Tag Archives: sewage

January 19, 1918: Canton, Mississippi Well and Syracuse, NY Sewage Disposal

January 19, 1918:  Municipal Journalarticle–Well Drilling by Canton Water Department. “The superintendent of the Canton, Miss., electric light and water works, J. T. Sharp, Jr., furnishes the following information, with accompanying photograph, describing work done recently in drilling a new well for the water supply. The water works is owned and operated by the city under a commission, being now in its 13th year. A complete well-drilling outfit forms a part of its equipment, by which the city is able to drill deep wells and do any well repairing that is necessary. Two sources of supply are available to the city, one at 1,020 ft. deep which will rise 12 ft. above the surface, and another at a depth of 375 ft. which will rise to a level of 14 ft. below the surface. A well tapping the latter supply drops only 23 ft. when yielding 300 to 350 gallons per minute, or to a point 37 ft. below the surface.”

January 19, 1918:  Municipal Journalarticle–“State Demands Adequate Sewage Disposal. Syracuse, N. Y.-Demands that the city proceed immediately to carry out an acceptable plan for disposing of its sewage have been made upon mayor Walter R. Stone and the intercepting sewer board by the state department of health. The state refuses to permit the city to put off for another year the adoption and carrying out of a plan whereby sewage will be removed from Onondaga creek and the barge canal harbor. All of the city’s sewage now flows directly into the harbor and while it will not become objectionable within a year, it must be diverted without unnecessary delay. According to Henry C. Allen, city engineer, the city is only awaiting the result of tests now being made by Glenn D. Holmes, chief engineer of the intercepting sewer board, to determine whether the activated sludge or aerated-filter system js best suited to conditions.”

Reference: Municipal Journal. 1918. 44:3(January 19, 1918) 56, 59.

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January 18, 1825: Birth of Sir Edward Frankland; 1911: Sewer Explosion, Spitters and Sanitary Sewers

Sir Edward Frankland

January 18, 1825:  Birth of Sir Edward Frankland. “English chemist who was one of the first investigators in the field of structural chemistry, invented the chemical bond, and became known as the father of valency. He studied organometallic compounds – hybrid molecules of the familiar organic non-metallic elements (such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus) with true metals. By 1850, he had prepared small organic molecules containing such metals as zinc. Subsequently, he devised the theory of valence (announced 10 May 1852), that each type of atom has a fixed capacity for combination with other atoms. For his investigations on water purification and for his services to the government as water analyst, Frankland was knighted in 1897.”

Commentary: Frankland applied his theoretical discoveries directly to the analysis of water.

January 18, 1911:  Several interesting stories from the Municipal Journal and Engineer. “Sewer Explosion. Erie, Pa.-An explosion occurred in a sewer at the intersection of Twelfth and Cranberry streets, Jan. 4. Manhole covers were thrown high in the air, the roadway was torn up and telegraph poles thrown down. The explosion is attributed to gas or gasoline.

Anti-Spitting Ordinances to Be Rigidly Enforced. Walla Walla, Wash.-Chief of Police Mike Davis has announced that hereafter the anti-spitting ordinance will be rigidly enforced. By way of warning the large Red Cross anti-spitting cards will again be posted conspicuously about the city. One of the most impressive of these is the following: “A world without careless spitters would soon be a world without consumption.”

Commentary:While this is a blog about the history of water, it should be realized that at the same time that engineers and city leaders were trying to build treatment plants and sewage disposal facilities, they were also battling the scourge of tuberculosis. The anti-spitting campaign was one of the chief weapons in that fight.

Sanitary Sewer Connections with Storm Sewers Condemned. Duluth, Minn.-In the annual report which he filed with Health Commissioner H. E. Webster, Plumbing Inspector George Kreager strongly recommends a discontinuance of the practice of allowing sanitary sewer connections to be made with storm sewers. He declares that it has come to be a most serious problem to the city. He states that in the dry season the stench from the catch basins of storm sewers which have sanitary sewer connections emptying into them is ‘awful.’”

Reference: Municipal Journal and Engineer. 30:3(January 18, 1911) 90-1.

January 17, 1896: Drought Cartoon; 1994: Northridge Earthquake Damages Los Angeles Infrastructure; 1900: Missouri v Illinois over Chicago Sewage; 1856: Charles V. Chapin Born; 1859: Death of Lemuel Shattuck

January 17, 1896:  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.

January 17, 1994:  Northridge earthquake does significant damage to water infrastructure in Los Angeles.“The Northridge earthquake was an earthquake that occurred on January 17, 1994, at 04:31 Pacific Standard Time and was centered in the north-central San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, California. It had a duration of approximately 10–20 seconds….In addition, earthquake-caused property damage was estimated to be more than $20 billion, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history….Numerous fires were also caused by broken gas lines from houses shifting off their foundations or unsecured water heaters tumbling. In the San Fernando Valley, several underground gas and water lines were severed, resulting in some streets experiencing simultaneous fires and floods. Damage to the system resulted in water pressure dropping to zero in some areas; this predictably affected success in fighting subsequent fires. Five days after the earthquake it was estimated that between 40,000 and 60,000 customers were still without public water service.”

