January 26, 1864: Birth of Moses N. Baker. “Moses N. Baker (1864–1955) was a noted editor and author in the field of drinking water history and technology. His most important book is still used today: The Quest for Pure Water: The History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. He was also active in the field of public health holding several positions on boards of health at the state and local levels….
Baker started his long career as author and editor in November 1887 when he was hired as the Associate Editor of Engineering News. This publication and the consolidated weekly Engineering News-Record which began on April 1, 1917 were the definitive sources of news about advances in the control and treatment of drinking water and sewage for decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He retired in 1932 after 45 years of service….
Baker was a member of a number of professional organizations and societies including the New England Water Works Association, American Water Works Association and the American Economic Association. He was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Municipal League from 1911 to 1918. He was a member of the Montclair, New Jersey Board of Health for 20 years and served as its president from 1904 to 1915. Baker was a member and vice president of the New Jersey Department of Health in 1915-16. He served as President of the New Jersey Sanitary Association in 1904 following the term of John L. Leal.
Commentary: Baker is one of my heroes. It was quite a thrill to make a connection with his great grandson, Peter Varlien, who is Norwegian-American. Peter provided several photos from Moses’ and Ella’s 50th wedding anniversary for which I am very grateful. Ah, the Internet is an amazing thing.
January 26, 1788: Tank Stream. Sydney, Australia is the site of the original New South Wales Colony founded on this day in 1788. Fed by local groundwater, Tank Stream served as the water supply for the first 40 years until it became too polluted to use. An excellent source of information on the history of groundwater development in Australia can be found in Chapter 7 of a free, online book about the geology of the continent that has astonishing pictures, maps and graphics. “The [New South Wales ] colony had originally been planned for Botany Bay, on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks who had visited the area with Captain James Cook 17 years earlier, but when no fresh water was found there, Phillip sought a better site, and found it in the previously unvisited Port Jackson. Sydney Cove was chosen for settlement as it ‘was at the head of the cove, near the run of fresh water which stole silently along through a very thick wood.’
During a drought in 1790 three storage tanks were constructed in the sandstone beside the Tank Stream and it is from these that the stream gets its name. The Tank Stream could not meet the needs of the growing colony. It was abandoned in 1826, though it had been little more than an open sewer for the preceding two decades.”
January 26, 1907: Letter to the Editor, New York Times, by Rudolph Hering. “Mr. Hering of the firm Hering and Fuller criticized the proposal to create sewage farms in the New York City area to receive the sewage generated by the City. Mr. Poultney Bigelow proposed using the “Berlin method” to apply sewage to the land so that it would be rendered harmless and not poison fish. Mr. Bigelow thought that the Hackensack meadows which were “useless barren waste[lands]” would be perfect for the application. Mr. Hering noted that one acre of land would be need to dispose of the wastes from 156 people. He suggested that a simple calculation would make it obvious that there was not enough land available to receive the flow from the City. Besides, Mr. Hering noted, there was an enormous mass of water floating by New York–The Hudson and East Rivers.”
Commentary: Gulp! Guess what alternative was chosen?