Tag Archives: New York City

June 19, 1986: 1986 SDWA Amendments Became Law 1865: NYC Sanitary Survey;

June 19, 1986: June 19, 1986:  The 1986 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act became law.“The 1986 SDWA amendments required EPA to apply future NPDWRs to both community and non-transient non-community water systems when it evaluated and revised current regulations. The first case in which this was applied was the “Phase I” final rule, published on July 8, 1987. At that time NPDWRs were promulgated for certain synthetic volatile organic compounds and applied to non-transient non-community water systems as well as community water systems. This rulemaking also clarified that non-transient non-community water systems were not subject to MCLs that were promulgated before July 8, 1987. The 1986 amendments were signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on June 19, 1986.

In addition to requiring more contaminants to be regulated, the 1986 amendments included:

  • Well head protection
  • New monitoring for certain substances
  • Filtration for certain surface water systems
  • Disinfection for certain groundwater systems
  • Restriction on lead in solder and plumbing
  • More enforcement powers.”

Commentary:  The 1986 amendments arose out of Congress’s frustration with how slow EPA was adopting regulations under the original 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act. The 1986 amendments were prescriptive in that the law told EPA what it had to do and set strict time limits for the requirements to be accomplished. One provision that was doomed from the start was the requirement for EPA to set 25 new maximum contaminant levels every three years. This problem would be fixed in the 1996 amendments.

Note the timing of these two blog posts. It took 101 years but some of the major problems identified in the sanitary survey of NYC were solved by drinking water legislation and regulation including the SDWA Amendments of 1986.

June 19, 1865New York Times Book Review—Report of the Council of Hygiene and Public Health of the Citizens’ Association of New York Upon the Sanitary Condition of the City. “At last we have a reliable report upon the social condition of New-York City; a report, moreover, that is no common one; no more compilation of statistical data, overpowering with figures and perplexing with misstatements. This is a book demanding and arresting attention; a live book; remarkable, not more for the extent of research and magnitude of labor involved in its preparation, than for the public spirit it represents and whereof it is the offspring….

The report before us, however, does not hinge on hearsay or repeat misrepresentations. Its facts are hard, palpable; its deductions convincing, its arguments unanswerable. They are the production not of an individual or a committee, but of an agency which may be called ubiquitous, since its operations penetrated every [part] of our city, and its personal scrutiny progressed, almost simultaneously, in every neighborhood. A retrospect of the actual labor performed by that agency would embrace the social and sanitary history of half a million of our people.”

Here is a 21stcentury analysis. “New York City Sanitary Surveyreports a death rate of 33 per thousand (compared to Philadelphia at 20 and London at 22). Public health had deteriorated to conditions like those of London two centuries earlier said Dr. John Griscom, who wrote the first sanitary report in 1844. The 1865 report shocked the city:  Domestic garbage, filth and the refuse of bedrooms of those sick with typhoid fever, scarlet fever and smallpox is frequently thrown into the streets, there to contaminate the air, and no doubt aid in the spread of these pestilential diseases. Some 18,000 people are living in cellars below the high water mark. ‘At high tide the water often wells up through the floors, submerging them to a considerable depth. In very many cases, the vaults of privies (latrines) are situated on the same or a higher level, and their contents frequently ooze through the walls into the occupied apartments beside them.’ As a cholera epidemicsweeps the city, the mayor of NY refuses to call together the aldermen who constituted the old Board of Health, maintaining that they are more dangerous to the city than the disease itself.”

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June 4, 1865: St. Louis Artesian Well; 1918: Death of John R. Bartlett

June 4, 1865:  New York Times headline–The Artesian Well in St. Louis. “Most of the residents of St. Louis know where the artesian well is situated — on O’Fallon, above Lewis-street — and have drank of its waters. This well was commenced in the spring of 1849, by Messrs. Belcher & Brothers, for the purpose of procuring water for the use of the refinery. It has a salty taste, and a strong odor of sulfur. In fact, so strong is the sulfur, that the white paint on the building near it has been turned blue. It is highly praised for its remedial virtues, and is visited daily by hundreds to drink of its water. The workmen in the refinery say that it is much pleasanter than ice water, and they feel better after drinking it.”

Map showing Bartlett Scheme to export Passaic River Water to New York City

June 4, 1918:  Death of John R. Bartlett, water schemer. The East Jersey Water Company was formed on August 1, 1889 for the stated purpose of supplying Newark, New Jersey with a safe water supply. All of the men who were shareholders of the new company were identified with the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company. However, the company’s vision extended far beyond a water supply for Newark.

