives more of a personal flavor to his life.

George Warren Fuller was born in Franklin, Massachusetts on December 21, 1868—ten years after the death of Dr. John Snow and ten years after the birth of Dr. John L. Leal.  He was the son of George Newell Fuller and Harriet Martha Craig. There is not much known about his father who was simply described as a farmer.  His father was born on the Fuller family property in Franklin, Massachusetts on November 22, 1819.

Harriet Martha Craig was born on February 2, 1841, grew up near Leicester, Massachusetts, and attended Mount Holyoke College, but she did not graduate.  Her final year at the institution was 1865.  They were married on November 15, 1866 when he was 46 and she was only 25.  They settled down in the Franklin-Medway area of rural Massachusetts for a quiet life of farming on the ancestral Fuller family property.  They had two children, George W. and Mabel B. who was born in 1876.  We know that George kept in touch with his younger sister in later years.  She married Carl W. DeVoe and moved to Jerome, Idaho. George owned a ranch in Idaho and must have visited her there.

Place names in Massachusetts have changed over the past several hundred years as the land area covering certain towns changed due to the expansion and contraction of town boundaries or as a result of new towns being carved off from old ones.  Towns that figured prominently in Fuller’s history, Dedham, Franklin and West Medway, all describe the same general area, which is about 10-25 miles southwest of Boston.

We know only a little about his early education.  One report observed:

“George Warren Fuller was at the head of his class when he attended the Dedham schools. His scholarship was, of course, a source of great satisfaction to his mother. At sixteen he passed the examination for entrance at MIT but, his father having died a few weeks before, it was thought best for him to have a fourth year in high school….”

After his father’s death on May 3, 1885, his mother moved 2,500 miles away to Claremont, California where she lived until she died in 1915.  George must have felt that he had lost both parents at the same time.  We do not know if he was looking for a stable family life to replace the one he had lost, but we do know that he married when he was only two years out of high school, in 1888.  His first wife, Lucy Hunter was born in October 1869 and died far too young on March 18, 1895. Lucy came from a family who immigrated to America from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  Her father was born about 1830 and listed his occupation as farmer.  Her mother, Sarah, was born about 1845.  The farming family had seven children, three boys and four girls.  They must have moved to Boston from New Brunswick sometime between 1877 and 1880.  The youngest boy, Harry, was born in New Brunswick about 1877. I recently heard from a descendant of Lucy Fuller who was researching her family. According to her second cousin, three times removed, the family was sailing from Northern Ireland to Philadelphia in 1767 when their ship was wrecked off of Nova Scotia. Lucy’s family eventually made it to Boston while many of the other Hunters moved on to Ontario, Canada.

In 1880, the U.S. census showed that her family lived in Boston at 218 Bennington Street, which is now near Boston Logan International Airport and was located near cultivated land in the late 1800s.  The address is about three miles from the MIT campus, as the crow flies.

Lucy was 18 years old and Fuller was 20 years old when they were married.  Fuller was only in his second year at university (1886-1890).  They had one son, Myron E. Fuller who was born in Boston on June 4, 1889. We do not know much about the marriage, but we do know that George W. Fuller was issued a passport on May 2, 1890 for his trip to Germany and his continued studies. There is no record that Lucy or Myron applied for a passport or accompanied Fuller to Germany.  Massachusetts death records listed her cause of death as “enteritis” which was a general term used for diseases caused by the ingestion of pathogens from food or water.  The death records listed her as “married” which meant that her marriage to Fuller was not dissolved prior to her death. There is no evidence that George W. Fuller lived with her and their son after 1889.

From a 1910 census report, it is clear that Myron lived with his father in Summit, New Jersey.  One recorded connection we know of between Myron and his father was mentioned in the preface of Fuller’s 1912 book, Sewage Disposal. Fuller acknowledged Myron (who was 22 years old at the time) for creating the index to the book.  One source showed that Fuller and McClintock employed Myron from 1911 to 1916 and again from 1919 until at least 1922. In 1918, Myron registered for the draft and listed his occupation as civil engineer. The same reference showed Myron working for the City of Philadelphia in the Bureau of Surveys—the same occupation as his great-great-great-great grandfather, Ensign Thomas Fuller.  He lived in Philadelphia with his wife and one child.

