Tag Archives: sewage treatment

April 29, 1915: Sewer Gas Explosion

April 29, 1915: Municipal Journal article. Fatal Explosion in Sewage Disposal Plant. “Ocean Grove, N. J.-An explosion in the valve chamber of the larger of Ocean Grove’s two septic tank plants on the afternoon of April 25 injured three men, one of whom died the next day of his injuries. In this plant are four tanks, each 13 by 93 1/2 feet, built side by side. Across one end is a detritus chamber, 57 feet long by 5~ feet wide, and above this is a valve operating chamber, 57 feet long, 8 feet wide and 6 feet high. The whole structure is built of reinforced concrete.

On the day named the designing engineer of the Ocean Grove plant, Clyde Potts, of New York, was showing it to a party of officials from South Bound Brook, accompanied by Walter C. Bowen, sanitary engineer of New Brunswick. Councilmen Raymond Stryker and Karlson La Rue descended the ladder into the valve chamber, followed by Mr. Bowen. Mr. Stryker, on reaching the bottom, struck a match to light a cigar, when a flame burst out of the manhole which blew Bowen to the surface with his face seared and clothing on fire. Stryker, on the floor, was knocked down and, as the flames burned above him, escaped with less injury. La Rue was blown to the manhole opening, and as he clung there, resting on his chest, during the 15 seconds through which the flame roared out of the opening, he was burned on every part of his body except his chest. La Rue and Bowen were hurried to the hospital, where the former died on Monday night. Mr. Bowen will probably be able to leave the hospital in a week or two.

What gas caused the explosion and how it reached the plant are not known. Mr. Potts had previously thought he detected the odor of illuminating gas [methane] at the plant. He expects to endeavor in a few days to ascertain the origin of the gas with a view to preventing a repetition of the occurrence.”

Reference: “Fatal Explosion in Sewage Disposal Plant.” 1915. Municipal Journal article 38:17(April 29, 1-915): 597.

Commentary: Seriously? Mr. Stryker struck a match? Despite the strange juxtaposition of name and action, this is a sad tale of death caused by entry into a confined space. It would be many decades before this unnecessary loss of life was eliminated by strict rules that require evacuation of potentially toxic or explosive gases from sewers and other confined spaces. If you ever wondered why OSHA regulations were enacted, this is a good example. By the way, the source of the explosive gas is no mystery. Any anaerobic degradation of organic wastes would have produced plenty of methane that would have ignited explosively when Mr. Stryker lit his cigar.

April 28, 1909: Electrolytic Treatment of Sewage in Santa Monica

Santa Monica Pier, 1909

April 28, 1909: Municipal Journal and Engineer article. Electrolytic Treatment of Sewage. By C.B. Irvine. “After a practical operation of the magneto-electrolytic sewage purification plant at Santa Monica, Cal., covering a period of nine months, figures are obtainable going to show the actual cost of maintaining the plant. For sixty days prior to September 1 of last year the device was operated by its builders, at the expense of the city. This was the trial test upon which the decision to purchase the system was based, and as it proved satisfactory to the City Council, the purchase was made at $10,000. On September 1 the city took charge of the plant and has since been treating twenty-five miners’ inches of sewage daily. The capacity of the plant is great enough to care for a million gallons in a twenty-four-hour day, but the quantity supplied by the 11,000 inhabitants of the city does not exceed one-half that amount. The cost of operating the plant is found, upon actual experience, to be approximately $400 per month…. The City Council has expressed itself as being entirely satisfied with the operation of the plant, which is being visited every few days by delegations from Southern California cities, while inquiries are received from all parts of the globe.”

Reference: Irvine, C.B. 1909. “Electrolytic Treatment of Sewage.” Municipal Journal and Engineer article 26:17(April 28, 1909): 718.

Commentary: At the turn of the 20th century, cities across the U.S. were being conned by unscrupulous charlatans who claimed that running a little electricity into sewage would fix it up just fine. It is a little embarrassing that this example is from my home town of Santa Monica, California. With only 11,000 residents, Santa Monica was a little beach town during this period with a big pier.

March 8, 1919: Sprinkling Filter Flies

Filter Fly

Filter Fly

March 8, 1919: Municipal Journal article. Sprinkling Filter Flies. “One of the objectionable features connected with sprinkling [trickling] filters is the prevalence at most of them, during certain seasons of the year, of myriads of small flies. This fly is small and moth-like, 3 to 5 mm. long, the body and wings covered with fine hair. Millions will breed in a filter during a season. They may be carried by favorable winds three-quarters of a mile from the plant, but generally remain rather close to it. Ordinary window screens do not keep them out.

The result of experiments conducted at the sprinkling filters of Plainfield, N. J., was set forth by C. S. Beckwith, assistant entomologist of the New Jersey State Agricultural Experiment Station, in a recent issue of “New Jersey Municipalities.” His statement was as follows:

In studying the habits of the flies it was determined that the breeding continues throughout the entire season. During the cold months they are present in the larval and pupal stages, emerging with the coming of warm weather. The abundance of the flies during the warm season seems to be correlated with the thickness of the film on the stones of the filter. A thick film means more flies, and a thin film, fewer flies. The thick film of late spring gives rise to a tremendous brood. After the film has broken down and sluffed off the number is greatly reduced. Again with the thickening of the film in late summer, the flies become abundant….

