Tag Archives: public health

April 4, 1912: Common Cup, Typhoid Warning and Electric Purification

Samuel J. Crumbine

April 4, 1912:  Municipal Journalarticles.

“Wage War on Public Drinking Cups. Topeka, Kan.-To prevent the spread of epidemic diseases the State Board of Health has issued an order that public drinking cups must be removed from all the cities of Kansas. City officials were notified the order must be enforced rigidly and business men were requested to remove common drinking cups from their places of business.” Commentary:  Samuel J. Crumbine about whom I have often written over the last seven months was responsible for the ban in Kansas.

“Typhoid Warning at Logansport. Logansport, lnd.-The city’s supply of drinking water is practically cut off owing to the condition of the water following the flood in Eel river, which is the source of the city’s water supply. The high water swept away barns and outbuildings for miles above the city, and seeping back into the river was pumped into the mains. Dr. John Bradfield, secretary of the city health board, has issued a warning to citizens to refrain from drinking the water. The Cass County Medical Society has supplemented the action of the city health board by publishing a statement declaring that an epidemic of typhoid will follow the flood unless the use of city water for drinking purposes is stopped. The three artesian wells which were recently drilled by the city have been surrounded by crowds and water carts are supplying hundreds of homes with water from the wells.”

“Electric Purification To Be Tried. Eldorado, Kan.-Sewage at Eldorado will be disinfected by electricity. The engineers of the State university, are making a test of a system by which waste is disintegrated and all organic matter destroyed by an electric current.” Commentary:  Everyone was fascinated by electric power at the turn of the 20thcentury. Unfortunately, destroying wastes by electrical current was not one of the successful applications.

Reference:  Municipal Journal. 32:14(April 4, 1912): 525.

April 3, 1986: Death of Wendell R. LaDue

April 3, 1986:  Death of Wendell R. LaDue. Wendell R. LaDue was a water supply visionary who made many improvements to the water supply for Akron, Ohio. He was born in Mt. Pleasant, Ohio on October 1, 1894. He earned his BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Southern California in 1918. Shortly afterwards, he joined the staff of the Akron Waterworks. “While serving as its manager, LaDue developed a watershed plan to insure adequate clean water supply. The plan included purchasing property along the Cuyahoga River and building a series of reservoirs. In 1932, the City of Akron began purchasing property along the Cuyahoga River in Geauga County and removing homes and farms to protect the watershed. LaDue oversaw the construction of the 695 acres Rockwell Lake, the 395 acres East Branch in 1938, and the 1,477 acres Akron City Reservoir, now called LaDue Reservoir, in 1961. The capacity of the three reservoirs is 10.5 billion gallons.

In 1947, LaDue founded the Akron-Canton Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. In honor of his contributions, the Wendell R. LaDue Civil Engineer Award is awarded each year by the ASCE to a member who has promoted professionalism and the advancement of the civil engineering profession. In 1946 and 1947, LaDue was the president of the American Water Works Association. Since 2003, several Wendell R. LaDue Utility Safety Awards are presented by the AWWA to recognize distinguished water utility safety programs.

LaDue retired from the City of Akron in 1963, and began teaching at the University of Akron where he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Engineering Degree.”

April 2, 1914: Sanitary Survey of Potomac and Miniature Plants by Malcolm Pirnie

Potomac River Watershed

April 2, 1914:  Municipal Journalarticles. Make Survey of Potomac River. “Washington, D. C.-Public health service officials who are aboard the yacht Bratton making a sanitary survey of the Potomac river and Chesapeake bay have, according to report, taken between 1,500 and 2,000 samples of Potomac water for examination and analysis, and it is stated that it will be several weeks before the results of the survey are completed and ready for publication. In connection with the work being done by the Bratton on the navigable portions of the Potomac H. P. Letton of the public health service is at Hagerstown, Md., and is conducting the work of examining the headwaters of the Potomac to ascertain their sanitary condition and the effect the sewage and wastes from the large tanneries and other industries on the upper river are having on the water coming down past this city. It is stated that one of the objects the service has in making this survey is, if possible, to find some use for the various kinds of refuse from the manufacturing plants and to show how they can be turned into a source of profit instead of being allowed to pollute the Potomac water.”

H. Malcolm Pirnie

Demonstrate Filtration Methods By Miniature Plants. “Salem, Mass.-Both the [slow] sand and mechanical methods of filtering water were interestingly demonstrated by Engineer H. M. Pirnie. Two plants in miniature had been constructed which gave Mr. Pirnie an excellent opportunity of showing state and city officials of Salem and Beverly just how each process operates and its relative advantages. The two cities mentioned are soon to use water from the Ipswich River, and the question of efficient filtration has received serious attention.”

Reference:  Municipal Journal. 1914. 36:14(April 2, 1914): 476-7.

Commentary:  By miniature plants, the author was undoubtedly referring to pilot plant studies of the two filtration technologies. H. M. Pirnie was Malcolm Pirnie who worked for the consulting firm of Hazen and Whipple and ultimately founded the firm known as Malcolm Pirnie, Inc.

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.

March 30, 1911: Death of Ellen Swallow Richards; 1827: Water Supply for Detroit

Ellen Swallow RichardsMarch 30, 1911:  Death of Ellen Swallow Richards.“Ellen Swallow Richards is perhaps best known as MIT’s first female graduate and instructor, but launching coeducation at the Institute is merely the first in a long list of her pioneering feats. The breadth and depth of her career are astounding; a 1910 tribute in La Follette’s Weekly Magazine professed that ‘when one attempts to tell of the enterprises, apart from her formal teaching, of which Mrs. Richards has been a part or the whole, he is lost in a bewildering maze.’ Authors and scholars have called her the founder of ecology, the first female environmental engineer, and the founder of home economics. Richards opened the first laboratory for women, created the world’s first water purity tables, developed the world standard for evaporation tests on volatile oils, conducted the first consumer-product tests, and discovered a new method to determine the amount of nickel in ore. And that’s just the short list of her accomplishments. In a nod to Richards’s remarkable knowledge and interests, her sister-in-law called her ‘Ellencyclopedia….’