While Fuller was in Louisville working on the filtration investigations, he met Caroline L. Goodloe who came from a fine, old Louisville family.  In November 1899, Fuller married her in Louisville. They were both 31 years old when they were married.  In May of 1900, husband and wife went on a trip to Europe—a somewhat delayed honeymoon. Their son, Kemp Goodloe Fuller, was born on March 10, 1901. On November 11, 1903, while living in New York City, their second son, Asa W. Fuller was born.

We know from records published in the annual report of the APHA and other sources that Fuller had his offices in New York City at 220 Broadway for many years beginning in 1899, which was the same address given by Allen Hazen for his offices for a short period of time.

Tragically, Caroline Goodloe Fuller died in June 21, 1907, while George W. Fuller was most heavily engaged in numerous water and sewage disposal projects all over the U.S.  At her death, George W. Fuller was living at 309 West 84th Street in New York City with his wife and their sons.  She was 38 years old.

The 1910 Census form showed that Fuller was living at 160 Boulevard, Summit, New Jersey with Alice C. Goodlow (sic) who was identified as his sister-in-law, Mary L. Goodlow (sic) identified as his mother-in-law and his three sons Myron, Kemp G. and Asa.  George’s in-laws had come up from Louisville to help him raise the boys.  Also listed at the same residence was an interesting guest, Grace F. Thomson, 43, born in China of English ancestry and claiming a trade of metal working.  In addition, there were three servants (two Irish and one Greek) making it a full and busy household.  The census form showed him as widowed, so by 1910 he had not remarried.

We know from several accounts, that George Warren Fuller was, in many ways, a big man.  Physically, he was tall.  An account by a colleague said that he was over six feet tall, but passport application forms that Fuller filled out showed that his height was 5 feet 10 inches. Pictures of him from 1903 until at least 1928 showed that he was, to use a descriptor from the time, stout. One description had him at 285 pounds with a size 18 collar.

His hair was dark brown and, in the style of the day, slicked down and parted in the middle.  As time marched on, he began to gray at the temples and then the gray seemed to take over his thinning head of hair.  He was clean-shaven except for his days in Louisville during the filtration studies, when he sported a bushy mustache.  He had blue eyes that could bore into someone who did not please him and twinkle when he was trying to charm a lady.  The round spectacles that he always wore did not detract from the intensity of his blue eyes.

George Warren Fuller Comes to California…in 2013

On April 3, 2013, I gave a talk at the California Nevada Section Conference of the American Water Works Association. I teamed up with John Marchand who gave a talk on Dr. John Snow of Broad Street Pump fame. We made a pact to give our talks in costume, which incredibly we both followed through on. Below are links to my talk broken up into three parts (YouTube restrictions). It describes Fuller’s life and the first use of chlorine on the Jersey City water supply in 1908.

Part 1:  http://youtu.be/37WZkp5148w

Part 2:  http://youtu.be/rsicrBvVMc4

Part 3:  http://youtu.be/n6PuOvjjQMI

Commentary:  This article originally appeared on my other blog, safedrinkingwaterdotcom.

June 14, 1919: Jersey City Fined for Using Too Much Water

Jersey City Chlorination Facility at Boonton Reservoir

June 14, 1919:  Municpal Journal and Public Works editorial. Public Control of Water. “Water companies and departments have appealed to consumers from time to time to restrict consumption in order to avert a water famine in the city, and meters are used largely to prevent waste; but we believe it is something new to impose a penalty for excessive consumption. As told last week, Jersey City, N. J., has been fined by the state $22,285 for using from the Rockaway river more than the 100 gallons per day per capita which had been allotted to it.

The right of state or federal government to guard the quality of river waters has been recognized and become familiar, and western states have long controlled the amount that could be withdrawn for irrigation; but limiting the amount that cities can use for their public supplies is a novelty. There is every reason, however, why power to limit the amount that can be used should rest in a central authority and be exercised on occasion. No one city has a right to monopolize a water supply because it “saw it first.” The water flowing in the rivers of a country comprises the run-off from every square foot of land in that country; and as the entire area yielded it, the entire area has a right in it. Moreover, to permit one or a few cities to monopolize all the water available in a state would be fatal to the growth in population and industrial development of the state outside of such cities.

