Tag Archives: pure and wholesome

September 29, 1908: First Day of Second Jersey City Trial; 1987 W.R. Grace Indicted

Trial transcripts for the Second Jersey City trial, 3000 pages

September 29, 1908: In 1899, Jersey City, New Jersey contracted for the construction of a new water supply on the Rockaway River, which was 23 miles west of the City. The water supply included a dam, reservoir and pipeline and was completed on May 23, 1904. As was common during this time period, no treatment (except for detention and sedimentation fostered by Boonton Reservoir) was provided to the water supply. City officials were not pleased with the project as delivered by the private water company and filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Court of New Jersey. Among the many complaints by Jersey City officials was the contention that the water served to the City was not “pure and wholesome” as required by the contract.

At the conclusion of the first trial, Vice Chancellor Frederic W. Stevens found that two or three times per year, the water did not meet the standard of “pure and wholesome” as required by the contract. He ordered that sewers be installed in the watershed or that “other plans or devices” that were equivalent to sewering the towns in the watershed could be installed. A second trial was scheduled to test whether the “other plans or devices” met the requirements of the judgment.

The second Jersey City trial started on September 29, 1908. The first order of business on the first day was a request by the defendants to postpone everything. William H. Corbin made a long statement in which he, once again, summarized the opinion and decree by Vice Chancellor Stevens. He also described in general terms the “alternate plans and devices” that the company was installing at the Boonton Reservoir site as, “…an experimental plant for the introducing of oxygen into the flow of water as it comes from the dam.”

Corbin stated that the experimental plant was put into use “last Saturday” which would have been September 26, 1908. He noted that Vice Chancellor Stevens desired daily bacteriological analyses during the first trial but the company had not gathered the data with that frequency. Corbin said that the company had been taking daily bacteriological samples over the summer and wanted to continue the sampling through the next few months to catch rainfall and significant runoff events. He also wanted more time to operate the “works” to demonstrate conclusively that the water that would be delivered to Jersey City from the plant would be “pure and wholesome.” He requested a three-month adjournment in the trial.

James B. Vredenburgh, attorney for the plaintiffs, acknowledged that a delay was needed, but he stated that two months would be sufficient. His position was that if the water was of doubtful quality, the risk to the population of Jersey City for contracting waterborne diseases was too high and no delay in finding a solution should be allowed. He was particularly concerned that a typhoid fever carrier could potentially contaminate the water above Boonton Reservoir. He also mentioned concerns with high death rates from childhood diarrhea which he said was related to the quality of the drinking water.

He also complained that Jersey City was paying the company for water delivered from Boonton Reservoir and that it would be significantly cheaper for the City to purchase the dam, reservoir and “works” rather than to continue to pay the water delivery charge. There were other issues of riparian rights along the Passaic River that needed to be settled which were agreed to by both sides.

Vredenburgh stated that it was his understanding that the treatment that would be applied to the water consisted of passing electricity through air and producing “ozone,” which would then be introduced into the water. There is no mention in the trial transcripts, exhibits, or reports of the company testing ozone or proposing its use. The company’s insistence that they would be adding oxygen to the water to sterilize it may have given Vredenburgh and the City the impression that ozone was the treatment method selected.

Based on his questions and comments, the Special Master for the second trial, William J. Magie, clearly understood the arguments for adjournment by both counsels. Even though he was not up to speed on all aspects of the case, he could rely on Vice Chancellor’s opinion that required him to carefully examine the “alternate plans and devices.” He agreed to a three-month adjournment and scheduled the second day of trial for January 5, 1909.

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

W.R. Grace and Contaminated Wells

September 29, 1987New York Times headline–W.R. Grace is Charged with Lying About Waste. A Federal grand jury today indicted W. R. Grace & Company on charges that it lied to the United States Environmental Protection Agency about the use of chemicals and waste disposal techniques at its industrial plant in Woburn, Mass.

Officials at Grace, a diversified company with headquarters in New York, denied issuing any false statements and termed the grand jury’s charges ”unjust and without merit.”

The indictment today follows a lawsuit last summer in which eight families from Woburn asserted that toxic discharges from the Grace plant had contaminated their water wells, causing six deaths from leukemia and numerous illnesses in the families. In July, a jury found that Grace had contaminated the water with two solvents but was unable to determine the date at which the chemicals began to pollute the wells. $8 Million Settlement Reported The case was settled out of court in September. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed, but Grace is reported to have paid the families $8 million, although it denied that its chemicals had caused the diseases.”