The company began as a confidential syndicate composed of businessmen who were interested in executing grand plans for water supply in northern New Jersey and New York City. The early years of planning included Delos E. Culver who secured a franchise to construct an aqueduct in Hudson County, New Jersey. He had dreams of supplying not only Jersey City but also using the rich water resources of the Passaic River to supply the lower part of Manhattan and Brooklyn. He teamed up with John R. Bartlett who has been described as “aggressive and wealthy.” Bartlett immediately attacked the problem of obtaining water rights on the Passaic River by securing an option on all the stock of the SUM. It was widely believed that SUM had riparian rights to all the water in the Passaic River that went over the Great Falls, and tying up their water rights was crucial to any water supply scheme.

Bartlett also secured the rights to a tunnel that had been partial excavated under the Hudson connecting Hoboken with Manhattan and began excavating the tunnel further. All of this activity was explained in a slick report that Bartlett and his associates prepared and which Bartlett pitched in a series of public meetings and speeches designed to build support for his plan to supply New York City from the waters of the Passaic River. There were many news reports of his presentations around the New Jersey metropolitan areas. One such presentation was entitled, “The Plans for Furnishing an Abundant Supply of Water to the City of New York from a Source Independent of the Croton Watershed.” Of course, Bartlett stated in his talk that there was plenty of water to serve all of the New Jersey cities as well as New York City.

In his talks, Bartlett used the glitzy book that contained maps and descriptions of the water supply scheme along with testimonials, supporting statements and favorable opinions from notables of the day. One such notable was Garret A. Hobart who appeared twice in the book. First, he signed a statement that essentially verified that as President of the Acquackanonk Water Company, Bartlett’s claims of access to the water rights necessary to fulfill his scheme were correct as far as Hobart could determine. Second, Hobart included an opinion in the book that supported Bartlett’s view that the SUM controlled all of the water rights for the Passaic River at Great Falls, and that Bartlett needed the consent of SUM in order to exercise those water rights, which he had already accomplished by obtaining an option on all of the SUM stock. Hobart also opined that Bartlett could obtain lands and rights of way by condemnation and eminent domain. Finally, Hobart agreed that all of the cities that were proposed as customers for the water scheme could contract with a private water company to obtain their supplies of water. Hobart’s opinions were just a few of the dozens in the book authored by Bartlett. It was truly an astonishing document designed to steamroll over any objections or concerns.

However, despite Bartlett’s enormous efforts, one major barrier could not be overcome. Many leaders of the day believed that it would be illegal to export waters of the State of New Jersey to New York State for the profit of a private company. Bartlett lost interest in the water exporting scheme when it became clear that he could not overcome this barrier.

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

May 17, 1839: Birth of John R. Bartlett, New York City Water Schemer

Map showing Bartlett Scheme to export Passaic River Water to New York City

May 17, 1839:  Birth of John R. Bartlett, water schemer. The East Jersey Water Company was formed on August 1, 1889 for the stated purpose of supplying Newark, New Jersey with a safe water supply.  All of the men who were shareholders of the new company were identified with the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company. However, the company’s vision extended far beyond a water supply for Newark.

The company began as a confidential syndicate composed of businessmen who were interested in executing grand plans for water supply in northern New Jersey and New York City. The early years of planning included Delos E. Culver who secured a franchise to construct an aqueduct in Hudson County, New Jersey.  He had dreams of supplying not only Jersey City but also using the rich water resources of the Passaic River to supply the lower part of Manhattan and Brooklyn.  He teamed up with John R. Bartlett who has been described as “aggressive and wealthy.”  Bartlett immediately attacked the problem of obtaining water rights on the Passaic River by securing an option on all the stock of the SUM.  It was widely believed that SUM had riparian rights to all the water in the Passaic River that went over the Great Falls, and tying up their water rights was crucial to any water supply scheme.

Bartlett also secured the rights to a tunnel that had been partial excavated under the Hudson connecting Hoboken with Manhattan and began excavating the tunnel further.  All of this activity was explained in a slick report that Bartlett and his associates prepared and which Bartlett pitched in a series of public meetings and speeches designed to build support for his plan to supply New York City from the waters of the Passaic River.  There were many news reports of his presentations around the New Jersey metropolitan areas.  One such presentation was entitled, “The Plans for Furnishing an Abundant Supply of Water to the City of New York from a Source Independent of the Croton Watershed.” Of course, Bartlett stated in his talk that there was plenty of water to serve all of the New Jersey cities as well as New York City.