The New Jersey plan seems to be a rational one and one that all states must adopt in some form, sooner or later; and the sooner, the less will be the confusion and individual hardship and the greater the benefit resulting therefrom.”

Commentary:  This is an interesting footnote to the story I told in The Chlorine Revolution about the first use of chlorine in a U.S. drinking water supply. I do not know what action Jersey City took after being fined, but I can guess that they fought the fine in court. The water rights principle espoused in the editorial sounds more like a public trust doctrine which courts have only recently been applying to allocation of water rights in a river basin.

June 9, 1934: Drought Cartoon; 2013: Celebration of Activated Sludge; 1846: Birth of Frederic W. Stevens

June 9, 1934:  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.

Activated Sludge Process

June 9, 2013:  Celebration of Centennial of Activated Sludge Process. “On June 9-11, the Water Environment Federation convened the forum, “Activated Sludge on its 100th Birthday: Challenges and Opportunities.” The event was held at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first patent of the activated sludge process near Boston. The Activated Sludge process is still the heart of modern wastewater treatment systems around the globe and was a sea-change in the burgeoning field of wastewater treatment, permitting wastewater treatment to occur in a much smaller footprint, saving space and treatment time while protecting public and environmental health. In the past 100 years, the process has been updated, modified, and augmented, to improve treatment, remove nutrients, and do so more efficiently. However, more stringent demands and resources challenges are necessitating another look at the process that has been the backbone of modern sanitation infrastructure.”

Three copies of Jersey City lawsuit against the Jersey City Water Supply Company

June 9, 1846:  Birth of Frederic W. Stevens, Vice Chancellor of the New Jersey Court of Chancery. Stevens officiated at the first trial of the lawsuit brought by Jersey City, New Jersey against the Jersey City Water Supply Company. The basis of the lawsuit was a contract dispute over whether a water supply from the Rockaway River was “pure and wholesome.”

Vice Chancellor Frederick W. Stevens was a highly regarded jurist in his day.  “The career of Vice-Chancellor Stevens, marked as it has been by public service of the highest type, and by an undeviating devotion to duty, places him among the foremost men of the State in his generation…As a judge, the fairness, clearness and acuteness of his mind, with the high qualifications he has shown in that capacity, have won him universal admiration and respect, and given him a prominent position among the important men of the State.”   Stevens was born on June 9, 1846.  His father was an engineer and his great-grandfather was a rival of Robert J. Fulton in the field of steam power development. Vice-Chancellor Stevens was comfortable with the kinds of technical language and facts that he would have to rule on in the first trial.

Stevens graduated from Columbia College in 1864.  He read law in the offices of Edward T. Green and was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1868.  Most of his legal practice was conducted in Newark, New Jersey.  “His professional record has been one of the most unusual success, and he has taken a conspicuous part in some of the most important legal fights ever made.”   Stevens was appointed as Vice-Chancellor of the Chancery Court in 1896.  At the time of the first trial, Vice-Chancellor Stevens was 61 years old.

June 8, 1909: Leal and Fuller Papers Presented at AWWA Conference

Figure 10.1-Schematic of chloride of lime feed system at Boonton Reservoir 1908

June 8, 1909:  John L. Leal, George W. Fuller and George A. Johnson present papers at the AWWA annual conference on this day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the chloride of lime treatment system at Boonton Reservoir, New Jersey.  Unlike previous presentations on the addition of disinfection chemicals to water, the three papers were received enthusiastically by the audience.  The then President of AWWA, William P. Mason, stated in the discussion section of the papers, “…when I first came in contact with this process I was a very strong disbeliever; in fact, I am on record in print as not approving of the process.  I have been converted, however…because of the results of many experiments. I found, very greatly to my surprise, that the dose was exceedingly small that was required to produce satisfactory treatment.” The full story of the chlorination of the Jersey City water supply can be found in The Chlorine Revolution which was published in April 2013.

“Testimony at the second Jersey City trial described the plant facilities in some detail, and later publications gave an overview of the facilities along with selected design details.

Figure 10-1 is a schematic of the chloride of lime feed facility at Boonton. According to Fuller’s testimony, he made only nine engineering design drawings to guide the contractor during construction of the plant. For an equivalent facility today, dozens of drawings would be required.