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June 9, 1934: Drought Cartoon; 2013: Celebration of Activated Sludge; 1846: Birth of Frederic W. Stevens

June 9, 1934: Drought Cartoon. The Los Angeles Times has published cartoons over more than 100 years that depict the many droughts that California has suffered and the reactions to them. Here is one that I think you will enjoy.

Activated Sludge Process

June 9, 2013: Celebration of Centennial of Activated Sludge Process. “On June 9-11, the Water Environment Federation convened the forum, “Activated Sludge on its 100th Birthday: Challenges and Opportunities.” The event was held at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first patent of the activated sludge process near Boston. The Activated Sludge process is still the heart of modern wastewater treatment systems around the globe and was a sea-change in the burgeoning field of wastewater treatment, permitting wastewater treatment to occur in a much smaller footprint, saving space and treatment time while protecting public and environmental health. In the past 100 years, the process has been updated, modified, and augmented, to improve treatment, remove nutrients, and do so more efficiently. However, more stringent demands and resources challenges are necessitating another look at the process that has been the backbone of modern sanitation infrastructure.”

Three copies of Jersey City lawsuit against the Jersey City Water Supply Company

June 9, 1846: Birth of Frederic W. Stevens, Vice Chancellor of the New Jersey Court of Chancery. Stevens officiated at the first trial of the lawsuit brought by Jersey City, New Jersey against the Jersey City Water Supply Company. The basis of the lawsuit was a contract dispute over whether a water supply from the Rockaway River was “pure and wholesome.”

Vice Chancellor Frederick W. Stevens was a highly regarded jurist in his day. “The career of Vice-Chancellor Stevens, marked as it has been by public service of the highest type, and by an undeviating devotion to duty, places him among the foremost men of the State in his generation…As a judge, the fairness, clearness and acuteness of his mind, with the high qualifications he has shown in that capacity, have won him universal admiration and respect, and given him a prominent position among the important men of the State.”   Stevens was born on June 9, 1846. His father was an engineer and his great-grandfather was a rival of Robert J. Fulton in the field of steam power development. Vice-Chancellor Stevens was comfortable with the kinds of technical language and facts that he would have to rule on in the first trial.

Stevens graduated from Columbia College in 1864. He read law in the offices of Edward T. Green and was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1868. Most of his legal practice was conducted in Newark, New Jersey. “His professional record has been one of the most unusual success, and he has taken a conspicuous part in some of the most important legal fights ever made.”   Stevens was appointed as Vice-Chancellor of the Chancery Court in 1896. At the time of the first trial, Vice-Chancellor Stevens was 61 years old.

#TDIWH—January 15, 2009: PFOA Provisional Health Advisory; 1917: Death of William J. Magie

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

January 15, 2009: On January 15, 2009, the USEPA set a provisional health advisory level for PFOA of 0.4 parts per billion in drinking water. “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.’”

0115 Boonton Hypochlorite houseJanuary 15, 1917: Death of William J. Magie. In 1899, Jersey City, New Jersey contracted for the construction of a new water supply on the Rockaway River, which was 23 miles west of the City. The water supply included a dam, reservoir and 23-mile pipeline and was completed on May 4, 1904. As was common during this time period, no treatment (except for detention and sedimentation fostered by Boonton Reservoir) was provided to the water supply. City officials were not pleased with the project as delivered by the private water company and filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Court of New Jersey. Among the many complaints by Jersey City officials was the contention that the water served to the City was not “pure and wholesome” as required by the contract. William J. Magie was selected by Vice Chancellor Frederic W. Stevens to hear the second part of the case in which the use of chlorine for disinfection was a contentious issue. One might assume that someone relatively junior might be appointed as the Special Master to hear the highly technical and excruciatingly long arguments from both sides of the case. Not so. William Jay Magie was one of the most revered judges of this time period. He took the role of Special Master in 1908 after completing 8 years as Chancellor of the Court of Chancery. Prior to that, he was a member of the New Jersey Senate (1876-1878), Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court (1880-1897) and Chief Justice of the same court from 1897 to 1900. (Marquis 1913)

“As a trial judge his cases were handled with notable success, as he had ample experience in trying causes before juries and a just appreciation of the worth of human testimony…” (Keasbey 1912) Judge Magie would need all of his powers of appreciation of human testimony in the second trial, which boiled down to which of the expert witnesses could be believed when both sides marshaled some of the most eminent doctors, scientists and engineers in the land.

