Tag Archives: public health

November 23, 2017: Happy Thanksgiving–Presenting the Cranberry; 1992: First Reg Neg Negotiation Session

Harvesting Cranberries

Thanksgiving 2017. Cranberry Production—A Guide for Massachusetts. “Nationally, cranberries are harvested from early September until early November. The exact harvest dates vary by region, weather conditions, and cultivar being harvested. In addition, some consideration must be given to whether the fruit will be sold in the fresh market, used in white juice products, or used for other processing. With the exception of white harvest, the fruit are harvested at full maturity with good color (anthocyanin content) but prior to the fruit becoming overripe. Timing of harvest is important for fresh-market fruit so that the berries are sufficiently red but retain good storage quality, while fruit for the processed market ideally has maximum color…. Harvesting of Cranberries. There are two basic methods of harvesting cranberries. The first, dry harvesting, dates back to the origins of cranberry cultivation. The second system, flood or water harvesting dates to the 1920’s and was first mechanized in the mid-1950’s (Dana 1990; Eck 1990).”

November 23, 1992:  First Negotiation Session of Regulatory Negotiation for the Microbial Disinfectants/Disinfection Byproducts Rule Making. This was a multi-stakeholder regulatory negotiations process (including the USEPA) which resulted in the adoption of five landmark drinking water regulations:  Interim Surface Water Treatment Rule, Stage 1 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule, Information Collection Rule, Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule and Stage 2 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule.

As stated in the introduction to the 1995 Roberson et al. paper: “The proposed Disinfectants/Disinfection By-products (D/DBP) Rule reflects one of the most complicated standard- setting processes addressed under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The process involved balancing potential trade-offs between chemical risk (most of which is considered chronic) and microbial risk (most of which is considered acute). In this case, both types of risk are poorly characterized. Nevertheless, the potential is enormous for changes in risk and associated treatment costs resulting from regulatory action. Largely as a result of this dilemma, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) elected to use a regulatory negotiation (“reg-neg”) process to develop a proposed rule. This was the first time a negotiated rule-making had been used in the development of a drinking water regulation….During the process negotiators were aided by the Technologies Working Group (TWG), which quantified the costs and benefits of various treatment alternatives.”

References:

Roberson, J.A., Cromwell, J.E., Krasner, S.W., McGuire, M.J., Owen, D.M., Regli, S., and Summers, R.S. (1995). “The D/DBP Rule:  Where did the Numbers Come From?” Jour. AWWA. 87:10, 46-57.

McGuire, M.J. (1993). “Reg Neg Process and the D/DBP Rule.” presented at the Fall Conference. California‑Nevada Section, American Water Works Association. Reno, Nevada, October 28, 1993.

McGuire, M.J. (1994 ). “Using the Information Superhighway to Corral the ICR.” Jour. AWWA. 86:6, 10.

McGuire, M.J. (1996). “AWWA’s Information Collection Rule Activities.” presented at M/DBP Cluster Information Exchange Meeting. RESOLVE, Washington, D.C. May 10, 1996.

McGuire, M.J. (1997). “Technical Work Group Presentation.” presented at the M-DBP Stakeholder Meeting. Washington, DC. January 28, 1997.

Commentary:  The photo below is a good portion of the Technologies Working Group. Note the hats. I had about 200 of them made and handed them out to everyone who helped during the process. I have been using the extras for the past sixteen plus years in my boating and cruising life. The most recent loss occurred when the hat flew off my head while raising the mainsail on a sailboat cruise to Cabo San Lucas in 2016. Great hat.

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November 21, 2006: PFOA in Drinking Water; 1899: Garret Hobart Dies

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

November 21, 2006:  PFOA Contaminates Drinking Water. “On November 21, 2006, the USEPA ordered DuPont company to offer alternative drinking water or treatment for public or private water users living near DuPont’s Washington Works plant in West Virginia (and in Ohio), if the level of PFOA detected in drinking water is equal to or greater than 0.5 parts per billion. This measure sharply lowered the previous action level of 150 parts per billion that was established in March 2002.[133] Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8 and perfluorooctanoate, is a synthetic, stable perfluorinated carboxylic acid and fluorosurfactant. One industrial application is as a surfactant in the emulsion polymerization of fluoropolymers. It has been used in the manufacture of such prominent consumer goods as Teflon and Gore-Tex. PFOA has been manufactured since the 1940s in industrial quantities. It is also formed by the degradation of precursors such as some fluorotelomers.