It thus seemed that submergence for 24 hours destroyed 100 per cent of the larvae and pupae. To make the matter more certain, one-fourth of the Plainfield sprinkling filter, amounting to a little less than one-half acre, was submerged for a period of 24 hours with ordinary sewage water as it came from the dosing tank. At the end of this period the water was released and many samples were taken. Enormous numbers of larvae and pupae came out with the water, and not one could be found that was alive.”

Reference: “Sprinkling Filter Flies.” 1919. Municipal Journal. 46:10(March 8, 1919): 196.

March 7, 1912: Milwaukee Sewerage Design

Imhoff Tank Sewage Treatment Plant under construction, 1912

Imhoff Tank Sewage Treatment Plant under construction, 1912

March 7, 1912: Municipal Journal article. Some Principles of Sewerage Design. “The report of the Sewerage Commission upon the problem presented by the city of Milwaukee, the general conclusions of which were referred to in our issue of Feb. 29, contains a number of features among its details which are of considerable interest. One of these is the quantity of sewage which the engineers, Messrs. Alvord, Eddy and Whipple, think it desirable to provide for. The maximum rate of flow of sewage at the present time is approximately 250 gallons per capita per day, this including water used in manufacturing and ground water leaking into the sewers. The proposed sewer system is estimated of a capacity sufficient for the population and other requirements of the year 1950, and the maximum flow at that time is estimated at 350 gallons per capita per day. As the amount of ground water seepage per capita will probably be less rather than greater at that time, this indicates a belief in a very high rate of water consumption for domestic and manufacturing purposes 40 years hence. The importance, in their opinion, of manufacturing wastes in such a calculation is indicated by the fact that more than three times as much sewage per acre is allowed for from the manufacturing as from the residential areas.

In making provisions for the future, the engineers believe that this should be governed to a great extent by the possibilities of gradual enlargement of capacity of the work in question. Thus sewers, the capacity of which can be increased only at great expense, they think should be designed for the probable needs of the city in 1950; while the sewage purification works, which can be easily enlarged by the addition of small units, they think should be constructed at the present time for a capacity of only 15 or 20 years in advance. An additional argument in favor of the latter is that our knowledge concerning purification methods is continually increasing, and it is very probable that improvements in details, if not in actual principles of operation will be available by that time.”

Reference: “Some Principles of Sewerage Design.” 1912. Municipal Journal. 32:10(March 7, 1912): 349.

Commentary: The three prominent engineers (Alvord, Eddy and Whipple) were wise to not lock in treatment technology in 1912 for 50 years. They knew that the knowledge in this area of sanitary engineering was advancing at a significant rate. They wanted their client to benefit from such a technological advance when it occurred some years in the future.

#TDIWH—February 17, 1916: Fertilizer from Activated Sludge and Flood in San Diego

Many decades later, the use of biosolids for fertilizer is catching on

Many decades later, the use of biosolids for fertilizer is catching on

February 17, 1916: Municipal Journal article. Fertilizer from Activated Sludge.   “Milwaukee, Wis.-The sewerage commission that is directing the construction of Milwaukee’s modern system of sewage disposal with a big plant on Jones island, operated by the new activated sludge method, is about ready to experiment with the sludge deposits left after streams of sewage have been purified. Chief engineer Hatton believes that this sludge can be manufactured into a commercial fertilizer which will command a market value ranging from $10 to $20 per ton. If the experiments are successful the sludge will be the source of considerable revenue which will decrease the operating expenses of the system which with its large intercepting sewers draining the whole city, will cost $10,000,000 or more. A special building will be erected for the treatment of the refuse to be worked into fertilizer form. Nine of the large concrete tanks recently built for the treatment of continuous flows of sewage are in operation and the other two will soon be ready.”

Flooding by DamFebruary 17, 1916: Municipal Journal article. Repair Flood-Damaged Water System. “San Diego, Cal.-The San Diego water system was hard hit by the storm which caused the flooding of the Otay valley. According to belief of the water department officials the conduit system is almost ruined. In places miles of trestle have been carried down the mountains. In other places the concrete flume was washed out by the hundred yards. To carry water from Morena dam to Upper Otay, as proposed, will entail expensive work and six months or more time, according to the belief of manager of operation Lockwood, who waited an official report from supervisor Wueste and engineer Cromwell. Morena dam stood the storm.”

Reference: Municipal Journal. 1916. 40:7(February 17,1916): 244.

#TDIWH—February 13, 1913: Cleveland Sewage Treatment

0213 Cleveland Sewage studiesFebruary 13, 1913: Engineering News article. 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.

#TDIWH—February 3, 1909: Sewage Disposal in Pennsylvania

0203-activated-sludge-plant-at-clevelandFebruary 3, 1909: Municipal Journal and Engineer article. 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 century 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.