Judge Magie was born on December 9, 1832 in Elizabeth, New Jersey and lived his life in that town. He graduated from Princeton College in 1852 and studied law under an attorney in Elizabeth. He was admitted to the bar of New Jersey in 1856. At the time of the second trial in 1909 he was 77 years old and near the end of his distinguished career.

On May 9, 1910, William J. Magie submitted his Special Master Report. One of Magie’s findings was of critical importance to the defendants because he laid to rest the concern that chlorine was a poison that would harm members of the public who consumed the water.

“Upon the proofs before me, I also find that the solution described leaves no deleterious substance in the water. It does produce a slight increase of hardness, but the increase is so slight as in my judgment to be negligible.” (Magie, In Chancery of New Jersey, 1910)

The Special Master Report then delivered the finding that defendants had been waiting for:

“I do therefore find and report that this device is capable of rendering the water delivered to Jersey City, pure and wholesome, for the purposes for which it is intended, and is effective in removing from the water those dangerous germs which were deemed by the decree to possibly exist therein at certain times.” (emphasis added) (Magie, In Chancery of New Jersey, 1910)

Magie’s finding summarized in this one sentence approved the use of chlorine for drinking water. After this ruling, the use of chlorine for drinking water disinfection exploded across the U.S. (McGuire 2013)

In a filing after Magie’s final decree, compensation for Judge Magie was noted as $18,000 for the entire second trial with its 38 days of testimony over 14 months, dozens of briefs and hundreds of exhibits. It must have been the hardest $18,000 he ever earned.

References:

  • Keasbey, E.Q. (1912). The Courts and Lawyers of New Jersey, 1661-1912. Vol. 3, New York:Lewis Historical Publishing Co.
  • Magie, William J. (1910). In Chancery of New Jersey: Between the Mayor and Aldermen of Jersey City, Complainant, and the Jersey City Water Supply Co., Defendant. Report for Hon. W.J. Magie, special master on cost of sewers, etc., and on efficiency of sterilization plant at Boonton, Press Chronicle Co., Jersey City, New Jersey, (Case Number 27/475-Z-45-314), 1-15.
  • Marquis, Albert N. (1913). Who’s Who in America. 7, Chicago:A.N. Marquis.
  • McGuire, Michael J. (2013). The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

December 10, 1934: Death of Theobald Smith; 1631: Death of Hugh Myddleton; 1910: Protest Against Impure Water; 1910: Snow Removal and Barrel Hoops

1210 Theobald SmithDecember 10, 1934: Death of Theobald Smith.Theobald Smith (July 31, 1859 – December 10, 1934) was a pioneering epidemiologist and pathologist and is widely-considered to be America’s first internationally-significant medical research scientist.”

“Theobald Smith recognized the multiple applications of microbiology but was far keener on its contribution to sanitation, public health, and preventive medicine than to veterinary medicine and agriculture. From 1886 to 1895, he gave an annual course in bacteriology at the National Medical College, and in 1887 he began research in his spare time on water sanitation. Bacterial counts of samples from the Potomac River from a laboratory tap culminated 5 years later in surveys of the Hudson River and tributaries, with the coliform count (verified by his “fermentation tube” method) indicating the degree of fecal pollution.”

Fermentation TubeCommentary: He was also responsible for inventing the fermentation tube that to this day is called the Smith Tube. Theobald Smith was certainly the “Father of the total coliform test.”

Reference: Dolman, C.E. 1984. “Theobald Smith, 1859-1934: A Fiftieth Anniversary Tribute.” ASM News. 50:12 577-80.

1210 Hugh Myddleton diesDecember 10, 1631:  Death of Sir Hugh Myddleton. “In 1609 Myddelton took over from the corporation of London the projected scheme for supplying the city with water obtained from springs near Ware, in Hertfordshire. For this purpose he made a canal about 10 feet (3 m) wide and 4 feet (1.2 m) deep and more than 38 miles (61 km) in length. The canal discharged its waters into a reservoir at Islington called the New River Head. The completion of this great undertaking put a severe strain upon Myddelton’s financial resources, and in 1612 he was successful in securing monetary assistance from James I. The work was completed in 1613, and Myddelton was made the first governor of the company, which, however, was not a financial success until after his death. In recognition of his services he was made a baronet in 1622.”

In the early 17th Century, London’s population had exploded and sanitation was a serious problem. Almost 35 miles long and taking five years to construct, Myddleton’s artificial New River diverted clean water from the River Lea in Hertfordshire to Clerkenwell in the city of London. It had an almost instantaneous benefit. By 1614, deaths, which can now be attributed to water-borne infections, had halved on the previous year…Although it has been shortened and now ends at Stoke Newington, around two million Londoners still depend on it for their drinking water.”

