Tag Archives: public health

September 12, 1909: Typhoid Fever in Seattle

Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition

September 12, 1909:  Seattle health officials reported an outbreak of typhoid fever, later associated with the contamination of drinking water at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific (A-Y-P) Exposition, on the campus of the University of Washington. Officials were not able to pinpoint the cause of the outbreak. By the end of 1909, 511 people–including about 200 A-Y-P visitors–were sickened by the disease, and 61 died.

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September 11, 2001: Drinking Water Security

September 11, 2001:  The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington, D.C. catapulted drinking water security to the forefront. In 2002, the U.S. Congress enacted the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act. With respect to water supplies, this legislation amended the Safe Drinking Water Act and specified actions that community water systems and the EPA must take to improve the security of the nation’s drinking-water infrastructure. Vulnerability Assessments were conducted at hundreds of drinking water installations across the U.S.

September 10, 2008: Last Issue of safedrinkingwater.com NEWS Posted

September 10, 2008:  The last issue of safedrinkingwater.com NEWS was posted.  SDW.com NEWS was a weekly newsletter devoted to media stories and commentary about drinking water quality that was published by McGuire Environmental Consultants, Inc. Publication ceased after eight years because the cost of producing the newsletter became prohibitive.  The spirit of the newsletter has been incorporated into the blog:  safedrinkingwaterdotcom. Also, the historical file of the newsletter was recently restored and can be accessed at www.safedrinkingwater.com. Amazingly, many of the hyperlinks still work.

The people who put the newsletter together included:  Chet Anderson as Senior Editor, Jennifer Smith as Managing Editor, Erica Rosen as Webmaster and myself as Publisher. We were a great team!

September 9, 2011: Regulation of Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water

September 9, 2011:  A New York Times article published on this day addressed the lack of regulations on drugs in drinking water.  Five years after the federal government convened a task force to study the risks posed by pharmaceuticals in the environment, it was no closer to understanding the problem or whether these contaminants should be regulated under the Clean Water Act. That was the finding of a report from the Government Accountability Office. Many studies have found traces of pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, hormones, and antidepressants, in municipal water supplies over the past few years.

September 8, 1854: Removal of Broad Street Pump Handle; 1900: Galveston Devastated by Hurricane of the Century

Dr. John Snow

September 8, 1854:  On this day, the pump handle was actually removed from the Broad Street pump.  History does not record who actually took the handle off, but we know it was not Dr. John Snow.  After all, the removal of the pump handle was the job of the St. James Board of Commissioners of Paving.  Incredibly, public protests resulted in the replacement of the pump handle on September 26, 1855.  The Broad Street well was not permanently taken out of service until the cholera epidemic of 1866.

Reference:  Vinten-Johansen, Peter, Howard Brody, Nigel Paneth, Stephen Rachman and Michael Rip. Cholera, Chloroform, and the Science of Medicine. New York:Oxford University, 2003, 292-4, 310, 316-317.

Reconstruction of the 1900 Hurricane making landfall at Galveston

September 8, 1900: On this date, a Category Four hurricane struck Galveston, Texas, and destroyed, among other things, the drinking water system for the city.  The storm surge killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people, making it the deadliest natural disaster ever to hit the United States. Basic water service was not restored until September 12, 1900.

Commentary: If you ever visit Galveston, go to the museum devoted to the hurricane. It is hard to comprehend the devastation and loss of life caused by this natural disaster.

September 7, 1854: Dr. John Snow Convinces Board to Remove Pump Handle

Broadwick [formerly, Broad] Street showing the John Snow memorial and public house.

September 7, 1854:  The St. James Board of Governors and Directors of the Poor was convinced by Dr. John Snow that the Broad Street pump was the source of a cholera epidemic in a London neighborhood.  The Board ordered the removal of the pump handle preventing a continuation of the epidemic.  Incredibly, public protests resulted in the replacement of the pump handle on September 26, 1855.  The Broad Street well was not permanently taken out of service until the cholera epidemic of 1866.

Reference:  Vinten-Johansen, Peter, Howard Brody, Nigel Paneth, Stephen Rachman and Michael Rip. Cholera, Chloroform, and the Science of Medicine. New York:Oxford University, 2003, 292-4, 310, 316-317.

September 6, 1893: Houston Water Supply Contaminated

September 6, 1893:  The Houston Daily Post ran a series of investigative articles about the Water Works Company and the pollution in Buffalo Bayou–an early surface water supply for the City of Houston, Texas. In a September 6, 1893 article, Houston Cotton Exchange officials charged that the bayou was “an immense cesspool, reeking with filth and emitting a stench of vilest character.” The newspaper noted in 1895 that a dozen privies, a smallpox graveyard, a dead cow, oil mill, and cattle yards had been sighted in the waters above the Water Works’ dam. In another article later that year, reporters wrote that cattle from the Southern Oil Mill stockyards were discovered wading in the bayou alongside decomposing cow carcasses. A drain from the mill ran directly into the bayou creating additional unsanitary conditions. “It is our opinion that the use of this water is a menace to the lives of the people of this community,” avowed the investigative reporters.

Commentary: How many dead cows per liter are allowed before a water supply can be considered unfit?

Update: With the devastation of the Houston by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, it is astonishing that water service in Houston was never lost, nor was a boil water order ever issued. Houston OBVIOUSLY made a lot of improvements in their water supply over 124 years.