PFOA persists indefinitely in the environment. It is a toxicant and carcinogen in animals. PFOA has been detected in the blood of more than 98% of the general US population in the low and sub-parts per billion range, and levels are higher in chemical plant employees and surrounding subpopulations. Exposure has been associated with increased cholesterol and uric acid levels, and recently higher serum levels of PFOA were found to be associated with increased risk of chronic kidney disease in the general United States population, consistent with earlier animal studies. “This association was independent of confounders such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, and serum cholesterol level.”

Commentary and Update:  More sensitive analytical methods and widespread monitoring have found PFOA and related compounds in 27 states according to headlines in 2016. But remember, dear reader that this was being publicized by the Environmental Working Group or EWG and must be taken with a huge grain of salt. What does parts per trillion of any chemical really mean?

November 21, 1899Death of Garret A. Hobart. “Garret Augustus Hobart (June 3, 1844 – November 21, 1899) was the 24th Vice President of the United States (1897–1899), serving under President William McKinley…. As vice president, Hobart proved a popular figure in Washington and was a close adviser to McKinley.”

While much is known about Hobart’s role as vice president, his role in the formation of private water companies and his support of these companies through legislation is less well known. Hobart was elected to the New Jersey Assembly and Senate during the early part of his career. During the 1870s and 1880s there was a lot of legislative activity that appeared to be for the benefit of private water companies.

In 1881, one bill that was introduced by Garret A. Hobart, then a state senator, was designed to give private water companies the power to acquire and distribute water resources independent of municipal or state control.  While not explicitly stated, the bill purportedly had a single intention of giving one company, the Passaic Water Company, more power to access water supplies to prevent water shortages at the factories of Paterson which were forced to idle production in the summer season.

The bill was not successful, (New York Times, March 22, 1881) which was undoubtedly due in part to the widespread suspicion that the bill would grant powers to companies to export New Jersey water supplies to New York.  “[New York speculators] have been attracted by the magnificence and extent of New Jersey’s water-shed, and by the sweetness and purity of its waters.  Last year’s scheme was said to be intended to enable the tapping of New Jersey’s hills for the New York supply.”(New York Times, March 7, 1881)

Hobart was a resident of Paterson, New Jersey for most of his life. In 1885, Garret A. Hobart joined the Board of the Passaic Water Company and two years later was elected President of the Company.  Hobart was described in one source as representing a syndicate of New York capitalists. (Nelson and Shriner 1920) The company had been supplying Paterson and the surrounding area since 1857.

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 (including Hobart) were identified with the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company.(New York Times, August 2, 1889) 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. (Colby and Peck 1900) Nothing came of these grand plans.

Hobart was also a mentor to John L. Leal of Paterson and encouraged Leal to leave city employment and work full time as the sanitary advisor to several private water companies.(McGuire 2013)

“Hobart died on November 21, 1899 of heart disease at age 55; his place on the Republican ticket in 1900 was taken by New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt.”

References:

Colby, Frank M. and Harry T. Peck eds. The International Year Book—A Compendium of the World’s Progress During the Year 1899. n.p.:Dodd, Mead and Co., 1900.

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

Nelson, William and Charles A. Shriner. History of Paterson and Its Environs. Vol. 2, New York:Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1920.

New York Times. “Jersey’s Water Supplies—Senator Hobart’s Bill and Its Effect.” March 7, 1881.

New York Times. “New Jersey’s Law Makers—Mr. Hobart’s Water Bill Killed.” March 22, 1881.

New York Times. “To Give Newark Water.” August 2, 1889.

November 19, 1914: Operations of Sewage Plants; 1914: Racine Sanitary Policies

Wisconsin Wastewater Operator Short Course Attendees 1937.

November 19, 1914Operation of Sewage Disposal Plants. By Francis E. Daniels. “A man in charge of a sewage disposal plant should know what each unit of his works is doing every day. A skilled observer may detect faults and short-comings with some degree of certainty by mere inspection; and if the output is bad and a heavy pollution is occurring or a local nuisance is resulting, it is not at all difficult to recognize the trouble. If the break-down has been sudden and due to a wash-out, a broken bed or wall or some other equally obvious cause, an expert is not needed to diagnose the case. But suppose the output of a plant or of some of its units is gradually falling below the requirements. In that case the gradual decline cannot be detected by observation and in order that one may know what is actually happening, tests are made….Careful attention paid to tank effluents will delay for years the expenditure of thousands of dollars for the removal, washing and replacing of the stone in contact beds. Poor effluents discharged upon sand beds cause clogging quickly, which results in undue expense for frequent cleaning and often the sand filter effluent is seriously impaired.