In his talks, Bartlett used the glitzy book that contained maps and descriptions of the water supply scheme along with testimonials, supporting statements and favorable opinions from notables of the day.  One such notable was Garret A. Hobart who appeared twice in the book.  First, he signed a statement that essentially verified that as President of the Acquackanonk Water Company, Bartlett’s claims of access to the water rights necessary to fulfill his scheme were correct as far as Hobart could determine.  Second, Hobart included an opinion in the book that supported Bartlett’s view that the SUM controlled all of the water rights for the Passaic River at Great Falls, and that Bartlett needed the consent of SUM in order to exercise those water rights, which he had already accomplished by obtaining an option on all of the SUM stock.  Hobart also opined that Bartlett could obtain lands and rights of way by condemnation and eminent domain.  Finally, Hobart agreed that all of the cities that were proposed as customers for the water scheme could contract with a private water company to obtain their supplies of water.

Hobart’s opinions were just a few of the dozens in the book authored by Bartlett.  It was truly an astonishing document designed to steamroll over any objections or concerns.

However, despite Bartlett’s enormous efforts, one major barrier could not be overcome.  Many leaders of the day believed that it would be illegal to export waters of the State of New Jersey to New York State for the profit of a private company. Bartlett lost interest in the water exporting scheme when it became clear that he could not overcome this barrier.

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

May 14, 1914: Change the Map of NYC-Fill in the East River

East River, New York City

May 14, 1914:Municipal Journalarticle. Proposal to Change Map of New York City. “New York City, N. Y.-The somewhat startling changes in the topography of New York proposed by Dr. T. Kennard Thomson have again come in for further discussion in connection with the various sewage disposal plans proposed for the city. Dr. Thomson says that the rivers and harbors of the city are becoming cesspools because the sewage has no easy way of getting out. He claims that his plan of joining Manhattan to Long Island by filling in the East river would allow of great trunk sewers from White Plains down where the East river now is, thence to Staten Island, picking up all the Jersey sewage, and then on, miles beyond Sandy Hook, where it can be properly treated. By the construction of a new neck of land from the Battery to within a mile of Staten Island and the connection of the Island with New York by tunnels, Dr. Thomson said that Staten Island would in reality become ‘Greater Pittsburgh’ when the barge canal was completed, making it possible to get ore here as cheaply as in the Pennsylvania city. He added that ‘The project will involve spending at the very least for sea walls, docks, streets, skyscrapers, subways, trolleys, electric light and power lines, warehouses, dry docks, sewers, boulevards, parks, and the like $50,000,000 a year for labor and $50,000,000 a year for materials, keeping every transportation company in the country busy bringing in material and every industry in the city busy, feeding, clothing, marrying, burying, insuring, and otherwise looking after the needs of the new population, which, added to the present, soon will be 25,000,000 in a radius of 25 miles from New York City Hall.’”

Reference: “Propose to Change Map of New York City.” 1914. Municipal Journal. 36:20(May 14, 1914): 712.

Commentary:  Fill in the East River to join Manhattan to Long Island? Yikes!!! Well, that is certainly “outside the box” thinking. Wait a minute. What happens to the Brooklyn Bridge?

April 9, 1914: Kensico Dam Excavation

Kensico Dam 2012

April 9, 1914: Engineering News article. Excavation and Foundation Work for the Kensico Dam. By Wilson Fitch Smith. “SYNOPSIS-A masonry dam 307ft. high, 1843 ft. long, containing 900,000 cu.yd. of masonry will store 29 billion gallons of water near the lower end of the Catskill Aqueduct, New York City additional water supply. Expansion joints 80 ft. c. to c., drainage wells, inspection galleries, and an architectural treatment of the downstream face of the dam are among its special features. The contract price was nearly $8,000,000. Steam shovels were used for excavating work and cableways for handling the excavated material and much of the contractor’s plant. Guy and stiff-leg derricks were used to complete the excavation and to place masonry. The contractor’s plant represents an investment of more than $1,000,000 and is operated largely by electrical current. During seven months of 1913, a total of 316,000 cu.yd. and in September, 58,242 cu.yd. of concrete and concrete blocks were placed in the dam. Progress on construction to date indicates that the dam will be completed long in advance of the contract date, which was about 1920.

The Kensico Dam, now under construction by New York City, for a storage reservoir in the valley of the Bronx River, three miles north of White Plains, is an important feature of the Catskill water-supply system. It takes rank among the notable masonry dams of the world not only on account of being one of the largest, but also because of the methods of construction which enabled over 300,000 cu.yd. of masonry to be placed in the dam during the working season of 1913.”

Reference: Smith, Wilson F. 1914. “Excavation and Foundation Work for the Kensico Dam.” Engineering News. 71:15(April 9, 1914): 763.

