Tag Archives: sewage treatment

February 13, 1913: Cleveland Sewage Treatment

February 13, 1913:  Engineering Newsarticle. Sewage Disposal Investigations at Cleveland. By R. Winthrop Pratt. “SYNOPSIS-Preparatory to the design of sewage-treatment works for Cleveland, Ohio, a series of tests is being made of various methods of treating the sewage. The causes leading up to the decision to treat the sewage, and to make the tests before building the proposed works are outlined and then the testing station is described. The station includes grit chambers, screens and tanks for preliminary treatment, rapid filters or scrubbers, sprinkling filter, auxiliary settling tanks, and a disinfection plant for final treatment; tanks for dilution studies; sludge digestion tanks and sludge-drying beds, and an office and laboratory….

On July 25, 1905, the city appointed a commission of experts, consisting of Rudolph Hering, George H. Benzenberg and Desmond FitzGerald to study the general question of improved water-supply and sewerage for the city. This commission, about six months later, submitted a report in which was recommended:

(1) The extension of the water-works tunnel to a point about four miles from the shore.

(2) The construction of an intercepting sewer system to collect the sewage from the entire city and discharge the same into Lake Erie, at a point about 10 miles east of the Cuyahoga River. This intercepting sewer was to be designed to carry twice the dry-weather flow from one million people, on the basis of 200 gal. per capita, or a total of 400 gal. per capita per day. This plan involved several overflows into the lake and river to take care of the discharge in excess of the above amount.

(3) The construction of a river flushing tunnel and pumping equipment for the purpose of pumping clean lake water into the river above all local pollution, was recommended by two members of the commission.”

Reference: Engineering News 1913. 69:7(February 13, 1913): 287.


February 3, 1909: Sewage Disposal in Pennsylvania

Activated Sludge Plant, Cleveland, OH

February 3, 1909:  Municipal Journal and Engineerarticle. Sewage Disposal in Pennsylvania. “As indicated from time to time in our columns, the matter of sewage disposal is just now assuming more importance in Pennsylvania than in possibly any other State of the Union, this being due largely to the activity of the new State Board of Health under the recent laws endowing it with unusual powers. Two of the latest propositions as well as the largest are those which are ordered for the cities of Harrisburg and Pittsburg. The public press of the former city states that the city officials are about to begin at once preparing plans for works which are roughly estimated to cost one and a half to two million dollars. This does not contemplate the present treatment of the sewage of that city, but only a better location of outlets and the preparation of plans for treatment. Pittsburg, however, is directed to take immediate steps toward building a sewage disposal plant which is estimated to cost fifteen to twenty million dollars; this order possibly being hastened by the typhoid epidemic which is sweeping through the small towns located on the river below Pittsburg.”

Commentary:  It was only after the turn of the 20thcentury that states began to get serious about requiring treatment of sewage before discharge to local streams.

Reference:  “Sewage Disposal in Pennsylvania.” Municipal Journal and Engineer. 26:5(February 3, 1909): 167.

February 2, 1918: Sewage Plant Completion in Cleveland and Water Waste Survey

Cuyahoga River Catches Fire…Again

February 2, 1918:  Municipal Journalarticle. Ask Time Extension for Sewage Plant Completion. Cleveland, O. The city council has passed resolutions asking the state department of health for an extension of time in which to complete plants built to prevent the pollution of Lake Erie and Cuyahoga river. The state health department had ordered the city to install sewage works for preventing the pollution of the lake before Feb. 13, 1918. The city has already spent and has contracted for the expenditure of more than $700,000 for the construction of sewers and treatment works in accordance with the order. Because of delay in determining the legal status of a recent act of the legislature, which permitted the raising of the necessary funds authorized at a recent election and of much time consumed by necessary studies and investigations, the city asks extension of time until Feb. 13, 1920. In the case of the Cuyahoga river, the city had been originally ordered to stop pollution by July 1, 1915, and had then had the time extended to July 1, 1917, but now it requests a further extension until July 1, 1920.

Commentary: The reader may recall that we have marked several occasions when the Cuyahoga River caught fire due to the wastes dumped into it. Controlling sewage discharges did not fix all of the river’s problems.