To the trained man in charge of a plant equipped with a laboratory, little advice is necessary. His training and facilities enable him to keep close check upon his charge; but for the good of the cause he is especially urged to do routine work along the standard lines and so record it that his results can be of use to others besides himself. His tests should conform to the requirements laid down in the ‘Standard Methods of Water Analysis,’ published by the American Public Health Association.”

Commentary: Of course, no mention is made the consequences of violating an NPDES permit or other regulation governing the quality of the effluent. Also, it gets tiresome to read these old articles that are directed to “men” when we now have a substantial number of women operators.

Main Street at Night, Racine, WI 1914.

November 19, 1914Sanitary Policy for Racine. “The city of Racine, Wis., over a year ago employed John W. Alvord to recommend to it a policy to be followed in connection with its sewerage and water supply. The study of the problem, in which Mr. Alvord was assisted by Edward Bartow, director of the Illinois State Water Survey, occupied most of the year 1913, and a report has recently been made to the city giving the method and results of the investigation and the recommendations of the consulting engineer.

The report outlined six different policies, either of which might be pursued, but one of which was recommended….The problems at Racine are common to many lake cities which are similarly situated at the mouth of a river and which draw their water supplies from inlets in the lake.

Investigation disclosed that the water supply, which is drawn from the Jake, is threatened and occasionally polluted by the sewage from the city which is discharged into Root river, which in turn discharges in to the lake. Pollution was found to exist for about two and a half miles from the shore, although the distance is variable, depending upon the influence of winds, lake drift, the volume of flow in the river and the effect of severe storms.

The water filtration plant recommended is of the mechanical type designed to filter and sterilize at least six million gallons of lake water daily. The sewage collected by the intercepting sewer system would consist of the normal or dry weather flow, which would be raised by electric pumps and delivered to the disposal plant. For this plant it is recommended that an area of not less than twenty-five acres be purchased. The plant itself is recommended to consist essentially of screens, tanks, dosing contact beds and sprinkling filters, the first installation having a capacity of ten million gallons a day.”

Commentary: Racine found itself entangled in the Sewer Pipe, Water Pipe Death Spiral that I have described in my book The Chlorine Revolution to be published in the spring of 2013. Chicago found itself with the exact same problems and solved them in part by chlorinating their water supply to break the Death Spiral. It appears that Mr. Alvord recommended a vast change in the way Racine conducted the business of sanitation—build an intercepting sewer, a sewage disposal plant and a water filtration plant. I am in favor of Mr. Alvord’s multi-barrier approach to public health protection.

References:  Daniels, Francis E. 1914. “Operation of Sewage Disposal Plants.” Municipal Journal. 38:21, November 19, 1914, 735.

“Sanitary Policy for Racine.” 1914. Municipal Journal. 38:21, November 19, 1914, 740.

November 18, 1987: Sludge Dumping Ground Closed Down; 1995: New York City Water Supply Protection

Sludge Dumping Ground

November 18, 1987New York Times headline— New York Quits Using An Ocean Dump Site. “New York City used an ocean dumping site 12 miles offshore for the last time yesterday. It plans to use a site 106 miles out for dumping sewage treatment waste from now on. New York City and other localities have been using the 12-mile site to dump sludge since 1938. Under an agreement with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, the city began disposing of 10 percent of the city’s sludge at the 106-mile dumping grounds last April. The city disposes of 3.8 million wet tons of sludge annually from its 14 sewage treatment plants.”

November 18, 1995New York Times headline—Watershed Pact Safeguards Drinking Water. “To the Editor:  While according deserved praise on the historic agreement to protect New York City’s drinking water, Eric A. Goldstein (letter, Nov. 10) asserts that “the agreement lacks concrete commitments needed to prevent further pollution.” As one of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s negotiators, let me assure your readers that the watershed agreement contains commitments that will protect drinking water quality into the next century.

The pact contains three principal elements: acquisition of sensitive watershed lands to buffer the water supply, revision of the city’s regulations governing activities in the watershed that affect water quality and partnership programs with upstate communities that will insure that any growth near the water supply will be consistent with drinking water quality needs.