The chloride of lime facility was housed in a one-story wooden building that was constructed adjacent to the gate house located at the foot of Boonton Dam. In addition to all of the mechanical equipment required to feed chloride of lime, the building housed a small laboratory used to perform simple chemical tests and to conduct bacteriological examinations.

The concentrated chloride of lime powder was put into dissolving tanks along with dilution water from the reservoir (Figure 10-1). Typically, the bleaching powder contained 35 percent available chlorine. A highly concentrated solution of chloride of lime was made in the dissolving tanks and then fed by gravity into the solution tanks. More dilution water was added to the solution tanks to create the desired strength for the chloride of lime mixture. Triplicate pairs of dissolving and solution tanks allowed the operator to produce large batches (about 10,000 gallons each) of 0.5–1 percent dilute solutions.

A belt-driven turbine pump4 (in duplicate) moved the dilute solution up to one of the two orifice tanks. The orifice tanks were positioned at a relatively high elevation, enabling them to feed chlorine solution by gravity into the chamber below. The chamber was downstream of the 48-inch pipelines connecting the outlet tower of the dam to the pipeline delivering water to Jersey City. Duplicate orifice tanks were a critical design factor because chloride of lime in 0.5–1 percent solutions tended to build up solid deposits on the sides of the orifice plate and obstruct the opening.”

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

June 2, 1909: Jersey City Guards Pipeline Route

June 2, 1909:  Municipal Journal and Engineer article. Guards to Stop Water Company. “Jersey City, N. J.-Engineer J. W. Griffin, of the Jersey City Water Department, has received word that the East Jersey Water Company or its allied interests are trying to lay a pipe line along the Arlington road at the northern end of Hudson County to connect with North Arlington in Bergen County. To prevent the laying of this pipe without permission two deputy sheriffs have been stationed at the Arlington road to keep tabs on the water company employees and guard against surprises. Jersey City and the Suburban Water Company are both trying to make a contract with Borough of North Arlington. Jersey City has offered to supply Boonton water at $6o a million gallons. The Suburban Water Company, which is allied with the East Jersey, has offered to supply water from the Passaic River shed at $82.50 per million gallons. The North Arlington officials have the two offers under consideration.”

Commentary:  This dust up was happening at the same time as the second trial of the lawsuit filed by Jersey City against the private water company, Jersey City Water Supply Company (also related to the East Jersey Water Company—see my book The Chlorine Revolution for more details). Many of the water disputes during this period can be understood if one inspects the business relationships between companies and between cities. Jersey City selling excess water at a profit from the Boonton Reservoir was one of the reasons why they had the water supply created in the first place.

May 23, 1904: Boonton Water Supply Delivered to Jersey City

Boonton Dam on the Rockaway River

May 23, 1904: First delivery of water from the Boonton supply to Jersey City, New Jersey. At the end of the 19th century, the water supply for Jersey City, New Jersey was contaminated with sewage and the death toll from typhoid fever was high. In 1899, the city contracted with a private company for the construction of a new water supply on the Rockaway River, which included a dam, reservoir and 23-mile pipeline. The project was completed on May 23, 1904; however, no treatment was provided to the water supply, because the contract did not require it. The city, claiming that the contract provisions were not fulfilled, filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Court of New Jersey. Jersey City officials complained that the water served to the city was not “pure and wholesome.”

Two trials resulted from the lawsuit. In the second trial, Dr. John L. Leal and several other defendant expert witnesses were able to convince the Special Master, William J. Magie, that the use of chlorine to disinfect the water supply was safe, effective and reliable. After the favorable verdict, the use of chlorine for drinking water disinfection exploded across the U.S. and typhoid fever was eradicated.

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

May 18, 1897: Dow Chemical Founding and Connection to Bleach

May 18, 1897:  “The Dow Chemical Company incorporated, based on Dow’s plan to manufacture, sell bleach on commercial scale; 1898 – first commercial scale production of bleach begins; Dow-in-diamond mark created to resolve product shipping problems.”

Commentary: Bleaching powder (or chloride of lime, also known as calcium hypochlorite) was used by Dr. John L. Leal on the Jersey City water supply in 1908. This was the first continuous use of chlorine on a municipal water supply in the U.S.