Richards’s research on water quality was even more far-reaching. In 1887 [William R.] Nichols’s successor [Thomas M. Drown] put her in charge of implementing an extensive sanitary survey of Massachusetts inland waters, again for the board of health. The two-year study was unprecedented in scope. Richards supervised the collection and analysis of 40,000 water samples from all over the state–representing the water supply for 83 percent of the population. She personally conducted at least part of the analysis on each sample; the entire study involved more than 100,000 analyses. In the process, she developed new laboratory equipment and techniques, meticulously documenting her findings. Instead of merely recording the analysis data, she marked each day’s results on a state map–and noticed a pattern. By plotting the amount of chlorine in the samples geographically, she produced the famous Normal Chlorine Map, an indicator of the extent of man-made pollution in the state. The survey produced her pioneering water purity tables and led to the first water quality standards in the United States. Her biographer, Caroline Hunt, contends that the study was Richards’s greatest contribution to public health.”

Normal Chlorine Map of Massachusetts

Commentary:  There is a rich body of information about the life Ellen Swallow Richards. A video on YouTubewith ESR expert Joyce B. Milesnarrating is particularly interesting. Below is the Normal Chlorine Map from a book by Ellen Swallow Richards. It shows that chloride concentrations in ground and surface waters increase as one nears the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. Any significant deviations from the “normal” levels of chloride in a water source indicated sewage contamination.

Reference:  Durant, Elizabeth. (2007). “Ellencyclopedia.” MIT Technology Review. August 15, 2007.

March 30, 1827:  The Common Council of the city of Detroit passed an ordinance, which granted the right to supply the City with water to Rufus Wells. Wells expanded the modest waterworks in place into a system that supplied the City until 1850. “Wells’ water works was located on Berthelet’s wharf and featured two horse-driven pumps, which raised water into a 40-gallon cask on top of the pump house. Water flowed by gravity into Detroit’s first reservoir – a four-by-four foot structure filled to a depth of six feet, with a capacity of 9,580 imperial gallons – located on the corner of Jefferson and Randolph. Water was then distributed to residents through the city’s first water mains.

Detroit families paid a uniform annual rate of $10 for service in 1827. Commercial customers were charged more. Woodworth’s Hotel, the largest user, paid $40 per year. The billing system begun by Wells evolved into a quarterly customer billing system still used today.”

Reference:  Daisy, Michael (ed.) no date. “Detroit Water and Sewerage Department:  The First 300 Years.” http://dwsd.org/downloads_n/about_dwsd/history/complete_history.pdf(Accessed November 23, 2013).

March 29, 1881: AWWA Founded

March 29, 1881:  AWWA founded.“On March 29, 1881, in Engineers’ Hall on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., 22 men representing water utilities in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee founded the American Water Works Association.

They adopted a constitution that stated the purpose of the association as being “for the exchange of information pertaining to the management of water-works, for the mutual advancement of consumers and water companies, and for the purpose of securing economy and uniformity in the operations of water-works.”

On Jan. 1, 1976, AWWA filed Articles of Incorporation in Illinois that reframed AWWA’s purpose as follows:

‘The purpose for which the Association is formed is to promote public health, safety, and welfare through the improvement of the quality and quantity of water delivered to the public and the development and furtherance of understanding of the problems relating thereto by:

  • Advancing the knowledge of the design, construction, operation, water treatment and management of water utilities and developing standards for procedures, equipment and materials used by public water supply systems;
  • Advancing the knowledge of the problems involved in the development of resources, production and distribution of safe and adequate water supplies;
  • Educating the public on the problems of water supply and promoting a spirit of cooperation between consumers and suppliers in solving these problems; and
  • Conducting research to determine the causes of problems of providing a safe and adequate water supply and proposing solutions thereto in an effort to improve the quality and quantity of the water supply provided to the public.’

The history of AWWA is the history of the people who have committed themselves to achieving the purpose set forth more than a century ago, now simply stated as to be The Authoritative Resource on Safe Water.”

March 28, 1819: Birth of Joseph W. Bazalgette

March 28, 1819:  Birth of Joseph W. Bazalgette.“Sir Joseph William Bazalgette, CB (28 March 1819 – 15 March 1891) was an English civil engineer of the 19th century. As chief engineer of London’s Metropolitan Board of Works his major achievement was the creation (in response to the “Great Stink” of 1858) of a sewer network for central London which was instrumental in relieving the city from cholera epidemics, while beginning the cleansing of the River Thames.

At the time, the Thames was little more than an open sewer, devoid of any fish or other wildlife, and an obvious health hazard to Londoners. Bazalgette’s solution (similar to a proposal made by painter John Martin 25 years earlier) was to construct 82 miles (132 km) of underground brick main sewers to intercept sewage outflows, and 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of street sewers, to intercept the raw sewage which up until then flowed freely through the streets and thoroughfares of London. The outflows were diverted downstream where they were dumped, untreated, into the Thames. Extensive sewage treatment facilities were built only decades later.”

Commentary:  Most accounts of the sewers that Bazalgette built claim that they solved the problems of cholera epidemics in London. They did not. All that the sewers did was transport the contamination more quickly to the Thames River. It was not until the water supplies in the UK were filtered (and ultimately disinfected) that the Sewer Pipe-Water Pipe Death Spiral was broken.