Worker conducting leak survey

February 2, 1918:  Municipal Journalarticle. To Complete Water-Waste Survey. Buffalo, N. Y.-On the recommendation of commissioner Kreinheder council has authorized a complete survey of the city’s water waste at a cost of about $44,000. The Pitometer Company of New York is to do .the work along the plans followed by it in a partial survey made some time ago. George C. Andrews, water commissioner, estimates that the survey will result in an annual saving of $80,000 in coal bills and of about $40,000 in wages. The city has been divided into ten districts for the purposes of this survey, one of which has been covered. Two others will be completed in the spring.

Commentary:  Founded in 1897, the Pitometer Company (Associates) was in business for 99 years and helped cities save untold billions of gallons of water. In 1996, Severn Trent Environmental Services, Inc. acquired Pitometer Associates, Inc.

Reference:  Municipal Journal. 1918. 46:5(February 2, 1918): 98.

December 17, 1914: Small Sewage Treatment Plant

December 17, 1914:  Municipal Journalarticle—Small Sewage Treatment Plant. “The Home for the Indigent of Delaware County, Pa., is located in Middletown Township, near the village of Lima, and on the main highway leading from Media to West Chester, Pa. There are usually about 125 inmates the home, although during the winter months the number runs higher. With employees, etc., the number of persons contributing to the sewer system will average about 140.

The sewage flow varies considerably on different days. When the laundry is being operated, the total daily flow to about 10,000 gallons, 60 per cent of which runs off in about 6 hours. On all other days, the total flow amounts to about 4,000 gallons.

The plant consists of an Imhoff tank, dosing chamber, percolating filter, secondary tank and sand filter, as shown on the general plan. Both the sewer system and treatment plant operate by gravity….

The plant has now been in operation for about one year and has given perfect satisfaction. No odors are noticeable at any portion of the plant. The sewage is kept in a fresh state and is passed through the plant as rapidly as consistent with the degree of purification necessary.

The Imhoff tank has fully demonstrated its value even in an installation as small as this. The incoming sewage is kept fresh and free from the “blown up” sludge, so common in both plain settling tanks and septic tanks. At a recent inspection by the authors, the vents were covered with scum about 6 inches thick and considerable gas was being produced and given off. This gas was entirely inodorous and inflammable, which substantiated the claim of the inventor.”

Reference: Mebus, P.E. and F.R. Berlin. 1914. “Small Sewage Treatment Plant.” Municipal Journal. 37:25(December 17, 1914): 877-9.

December 14, 1928: Sewage treatment plant at Boonton; 1853: Founding of Compagnie Générale des Eaux

Boonton Dam and Spillway

December 14, 1928: Start of operation of sewage treatment plant at Boonton Reservoir. “In 1925, a trunk sewer intercepting the wastes from Dover, Boonton and smaller habitations in New Jersey on the Rockaway River was completed. Continuing to confound and delay water and sewer development in the watershed, the Morris Canal figured into the final plan for sewers.  The alignment for the intercepting sewer included part of the right-of-way for the Morris Canal and the canal had to be abandoned before the sewer could be completed. At about the same time, a sewage treatment plant at Boonton was finished. The plant employed the trickling filter method of sewage treatment followed by sand filtration and chlorination of the plant’s effluent.  Because of a number of delays, the sewage treatment plant was not put into operation until December 14, 1928.”

Reference: McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association, Chapter 11.

Imperial Decree from Napoleon III Establishing Compagnie Generale des Eaux

December 14, 1853:  Founding of Compagnie Générale des Eaux (now Veolia).“Compagnie Générale des Eaux is founded and obtains its first public service concession to supply water to the city of Lyons. On the initiative of Napoleon III and throughout the entire Second Empire, the creation of private companies to operate the urban water systems opens the way for modernization and enhances the quality of life in towns and cities. Count Henri Siméon embodies this dynamism when he founds the Compagnie Générale des Eaux in 1853: ‘In the new times ahead, be certain, sirs, that millions will be allotted to the supply of water, just as millions were allocated to railways previously.’

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 Revolutionto 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.

August 20, 1831: Birth of Eduard Suess; 1914: Disinfection of Sewage Plant Effluents

August 20, 1831:Birth of Eduard Suess, Austrian geologist.
He developed the plan for a 69-mile (112-kilometre) aqueduct (completed 1873) that brought fresh water from the Alps to Vienna. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/571632/Eduard-Suess

At the age of nineteen he published a short sketch of the geology of Carlsbad and its mineral waters…n 1862 he published an essay on the soils and water-supply of Vienna http://www.nndb.com/people/266/000097972/

In 1864, the Vienna City Council voted the construction of the First Vienna Spring Water Main, which to this day covers approximately 40 percent of Vienna’s water requirements. It was planned by the geologist and City Council member Eduard Suess and implemented under Mayor Cajetan Felder. The main was to safeguard adequate drinking water supply even for the suburbs and to improve its quality, thereby excluding any further health hazards for the population.