May 5, 1858: Birth of John L. Leal

Dr. John L. Leal

May 5, 1858:  162nd anniversary of the birth of John L. Leal, physician and water treatment expert who pioneered chlorine disinfection in the U.S. There are many unsung heroes who contributed significantly to public health at the turn of the 20th century. John L. Leal is one of them and after reading this, I think you will agree that he did more than most to save people’s lives.

John L. Leal was born in the small town of Andes, New York on May 5, 1858. His father, John Rose Leal was a physician who joined the 144th Regiment, New York Volunteers and fought in the Civil War. During the siege of Charleston, South Carolina, John Rose Leal contracted what was most likely a case of amoebic dysentery from contaminated drinking water. He suffered from the disease for more than 17 years before he finally died of it in 1882.

John L. Leal attended Princeton College and graduated in 1880. He went on to Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons finishing his medical education in 1883. He opened a medical practice in Paterson, New Jersey and went to work for the Paterson Board of Health where he remained until 1899. He left City employment and became the sanitary adviser to private water companies including the East Jersey Water Company and the Jersey City Water Supply Company. In 1888, he married Amy L. Arrowsmith and they had one son, Graham, later that year. So far, his life was well spent but not exemplary.

In the field of water supply, there were big moves afoot in the state of New Jersey at the turn of the 20th century. Jersey City had suffered with a contaminated water supply for decades causing tens of thousands of deaths from typhoid fever and diarrheal diseases. In 1899, the City contracted with Jersey City Water Supply Company to build a dam on the Rockaway River and provide a new water supply. The dam created Boonton Reservoir, which had a storage capacity of over seven billion gallons. Leal’s job with the company was to remove sources of contamination in the Rockaway River watershed above the reservoir. Water from the project was served to the City beginning on May 23, 1904.

When it came time for Jersey City to pay the company for the new water supply, they balked. The price tag was steep—over $175 million in current dollars. Using newly developed bacteriological methods, consultants for the City claimed that the water was not “pure and wholesome,” and they filed suit against the company to get a reduced purchase price. The trial that resulted pitted the water quality experts of the day against one another in a battle of expert witnesses. The opinion of the judge was published on May 1, 1909. In that opinion, Vice Chancellor Frederic W. Stevens said that Boonton Reservoir did a good job on average of reducing the bacteria concentrations in the water provided. However, he noted that two to three times per year, especially after intense rainstorms, the reservoir short-circuited and relatively high bacteria levels resulted.

Rather than build expensive sewers that would deal with only part of the bacteria contamination problem (an early recognition of non-point source pollution) Leal and the company attorney argued to install “other plans or devices” that would do a better job. The judge agreed and gave them a little over three months to prove their idea. Leal had decided in May 1909 that it was time to add a chemical disinfectant to drinking water. He was all too familiar with the suffering and death caused by typhoid fever and diarrheal diseases. He knew of some successful instances of using forms of chlorine in Europe, but nothing had been attempted in the U.S. on a large-scale basis or over any continuous time period.

But, there was a problem. The public feared chemicals in their food, medicines and water. Adulteration of food and medicines was rampant during this period, which was faithfully catalogued in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

“How could they know that the pale-blue milk that they bought around the corner was watered, and doctored with formaldehyde besides?. . .How could they find out that their tea and coffee, their sugar and flour, had been doctored; that their canned peas had been colored with copper salts, and their fruit jams with aniline dyes?”(1)

At any conference of water professionals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, strong language was used to oppose chemical disinfection. Even George W. Fuller early in his career was not supportive of chemical disinfectants.

1893, George Warren Fuller:  “While chemicals have been of much aid in surgery by bringing about antisepsis and asepsis, it is very improbable that people would allow their drinking water to be drugged with chemicals, even with the view of removing dangerous bacteria–indeed, such a method might prove very dangerous in many cases.”(2)

1894, Thomas M. Drown: “…the idea itself of chemical disinfection is repellent.”(3)

1904, George C. Whipple: “Thus in St. Louis the popular prejudice against the use of alum in clarifying the water is said to be so intense that a local engineer has said ‘it is very doubtful if alum could be used, no matter how excellent the results which might be obtained.’. . .‘We don’t want to drink puckered water.’”(4)

1906, George C. Whipple:  “The idea of adding poisonous chemicals [like chlorine] to water for the purpose of improving its quality for drinking purposes has generally been considered as illogical and unsafe. . .”(5)