December 10, 1910: Municipal Journal article—Protest Against Impure Water. New Albany, Ind.-Col. Charles L. Jewett, acting for the law department of the city of New Albany, has filed with the Indiana Public Service Commission in Indianapolis a petition asking for the investigation by the commission of the water supply furnished by the New Albany Waterworks Company. It is alleged in the petition that the water is not pure and wholesome, and that the company has not complied with the terms of its contract and franchise, granted August 26, 1904, and for more than three years has failed, neglected and refused to furnish the city pure and wholesome water, as its contract specifically provided. The petitioner avers that the water company has furnished nothing but impure and unwholesome water, containing large amounts of mud, filth, sewage, industrial waste and other foreign matter. The petitioner asks that an investigation be made by the Public Service Commission, and that an order be entered requiring the water company to make improvements, additions and changes in its system.

Commentary: A similar lawsuit was by Jersey City, NJ against the Jersey City Water Supply Company in 1905.

Barrel Hoops

Barrel Hoops

December 10, 1910: Municipal Journal article— Snow Removal by Sewers. One of the important conclusions of the snow cleaning conference, which are given in this issue, was the advisability of placing snow in the sewers as a means of removal. But it seems to us that it should have been explicitly stated that only clean snow should be placed in the sewers; and this generally means freshly fallen snow. The amount of dirt of ail kinds which accumulates on snow is about as great as-often greater than-that which would accumulate on the street in the same time; and to shovel in snow two, three or even six days after the beginning of the storm (when street cleaning ceased) is no more justifiable than to throw into the sewers the combined street sweepings of that number of days, including the sticks, barrel hoops and other large and heavy articles which will be found in many snow banks.

Commentary: Barrel hoops? I guess nowadays an article like this would warn against dumping snow with shopping carts in it.

Reference: Municipal Journal. 1914. 37:24(December 10, 1914): 848, 853.

September 29, 1908: First Day of Second Jersey City Trial; 1987 W.R. Grace Indicted

Trial transcripts for the Second Jersey City trial, 3000 pages

Trial transcripts for the Second Jersey City trial, 3000 pages

September 29, 1908: In 1899, Jersey City, New Jersey contracted for the construction of a new water supply on the Rockaway River, which was 23 miles west of the City. The water supply included a dam, reservoir and pipeline and was completed on May 23, 1904. As was common during this time period, no treatment (except for detention and sedimentation fostered by Boonton Reservoir) was provided to the water supply. City officials were not pleased with the project as delivered by the private water company and filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Court of New Jersey. Among the many complaints by Jersey City officials was the contention that the water served to the City was not “pure and wholesome” as required by the contract.

At the conclusion of the first trial, Vice Chancellor Frederic W. Stevens found that two or three times per year, the water did not meet the standard of “pure and wholesome” as required by the contract. He ordered that sewers be installed in the watershed or that “other plans or devices” that were equivalent to sewering the towns in the watershed could be installed. A second trial was scheduled to test whether the “other plans or devices” met the requirements of the judgment.

The second Jersey City trial started on September 29, 1908. The first order of business on the first day was a request by the defendants to postpone everything. William H. Corbin made a long statement in which he, once again, summarized the opinion and decree by Vice Chancellor Stevens. He also described in general terms the “alternate plans and devices” that the company was installing at the Boonton Reservoir site as, “…an experimental plant for the introducing of oxygen into the flow of water as it comes from the dam.”

Corbin stated that the experimental plant was put into use “last Saturday” which would have been September 26, 1908. He noted that Vice Chancellor Stevens desired daily bacteriological analyses during the first trial but the company had not gathered the data with that frequency. Corbin said that the company had been taking daily bacteriological samples over the summer and wanted to continue the sampling through the next few months to catch rainfall and significant runoff events. He also wanted more time to operate the “works” to demonstrate conclusively that the water that would be delivered to Jersey City from the plant would be “pure and wholesome.” He requested a three-month adjournment in the trial.

James B. Vredenburgh, attorney for the plaintiffs, acknowledged that a delay was needed, but he stated that two months would be sufficient. His position was that if the water was of doubtful quality, the risk to the population of Jersey City for contracting waterborne diseases was too high and no delay in finding a solution should be allowed. He was particularly concerned that a typhoid fever carrier could potentially contaminate the water above Boonton Reservoir. He also mentioned concerns with high death rates from childhood diarrhea which he said was related to the quality of the drinking water.

