Tag Archives: sewage

#TDIWH—February 21, 1895: Aeration to Purify Sewage and a Letter from George Warren Fuller

Spray Aeration

Spray Aeration

February 21, 1895: Letter to Engineering News. Aeration as a Means of Purifying Sewage and Water. by J.H. Curtis. “The subject of sewage disposal and the purification of alluvial river water has been long considered and well digested by chemists, but the engineering end of the question has seemed to lag. About a year ago the subject was experimented on at St. Louis, and the result of these experiments may be given as follows:

Aeration was employed in which the liquid to be treated is absolutely disintegrated or reduced to spray. At the same instant of time and in juxtaposition with the liquid spray must be an atom of disintegrated air. What is the result? Organic matter accompanying the liquid is at once seized by the different constituents of the air, and there is produced pure water and harmless inorganic compounds. How performed? By a screen floor, say, with pepper-box perforations, over which is a layer of coarse river sand, somewhere below another layer of sand, leaving an air chamber between the two. Then, to duplicate nature, cause a rain storm of the liquid to be purified by forcing air into the chamber of a little less pressure than what is sufficient to sustain the weight of the liquid in the tank.

These drops falling on the fine sand, which must be kept unsubmerged, are then and there purified. [Mr. Curtis then goes on to quote the results from some experiments conducted at the Lawrence Experiment Station in Massachusetts. The experiments were run by none other than George Warren Fuller. The article continues…]

At the request of Mr. Curtis we have submitted proofs of his communication to Mr. Geo. W. Fuller, Biologist-in-Charge of the Lawrence Experiment Station of the Massachusetts State Board of Health. Mr. Fuller has made some comments on the subject, which are given immediately below. -Ed.)

Sir: The reference by Mr. Curtis to the Report of the Massachusetts State Board of Health on the purification of sewage by intermittent filtration, where artificial aeration is used for the removal of air in the filters, shows such a complete misapprehension of the process of purification by bacterial action, as well as misconception of the results of our work, that it is difficult to comment on the statements In his letter. He has entirely missed the idea of purification in the series of intermittent sewage filters Nos. 12A, 15B and 16B, which have been described in our Reports for 1892 and 1893.

It seems to me unnecessary to comment on his scheme until he has some facts to give with regard to this bacterial and organic purification of water and sewage by his system.

Truly yours,

George W. Fuller.

Commentary: There are very few letters written by George Warren Fuller that have survived to the present day. It is clear from this letter that he did not suffer fools gladly even at the tender age of 27 when the letter was written.

George Warren Fuller, 1903, 35 years old

George Warren Fuller, 1903, 35 years old

#TDIWH—February 20, 1862: Willie Lincoln Dies of Typhoid

250px-WILLIEFebruary 20, 1862: President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln were grief stricken when their eleven-year-old son, Willie, died from typhoid fever, which may have been due to polluted drinking water delivered to the White House. His full name was William Wallace Lincoln but his parents called him Willie.

“Willie and his younger brother Tad were considered “notorious hellions” during the period they lived in Springfield. They’re recorded by Abraham’s law partner William Herndon for turning their law office upside down; pulling the books off the shelves while their father appeared oblivious to their behavior.

Upon their father’s election as President both Willie and Tad moved into the White House and it became their new playground. At the request of Mrs. Lincoln, Julia Taft brought her younger brothers, 12-year-old “Bud” and 8-year-old “Holly” to the White House and they became playmates of Willie and Tad.

Willie and Tad both became ill in early 1862, and although Tad recovered, Willie’s condition fluctuated from day to day. The most likely cause of the illness was typhoid fever, which was usually contracted by consumption of fecally contaminated food/water. The White House drew its water from the Potomac River, along which thousands of soldiers and horses were camped. Gradually Willie weakened, and both parents spent much time at his bedside. Finally, on Thursday, February 20, 1862, at 5:00 p.m., Willie died. Abraham said, ‘My poor boy. He was too good for this earth. God has called him home. I know that he is much better off in heaven, but then we loved him so. It is hard, hard to have him die!’”

Willie was only 11 years old when he died.

Commentary: Typhoid fever caused by contaminated water killed by the hundreds of thousands every year. The suffering of the parents of children was great and avoidable. It would take Louis Pasteur, the germ theory of disease, Dr. John Snow, public health professionals and the sanitary engineers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to eventually break the death spiral of sewage contaminated drinking water.

#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 15, 1917: Sewer Pipe Failures

Vitrified clay pipe (15-inch diameter) crushed by improper backfill conditions

Vitrified clay pipe (15-inch diameter) crushed by improper backfill conditions

February 15, 1917: Municipal Journal editorial. Sewer Pipe Failures. “There is probably no type of structure or kind of material that was not at some time figured in a more or less complete failure. In most cases such failure is due to carelessness or ignorance in the use of the material and not to the fault of the material as such. Concrete bridges have failed, so have steel and wooden ones; yet each properly used has given most satisfactory service in hundreds of cases to one in which it has failed.

The same comments apply to the failures of sewer pipe described in this issue. Thousands of miles of vitrified pipe and hundreds of miles of cement pipe (the latter having come much more recently into general use) have given and are giving satisfaction in the sewerage systems of this and other countries. That there have been failures is only a repetition of the history of all materials. But it is desirable to occasionally call attention to such failures as a caution against careless or ignorant use of the materials, or to enlist all those interested in a study of the cause of the failure.

In the case of the vitrified pipe it appears from the illustration, that the pipe was laid close to the surface of a street carrying heavy traffic (assumed from the fact that the street was paved with stone block), that the reconstructed base over the trench failed to support the load, which was thereupon transmitted to the pipe.

In the case of the cement pipe, the reason is not so apparent; but it would seem probable that that advanced by the engineer is correct-that the pipe was sufficiently porous to permit ground water to pass through it, and that in doing so it dissolved certain constituents of the cement (or possibly of the sand or broken stone used as aggregate). It is certainly desirable that the cause be ascertained in order that the manufacturers of cement pipe may avoid its future occurrence.

Reference: “Sewer Pipe Failures.” 1917. Municipal Journal 42:7(February 15, 1917): 237.

#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.

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

Cuyahoga River Catches Fire...Again

Cuyahoga River Catches Fire…Again

February 2, 1918: Municipal Journal article. 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

Worker conducting leak survey

February 2, 1918: Municipal Journal article. 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.