1906, William P. Mason:  “I very much question if the public at large would be willing to disinfect water to-day.  We are scarcely driven that far yet.”(6)

1906, P.A. Maignen:  “Among the so-called ‘disinfectants’ tried may be cited copper, chlorine and oxalic acid. . .Such poisonous materials should not be permitted to be used on water intended for public supplies.”(7)

Nonetheless, Leal was convinced that adding a disinfectant to the Jersey City water supply was the best course. He had done laboratory studies that convinced him that a fraction of a ppm of chlorine would kill disease-causing bacteria. In the face of the certain disapproval of his peers and possible condemnation by the public, he moved forward. Where he found the courage to follow the path of chemical disinfection when all of the experts railed against it is not known for certain. His father’s gruesome illness and death and the unnecessary deaths he personally observed as Health Officer for Paterson must have contributed to his decision.

However, no chlorine feed system treating 40 million gallons per day had ever been designed or built and if the feed system failed to operate reliably, all of the courage of his convictions would not have amounted to much. He needed the best engineer in the country to do the work. He needed George Warren Fuller. In 1908, Fuller was famous for his work in filtration. He had designed an aluminum sulfate feed system treating 30 million gallons per day for the Little Falls treatment plant. On July 19, 1908, Leal left his attorney’s office in Jersey City and took the ferry to Manhattan. In Fuller’s office at 170 Broadway, he hired the famous engineer (undoubtedly on the basis of a handshake) and told him that the bad news was that he needed the work done in a little over three months.

Ninety-nine days later, the chlorine feed system was built and operational. Calcium hypochlorite (known then as chloride of lime or bleaching powder) was made into a concentrated solution, diluted with water and fed through a calibrated orifice to the water before it traveled by gravity to Jersey City. The feed system worked flawlessly from day one and continued to operate successfully for all of the following days. Liquid chlorine eventually replaced chloride of lime, but September 26, 2012, marks the 104th anniversary of the first continuous use of chlorine on a water supply—the longest period of water disinfection anywhere in the world.

In a second trial, the court vindicated Leal’s decision. Afterwards, the use of chlorine spread like wildfire throughout the U.S. Typhoid fever death rates plummeted and children under one year of age stopped dying by the hundreds of thousands.

John L. Leal was not a physically imposing figure. Photographs of him show a man of average height and build with a kind face. Nothing in his appearance hinted at the steel spine and dogged courage that he possessed. One definition of the word hero reads: “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.” These days, many people feel that the word hero has been overused in this country. I think that promoting a water treatment process that saves millions of lives qualifies Leal to be known as a Hero of Public Health.

Why doesn’t everyone know about Leal? Another man, George A. Johnson was wrongly given the credit for the idea of chlorinating the water supply for Jersey City. Johnson was able to get away with his charade, in part, because John L. Leal died on March 13, 1914, and Johnson lived for another 20 years.

Still not convinced? Well, you will have to wait for the full story that has been published in my book, The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives which will be available for shipment on March 20, 2013.(8)

References

(1) Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle: With an Afterword by Emory Elliott. New York:Signet Classic, 1990, original copyright 1905, originally published in 1904.

(2) Fuller, George W. “Sand Filtration of Water, with Special Reference to Results Obtained, at Lawrence, Massachusetts.” In American Public Health Association, Public Health Papers and Reports. Vol. 20, Columbus, OH:APHA, 64-71. 1895.

(3) Drown, Thomas M. “The Electrical Purification of Water.” Journal NEWWA. 8 (1894): 183-7.

(4) Whipple, George C. Discussion of “Purification of Water for Domestic Use.” Transactions ASCE. 54:Part D (1905): 192-206.

(5) Whipple, George C. “Disinfection as a Means of Water Purification.” Proceedings AWWA. (1906): 266-80.

(6) Mason, William P. “Discussion.” Proceedings AWWA. (1906): 282-3.

(7) Maignen, P.A. “Discussion.” Proceedings AWWA. (1906): 285-6.

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

Commentary:  On May 5, 2013, at Cedar Lawn Cemetery in Paterson, New Jersey, a grave monument was dedicated to Dr. Leal. For 98 years, his grave was unmarked. The granite obelisk has the names of John L. Leal and five members of his immediate family carved on the sides. Under John L. Leal’s name is the descriptor:  Hero of Public Health.