He also complained that Jersey City was paying the company for water delivered from Boonton Reservoir and that it would be significantly cheaper for the City to purchase the dam, reservoir and “works” rather than to continue to pay the water delivery charge. There were other issues of riparian rights along the Passaic River that needed to be settled which were agreed to by both sides.

Vredenburgh stated that it was his understanding that the treatment that would be applied to the water consisted of passing electricity through air and producing “ozone,” which would then be introduced into the water. There is no mention in the trial transcripts, exhibits, or reports of the company testing ozone or proposing its use. The company’s insistence that they would be adding oxygen to the water to sterilize it may have given Vredenburgh and the City the impression that ozone was the treatment method selected.

Based on his questions and comments, the Special Master for the second trial, William J. Magie, clearly understood the arguments for adjournment by both counsels. Even though he was not up to speed on all aspects of the case, he could rely on Vice Chancellor’s opinion that required him to carefully examine the “alternate plans and devices.” He agreed to a three-month adjournment and scheduled the second day of trial for January 5, 1909.

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

W.R. Grace and Contaminated Wells

W.R. Grace and Contaminated Wells

September 29, 1987New York Times headline–W.R. Grace is Charged with Lying About Waste. A Federal grand jury today indicted W. R. Grace & Company on charges that it lied to the United States Environmental Protection Agency about the use of chemicals and waste disposal techniques at its industrial plant in Woburn, Mass.

Officials at Grace, a diversified company with headquarters in New York, denied issuing any false statements and termed the grand jury’s charges ”unjust and without merit.”

The indictment today follows a lawsuit last summer in which eight families from Woburn asserted that toxic discharges from the Grace plant had contaminated their water wells, causing six deaths from leukemia and numerous illnesses in the families. In July, a jury found that Grace had contaminated the water with two solvents but was unable to determine the date at which the chemicals began to pollute the wells. $8 Million Settlement Reported The case was settled out of court in September. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed, but Grace is reported to have paid the families $8 million, although it denied that its chemicals had caused the diseases.”

June 9, 1934: Drought Cartoon; 2013: Celebration of Activated Sludge; 1846: Birth of Frederic W. Stevens

0609 Drought CartoonJune 9, 1934: Drought Cartoon. The Los Angeles Times has published cartoons over more than 100 years that depict the many droughts that California has suffered and the reactions to them. Here is one that I think you will enjoy.

Activated Sludge Plant, Cleveland, OH

Activated Sludge Plant, Cleveland, OH

June 9, 2013: Celebration of Centennial of Activated Sludge Process. “On June 9-11, the Water Environment Federation convened the forum, “Activated Sludge on its 100th Birthday: Challenges and Opportunities.” The event was held at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first patent of the activated sludge process near Boston. The Activated Sludge process is still the heart of modern wastewater treatment systems around the globe and was a sea-change in the burgeoning field of wastewater treatment, permitting wastewater treatment to occur in a much smaller footprint, saving space and treatment time while protecting public and environmental health. In the past 100 years, the process has been updated, modified, and augmented, to improve treatment, remove nutrients, and do so more efficiently. However, more stringent demands and resources challenges are necessitating another look at the process that has been the backbone of modern sanitation infrastructure.”

Three copies of Jersey City lawsuit against the Jersey City Water Supply Company

Three copies of Jersey City lawsuit against the Jersey City Water Supply Company

June 9, 1846: Birth of Frederic W. Stevens, Vice Chancellor of the New Jersey Court of Chancery.

Stevens officiated at the first trial of the lawsuit brought by Jersey City, New Jersey against the Jersey City Water Supply Company. The basis of the lawsuit was a contract dispute over whether a water supply from the Rockaway River was “pure and wholesome.”

Vice Chancellor Frederick W. Stevens was a highly regarded jurist in his day. “The career of Vice-Chancellor Stevens, marked as it has been by public service of the highest type, and by an undeviating devotion to duty, places him among the foremost men of the State in his generation…As a judge, the fairness, clearness and acuteness of his mind, with the high qualifications he has shown in that capacity, have won him universal admiration and respect, and given him a prominent position among the important men of the State.”   Stevens was born on June 9, 1846. His father was an engineer and his great-grandfather was a rival of Robert J. Fulton in the field of steam power development. Vice-Chancellor Stevens was comfortable with the kinds of technical language and facts that he would have to rule on in the first trial.