Commentary: This dam is one of the most beautiful masonry dams ever built.

February 27, 1913: Croton Chlorination Plant

February 27, 1913:  Engineering News article. Chlorinating Plants, Croton Water Supply. “Synopsis—Operating results of a temporary plant, which treated with hypochlorite of lime more than 100 billion gallons of Croton water for New York City in 1912, are given. A permanent hypochlorite or chlorinating plant, to treat the flow through both the old and the new Croton aqueducts, is described and fully illustrated. Brief descriptions are given of four other chlorination plants in the Croton drainage area: Three to treat the waters of tributaries of the Croton before it reaches the main supply and one to treat another tributary and a part of the sewage of the village of Brewster, N. Y.”

In June, 1910, I. M. de Varona, chief engineer of the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity of the City of New York, made trials of hypochlorite treatment in connection with the Croton water-supply. The results were so satisfactory that its use has been extended until the city now maintains five of these plants: one on the New Aqueduct at Pocantico, treating the entire supply from the Croton, and the other four upon various tributaries of the reservoirs.

The continuous treatment of the flow of the New Croton Aqueduct was commenced in June, 1911, the plant being located at Shaft No. 9, north of Tarrytown, N. Y., known as the Pocantico plant. It consists of a rough frame building which houses two cement-lined cypress tanks, 12 ft. in diameter and 6 ft. in height, and a constant-level feeding tank with adjustable orifice discharging through a manhole into the crown of the aqueduct. Within the aqueduct, there is suspended a wooden grid to secure a proper mixture of the chlorine solution and the flowing water. The operating floor is just above the solution tanks and in it are two screened mixing pits.

In operation, a drum of lime, weighing about 800 lb., is rolled into position over a pit and the contents washed out into the pit by a hose stream under pressure. Enough ‘bleach’ is dissolved to treat the aqueduct flow for 12 hours. The tank is then filled with water and stirred to assure the thorough absorption of the chlorine. Four men operate the plant, two on the clay shift, making solution, and one on each of the night shifts, maintaining a constant, uniform flow of the solution.

Experience has shown the desirable amount of chlorine to be between 0.40 and 0.65 p.p.m. (parts per million). The lower amount is used in warm weather and when Croton Lake is near the high water line. The amount is gradually increased as the storage in Croton Lake drops or the temperature of the water approaches freezing. The amount of ‘bleach’ to be used daily is determined from a chart (Fig. 1), which shows that the daily amount of chemical is about 4000 lb. Where so much chemical is used, the chart shows the economy resulting from varying the charge of ‘bleach’ in accordance with the amount of its available chlorine, as determined by laboratory analysis.”

Reference:  Coffin, T.D.L. 1913. “Chlorinating Plants, Croton Water Supply.” Engineering News. 69:9(February 27, 1913): 419-21.

Commentary:  New York City began testing chloride of lime to disinfect the Croton water supply shortly after the findings of the special master in the second Jersey City trial which has been described at length in The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives.

February 11, 1915: Detroit Metering and Burst NYC Water Main

Vintage Bronze 1909 Water Meter

February 11, 1915: Municipal Journal article. Metering in Detroit. Detroit, Mich.-“Superintendent Theodore A. Leisen and the water board are asking for about $561,000 to complete the installation of meters. About 21,000 are now in service and about 100,000 are needed altogether. The water officials contend that the cost and maintenance of the system fully metered would be less than at present. The inspection cost would increase, admits Mr. Leisen, and the revenue would not increase-but the pumpage would be materially decreased, affecting a saving in coal and the danger of immediate need of new sources of supply would be put off. The present consumption is 170 gallons per capita and Mr. Leisen says that 50 gallons of this is avoidable waste. A new chlorine purifying plant is to be installed.”

February 11, 1915: Municipal Journal article. Burst Main Floods New York Theatre Section. New York, N. Y.-“The bursting of a 30-inch main near the heart of the theatre district broke up the pavement in several blocks, put many passers-by in danger and flooded the basements of all the buildings in the area. The lights were put out and the residents of the section were forced to vacate the houses by the police because of danger of undermining. Traffic was suspended. By turning off the mains and then turning them on the broken one was finally discovered. Commissioner Woods and Inspector Dwyer were in charge of the police. Thirty men from the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity under Merrit T. Smith, chief engineer, and Engineer Byrne ripped up the streets to locate the exact spot of the break. Damage to the flooded cellars is estimated at about $100,000.”

Reference:  Municipal Journal 38:6(February 11, 1915): 194.