After a construction period of only three years, the First Vienna Spring Water Main was inaugurated on 24 October 1873 by Emperor Francis Joseph I concurrently with the Hochstrahlbrunnen Fountain in Schwarzenbergplatz. The pipeline is 120 kilometres long, cost 16 million Gulden to build and soon became a symbol of Vienna’s liberation from water shortages and dangers of epidemics. In residential buildings, the formerly used domestic wells were gradually replaced by communal water taps. In 1888, over 90 percent of residential buildings situated within Vienna’s (then) municipal territory were already connected to the new main.


August 20, 1914:  Municipal Journalarticle. Operation of Sewage Disposal Plants—Disinfection. “Having determined upon the size of the dose, the next thing is to apply it to the sewage or effluent at a uniform rate. The best practice is to dissolve the required number of pounds in a given amount of water and feed the solution at a definite rate proportional to the flow of liquid to be disinfected. This is not so simple as one might at first suspect. Several things have to be looked out for. The commercial dry powder varies in strength and loses strength considerably when exposed to the air. There must be sufficient water to dissolve out the hypochlorite, and care must be used in mixing the solution. The solution is corrosive and acts on tanks, piping, valves, etc., and it also forms incrustations which cause frequent stoppages in pipes, valves and feeding devices.

Unless it is feasible to analyze each lot of bleach, it should be bought with the available chlorine specified by the dealer. As the material deteriorates upon opening, the contents of a whole container should be mixed at once if possible. In many plants, however, this cannot be done; in such cases the unused material must be kept tightly covered in a cool dry place. While the larger sized containers hold about 700 pounds, at a slight increase in price hypochlorite can be obtained in 350-pound or 100-pound drums, and in many cases the smaller sizes are to be preferred, both because of convenience in handling and to avoid the keeping of large quantities exposed to the atmosphere.

In the mixing of the bleach, the active hypochlorite is dissolved while the inert lime and other insoluble impurities remain. Usually the bleach is thoroughly mixed with a small amount of water into a paste or cream so as to break up the lumps, then more water is added and the whole transferred to the solution tank, and agitated until a thoroughly homogeneous solution is obtained.

As it is very important that the solution be of the same strength throughout, and as this mixing is a laborious process, a power mixer should always be installed except, perhaps, for very small quantities. After all the hypochlorite has been dissolved and the solution once properly stirred up, the strength remains the same throughout the tank.

In some plants the contents of a whole container of bleach are washed out into the solution tank by means, of a stream of water from a hose, and the whole agitated until a thorough solution is obtained. In the mixing, care must be used to get the material thoroughly broken up and agitated so that all the hypochlorite will be dissolved or else a considerable amount of material will be wasted. The writer has known of over fifty per cent waste, due to improper methods of mixing. He has suggested a mixer in the form of a mill or grinder, so that the bleach could be fed through and ground with a stream of water. This he believes would break up lumps and hasten the process.

One should not attempt to dissolve too much hypochlorite in a given amount of water. The solubility of bleach is only about five per cent, and a five per cent solution is difficult to obtain and difficult to handle. It is much better, when possible, to use a weaker solution, say two or three per cent. It is usually better to keep the solution the same strength by mixing the required number of pounds according to the strength of the dry powder, and to vary the dose by changing the feeding device. A rod should be laid off, showing the number of pounds to be used for different depths of water in the tank, from the top down, so that if all of the solution is not run out the rod will show immediately the number of pounds to be used for the amount of water necessary to fill up the tank.”

Commentary:  This article was published about six years after the startup of the chloride of lime (calcium hypochlorite) feed system ordered by Dr. John L. Leal and built by George Warren Fuller at Boonton Reservoir—see schematic of Fuller’s chemical feed system below. The description of the chloride of lime feed system for sewage treatment plants (above) is very similar to the one shown below. The article is also quite honest about the many problems with using chloride of lime as a source of chlorine to disinfect water. None of these issues were brought to light during the optimistic testimony given by Leal and the other defendant witnesses at the second Jersey City trial. Over time, chloride of lime feed systems were replaced with pressurized systems feeding chlorine gas from storage tanks of liquid chlorine stored under pressure.