Stevens graduated from Columbia College in 1864. He read law in the offices of Edward T. Green and was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1868. Most of his legal practice was conducted in Newark, New Jersey. “His professional record has been one of the most unusual success, and he has taken a conspicuous part in some of the most important legal fights ever made.”   Stevens was appointed as Vice-Chancellor of the Chancery Court in 1896. At the time of the first trial, Vice-Chancellor Stevens was 61 years old.

#TDIWH—January 15, 2009: PFOA Provisional Health Advisory; 1917: Death of William J. Magie

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

January 15, 2009: On January 15, 2009, the USEPA set a provisional health advisory level for PFOA of 0.4 parts per billion in drinking water. “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.’”

0115 Boonton Hypochlorite houseJanuary 15, 1917: Death of William J. Magie. In 1899, Jersey City, New Jersey contracted for the construction of a new water supply on the Rockaway River, which was 23 miles west of the City. The water supply included a dam, reservoir and 23-mile pipeline and was completed on May 4, 1904. As was common during this time period, no treatment (except for detention and sedimentation fostered by Boonton Reservoir) was provided to the water supply. City officials were not pleased with the project as delivered by the private water company and filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Court of New Jersey. Among the many complaints by Jersey City officials was the contention that the water served to the City was not “pure and wholesome” as required by the contract. William J. Magie was selected by Vice Chancellor Frederic W. Stevens to hear the second part of the case in which the use of chlorine for disinfection was a contentious issue. One might assume that someone relatively junior might be appointed as the Special Master to hear the highly technical and excruciatingly long arguments from both sides of the case. Not so. William Jay Magie was one of the most revered judges of this time period. He took the role of Special Master in 1908 after completing 8 years as Chancellor of the Court of Chancery. Prior to that, he was a member of the New Jersey Senate (1876-1878), Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court (1880-1897) and Chief Justice of the same court from 1897 to 1900. (Marquis 1913)

“As a trial judge his cases were handled with notable success, as he had ample experience in trying causes before juries and a just appreciation of the worth of human testimony…” (Keasbey 1912) Judge Magie would need all of his powers of appreciation of human testimony in the second trial, which boiled down to which of the expert witnesses could be believed when both sides marshaled some of the most eminent doctors, scientists and engineers in the land.

Judge Magie was born on December 9, 1832 in Elizabeth, New Jersey and lived his life in that town. He graduated from Princeton College in 1852 and studied law under an attorney in Elizabeth. He was admitted to the bar of New Jersey in 1856. At the time of the second trial in 1909 he was 77 years old and near the end of his distinguished career.

On May 9, 1910, William J. Magie submitted his Special Master Report. One of Magie’s findings was of critical importance to the defendants because he laid to rest the concern that chlorine was a poison that would harm members of the public who consumed the water.

“Upon the proofs before me, I also find that the solution described leaves no deleterious substance in the water. It does produce a slight increase of hardness, but the increase is so slight as in my judgment to be negligible.” (Magie, In Chancery of New Jersey, 1910)

The Special Master Report then delivered the finding that defendants had been waiting for:

“I do therefore find and report that this device is capable of rendering the water delivered to Jersey City, pure and wholesome, for the purposes for which it is intended, and is effective in removing from the water those dangerous germs which were deemed by the decree to possibly exist therein at certain times.” (emphasis added) (Magie, In Chancery of New Jersey, 1910)

Magie’s finding summarized in this one sentence approved the use of chlorine for drinking water. After this ruling, the use of chlorine for drinking water disinfection exploded across the U.S. (McGuire 2013)

In a filing after Magie’s final decree, compensation for Judge Magie was noted as $18,000 for the entire second trial with its 38 days of testimony over 14 months, dozens of briefs and hundreds of exhibits. It must have been the hardest $18,000 he ever earned.

References:

  • Keasbey, E.Q. (1912). The Courts and Lawyers of New Jersey, 1661-1912. Vol. 3, New York:Lewis Historical Publishing Co.
  • Magie, William J. (1910). In Chancery of New Jersey: Between the Mayor and Aldermen of Jersey City, Complainant, and the Jersey City Water Supply Co., Defendant. Report for Hon. W.J. Magie, special master on cost of sewers, etc., and on efficiency of sterilization plant at Boonton, Press Chronicle Co., Jersey City, New Jersey, (Case Number 27/475-Z-45-314), 1-15.
  • Marquis, Albert N. (1913). Who’s Who in America. 7, Chicago:A.N. Marquis.
  • McGuire, Michael J. (2013). The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.