The agreement does not authorize the construction of six new sewage plants. To examine the feasibility of pollution credit trading, a five-year pilot program will authorize towns to apply to build up to six new plants only if the sponsor offsets each unit of pollution added by a new plant with the removal of three units elsewhere. Total discharge will be limited, and each plant would use the most rigorous pollution removal technology available….Marilyn Gelber, Commissioner, Department of Environmental Protection New York.”

November 17, 1904: Death of Thomas M. Drown

November 17, 1904Death of Thomas M. Drown. “Drown was known as a chemist and metallurgist and he was the fourth President of Lehigh University. “In the 1880s, Drown held a leadership post in chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He helped start MIT’s chemical engineering curriculum in the late 1880s. In 1887, he was appointed by the newly-formed Massachusetts Board of Health to a landmark study of sanitary quality of the state’s inland waters. As Consulting Chemist to the Massachusetts State Board of Health, he was in charge of the famous Lawrence Experiment Station laboratory conducting the water sampling, testing, and analysis. There he put to work the environmental chemist and first female graduate of MIT, Ellen Swallow Richards. This research created the famous “normal chlorine” map of Massachusetts that was the first of its kind and was the template for others. As a result, Massachusetts established the first water-quality standards in America, and the first modern sewage treatment plant was created.”

Commentary: Drown taught all of the famous engineering graduates from MIT who we revere today—George Warren Fuller, George C. Whipple and Allen Hazen (chemistry courses). 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.

Normal Chlorine Map

November 16, 1918: Sanitary Survey of Unnamed City

Privy in terrible condition

November 16, 1918Municipal Journal. A Sanitary Survey of an Unnamed City. The conditions about which you will read were by no means unusual in 1918 in the U.S. “A State Board of Health a few months ago, made a sanitary survey of a certain city (the name of which is unessential) which was of more than usual interest, because of its thoroughness and the sensible recommendations based upon it….

The city in question has a population of about 30,000, of which negroes form a small percentage for a southern city. Although the city is not large, topographical conditions are such as to confine its growth in area, with the result that it presents many of the characteristics of a large, crowded city…. In 1916 fifteen cases of death from typhoid fever were reported, and it is believed that the number was even somewhat greater than this…. A comparison of the distribution of the typhoid cases with the wells and privies indicates that the latter have played an important role in the spread of the disease, the typhoid areas largely coinciding with the unsewered districts, without city water. It should be noted further that these “typhoid areas” are located on steep hillsides where the drainage from privy to well is rapid and direct….

The water supply of the city is derived from the river that flows through it, the intake being located at a point near the upper boundary of the city. This river has a water-shed of 1,550 square miles of mountainous and rather thinly populated territory….Examinations of the river for miles upstream have shown its waters to be heavily polluted before they enter the city. While none of the municipal sewers empty into the river above the waterworks intake [thank goodness], there are two small runs draining an extensive unsewered area which is thickly populated….Thus it is seen that the source of supply is always polluted to a greater or less degree, becoming at times a source of most extreme danger. Only the most thorough filtration and after-treatment can render a water of this character uniformly safe for drinking purposes. Unfortunately the skilled attention that is absolutely essential for the successful operation of a filter plant has not been had until recently.

Purification is secured by coagulation and sedimentation, followed by filtration through so-called mechanical or rapid gravity filters and final treatment with chlorine gas….Just before entering the sedimentation basins, the water receives its dose of coagulant consisting of lime and sulphate of alumina in amounts depending upon the character of the river water as shown by its alkalinity and turbidity….

The man who installed the original hypochlorite plant for final treatment of the water painted its virtues so very bright that he assured the water company that when the river was clear they need not use any chemicals except hypochlorite of lime. It is felt that this ill-advised suggestion may have been in part responsible for the epidemic of typhoid fever the city has just experienced.

The sedimentation basins are two in number, each having a capacity of about 238,000 gallons. At the normal rate of filtration this provides for but one and three-fourths hours storage, a period that is considered far too short to be comparable with adequate coagulation and sedimentation. The control of the chemicals constitutes another objection. The solutions are prepared in large tanks from which they are fed through hand-operated orifices and the rate of dosing is recorded as inches in depth of the tank per hour. Constant-feed, calibrated orifice boxes should be supplied, that the dosing may be more accurately controlled. [see design of such a feed system by George Warren Fuller at the Little Falls treatment plant, Fuller 1903]

From the sedimentation basins the water flows by gravity to the filters, of which there are ten units, each having a superficial area of 230 square feet. At a normal rate of two gallons per square foot a minute, or 125 million gallons per acre per twenty-four hours, the ten units have a combined capacity of about 6.5 million gallons a day. As originally constructed, each unit was provided with a loss-of-head gage, rate controller, and individual sampling pump, all of which equipment has now been dismantled. A loss-of-head gage is essential if accurate knowledge of what each unit is doing and of the proper time to wash is to be had. As it now is, the filter man guesses at the proper time to wash the dirt out of the filter by the position of the inlet float; the dirtier the sand, the higher the level of water on the bed and the more quiet the float—a rather round-about method.