Grave Monument for Dr. Leal

March 31, 1934: Death of George A. Johnson

March 31, 1934:  Death of George A. Johnson. George A. Johnson was born in Auburn, Maine on May 26, 1874. From his involvement in the Louisville study with Fuller to his death in 1934, Johnson’s career was boosted by his association with George W. Fuller.

Johnson never attended college and had no formal training as an engineer, chemist or bacteriologist.  Johnson identified himself during his testimony in the second Jersey City trial as a “sanitary engineer,” which was clearly an overstatement of his accomplishments up to that point.  By the time he became involved in the Boonton chloride of lime plant, he said that he had 14 years of experience as a sanitary engineer—since September 1895. The first three years of this period were devoted to working with George W. Fuller on the filtration studies in Louisville and Cincinnati.  From reports of those studies, it was clear that Johnson was a laboratory technician and had no responsibilities or duties as a sanitary engineer.

From 1899 on, Johnson became involved in some of the most interesting studies and implementation projects for filtration and sewage treatment in the U.S. under the guidance and supervision of George W. Fuller and Rudolph Hering.  Project locations included York, PA, Norfolk, VA, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, PA, and St. Louis MO.  “At many of the places mentioned my work embodied not only straight laboratory work of a bacterial and chemical nature, but also the practical operation of filtration works.” Clearly, from his own words, Johnson was a plant operator and lab technician who aspired to become a sanitary engineer someday through experience alone.

Johnson had a supporting role in the great Chicago Drainage Canal case when he made investigations of the purported contamination caused by the discharge of Chicago’s rerouted sewage into the Mississippi 43 miles above the St. Louis water intake.  He worked at the Little Falls treatment plant, helped conduct a sanitary survey of the Hudson River for New York City (with George C. Whipple) and investigated sewage treatment methods in Cleveland, OH in addition to water treatment methods for their water supply.

Johnson took some time off in 1905-6 and traveled around the world.  He visited water works in many countries and published a paper on his adventures when he returned. The paper is a curious recitation of unremarkable water works. It is hard to understand what a U.S. reader might learn from his description of the Calcutta waterworks. Calcutta is in the Ganges Valley which was the source for all of the horrifying cholera epidemics in the 19thcentury which killed millions of people around the world.

When he returned to the U.S., he rejoined Hering and Fuller as Principal Assistant Engineer and he continued his work on water treatment and sewage disposal plants.  During this period he operated the Boonton chloride of lime plant for three months in late 1908.

He left the firm of Hering and Fuller in 1910 and formed the consulting firm Johnson and Fuller with William Barnard Fuller. He continued as a consultant for the rest of his career except for two years (1918-20) when he joined the U.S. Army where he managed fixed properties and utilities in the U.S. for the War Department.

He was a member of a number of professional societies including the APHA and the AWWA.  He received the Dexter Brackett Medal from the New England Water Works Association.  He published many articles in professional journals during his career.

In the obituary written by his mentor, George W. Fuller, his qualities were generously described:  “Colonel Johnson was a devoted son and husband, generous to a fault.  He was a man of marked and likeable personality, keen in his appreciation of human relations, and aggressivein advancing his views both on technical and non-technical subjects.” (emphasis added)

He was a member of the Explorers Club and the Circumnavigators Club, where he edited its monthly publication, The Log,for many years.  He died of a heart attack while working at his desk on March 31, 1934.George W. Fuller would die just two and one-half months later.

References:

Between the Mayor and Aldermen of Jersey City, Complainant, and Patrick H. Flynn and Jersey City Water Supply Company, Defendants: On Bill, etc. (In Chancery of New Jersey) 12 vols. n.p.:privately printed. 1908-10, (February 8, 1909, p. 5126).

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

Commentary:  Johnson took inappropriate credit for the first use of chlorine in a drinking water supply. He claimed to first use chlorine in the Bubbly Creek treatment plant which was used to treat water for cows and pigs. He then wrote about the chlorination of the water supply for Jersey City and either omitted the leadership of Dr. John L. Leal from his writings or emphasized improperly his own contributions. Dozens of secondary and tertiary sources have perpetuated the myth that Johnson started. Chapter 13 of The Chlorine Revolutionexamines this issue in full detail.