After washing, the filters are allowed to waste for a short time and then turned into the clear well. The lack of any rate controllers on the filters makes it certain that the most recently washed units will be filtering far in excess of the rate for which they were designed. Rate controllers would prevent the units from delivering more than a definite maximum at any time. With as small a clear-well as the one here provided (approximately 37,000 gallons), the lack of this important device becomes even more dangerous in that the pull of the high-service pumps is thrown almost directly upon the filters….

Washing of the filters is effected by forcing water and air through them from below. The water for washing is taken directly from the clear well by an electrically driven centrifugal pump. As has been previously noted, washing cannot be conducted on anything like a scientific basis owing to the lack of loss-of-head gages. The filters are, however, washed at least once a day, and more often if deemed necessary.

From the clear-water well, which is located beneath the filters, the water flows to the high-service pumps, receiving on the way a final treatment with chlorine. Chlorine gas is an excellent sterilizing agent in water, and small doses can effect a remarkable reduction in the number of bacteria present. The chlorine gas is introduced by a direct-feed manual-control chlorinator. In this plant the fact that the dose is not automatically controlled is extremely unfortunate, and if the plant were not in the hands of a skilled filter operator would be a very serious objection….

With a safe and potable water available [forsooth!], there is no excuse for the continuation in use of the 189 private wells in the city. While no analyses have been made to learn the extent to which the wells are polluted, there can be little doubt from their location and construction that many of them are dangerously contaminated.” (emphasis added)

Commentary:  The hard, cold, and alarming facts related in this 1918 sanitary survey of an anonymous southern U.S. city make it quite evident why its identity was not revealed. The typhoid death rate of 50 per 100,000 people in 1916 is shockingly high for a city that is served by a water supply that was both filtered and chlorinated. Obviously, something is terribly wrong with the operation of the treatment plant and the condition of private wells. The person conducting the sanitary survey expressed some optimism about current personnel and operations, but a sanitary survey conducted a year after would be needed to see if that optimism was justified.

The problems related in this sanitary survey should make us all glad that we live in the 21st century where we are blessed (at least in developed countries) with safe drinking water supplies.

Reference:  “A Sanitary Survey of a City.” 1918. Municipal Journal. 45:19 November 9, 1918, 359-61, 383-6.

November 10, 1998: Death by Arsenic; 2000: First Issue of Safedrinkingwater.com NEWS Published

Leasions on hands and feet showing arsenic toxicity

November 10, 1998:  New York Times headline–Death by Arsenic: A Special Report.; New Bangladesh Disaster: Wells That Pump Poison. “Bangladesh is in the midst of what some experts say could be the biggest mass poisoning in history. Dangerous levels of arsenic have been found in the ground water, entering millions of people sip by sip as they drink from a vast system of tube wells. Most of these hand-operated pumps are 10 to 20 years old, about the same period it takes the arsenic to do its lethal work, killing with one of several cancers.

The unfolding crisis is the unintended consequence of a colossally successful safe-water program. For 25 years, the Government along with Unicef and other aid groups have weaned villagers from disease-carrying pond water and helped them to sink pipes into underground aquifers. Overlooked was the naturally occurring arsenic that tainted these subterranean sources.”

Commentary:  Calling this program “colossally successful” is a tragedy and wrong. In the future, this program will be viewed as one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters and failures of public policy.

sdw.com NEWS Logo

November 10, 2000:  First issue of Safedrinkingwater.com NEWS–a weekly newsletter devoted to media stories about drinking water quality that was published by McGuire Environmental Consultants, Inc. and sent by email to its more than 6000 subscribers. Our intent was clear:  “Our intent is to make this newsletter the best and first source of news and information for drinking water quality professionals, with a combination of timely articles and incisive commentary from the leading observers in the industry.” In this first issue we reported on development of the arsenic regulation and hexavalent chromium issues in southern California.