Commentary:  One of the most memorable sights from the earthquake aftermath was the massive natural gas fire occurring while water was spewing from a huge water main break (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA1m3UgJ8nU).

Breaking the Dam on the Canal

January 17, 1900:Fifteen days after Chicago opened the Sanitary and Ship Canal and reversed the course of the Chicago River to discharge sewage into the Mississippi River, Missouri sued Illinois, “…praying for an injunction against the defendants from draining into Mississippi River the sewage and drainage of said sanitary district by way of the Chicago drainage canal and the channels of Desplaines and Illinois river.”

The Bill of Complaint alleged in part:

“That if such plan is carried out it will cause such sewage matter to flow into Mississippi River past the homes and waterworks systems of the inhabitants of the complainant…

That the amount of such undefecated [huh?] sewage matter would be about 1,500 tons daily, and that it will poison the waters of the Mississippi and render them unfit for domestic use, amounting to a direct and continuing nuisance that will endanger the health and lives and irreparably injure the business interests of inhabitants of the complainant…

That the water of the canal had destroyed the value of the water of the Mississippi for drinking and domestic purposes, and had caused much sickness to persons living along the banks of said river in the State of Missouri.”

The opinion in the case was written by Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes and read in part:

“The data upon which an increase in the deaths from typhoid fever in St. Louis is alleged are disputed. The elimination of other causes is denied. The experts differ as to the time and distance within which a stream would purify itself. No case of an epidemic caused by infection at so remote a source is brought forward and the cases which are produced are controverted. The plaintiff obviously must be cautious upon this point, for if this suit should succeed many others would follow, and it not improbably would find itself a defendant to a bill by one or more of the States lower down upon the Mississippi.The distance which the sewage has to travel (357 miles) is not open to debate, but the time of transit to he inferred from experiments with floats is estimated at varying from eight to eighteen and a half days, with forty-eight hours more from intake to distribution, and when corrected by observations of bacteria is greatly prolonged by the defendants. The experiments of the defendants’ experts lead them to the opinion that a typhoid bacillus could not survive the journey, while those on the other side maintain that it might live and keep its power for twenty-five days or more, and arrive at St. Louis. Upon the question at issue, whether the new discharge from Chicago hurts St. Louis, there is a categorical contradiction between the experts on the two sides.”

Commentary:  In effect, Justice Holmes ruled in favor of Chicago. The experts for St. Louis had failed to prove their case.

Reference:  Leighton, Marshall O. 1907. “Pollution of Illinois and Mississippi Rivers by Chicago Sewage: A Digest of the Testimony Taken in the Case of the State of Missouri v. the State of Illinois and the Sanitary District of Chicago.” U.S. Geological Survey, Water Supply and Irrigation Paper No. 194, Series L, Quality of Water, 20, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Charles V. Chapin

January 17, 1856:  Charles V. Chapin was born.“Charles Value Chapin (January 17, 1856 – January 31, 1941 in Providence) was a pioneer in public-health practice, serving as one of the Health Officers for Providence, Rhode Island between 1884 and 1932. He also served as President of the American Public Health Association in 1927. His observations on the nature of the spread of infectious disease were dismissed at first, but eventually gained widespread support. His book, The Sources and Modes of Infection, was frequently read in the United States and Europe. The Providence City Hospital was renamed the Charles V. Chapin Hospital in 1931 to recognize his substantial contributions to improving the sanitary condition of the city of Providence.”

Commentary:  Chapin defined the new public health movement at the beginning of the 20thcentury. His career expressed the advances in public health that we all now take for granted.

January 17, 1859:  Lemuel Shattuck died in Boston.“Lemuel Shattuck was born on October 15, 1793 in Ashby, Massachusetts… He is remembered as a public health innovator, and for his work with vital statistics. Shattuck was one of the early prime-movers of public hygiene in the United States. With his report to the Massachusetts Sanitary Commission in 1850, he accomplished for New England what such men as Chadwick, Rarr, and Simon had done for England. There had been in the United States few advances in public health aside from a few stray smallpox regulations until this report. Shattuck’s report pointed out that much of the ill health and debility in the American cities at that time could be traced to unsanitary conditions, and stressed the need for local investigations and control of defects.

Shattuck was a prime mover in the adoption and expansion of public health measures at local and state levels. In 1850, he published a Sanitation Report that established a model for state boards of health in Massachusetts (1869) and other parts of the United States….”

January 16, 1806: Death of Nicolas Leblanc; 1913: Chicago Drainage Canal Decision

January 16, 1806:  Death of Nicolas Leblanc. “French surgeon and chemist who in 1790 developed the process for making soda ash (sodium carbonate) from common salt (sodium chloride). This process, which bears his name, became one of the most important industrial chemical processes of the 19th century. In the Leblanc process, salt was treated with sulphuric acid to obtain salt cake (sodium sulphate). This was then roasted with limestone or chalk and coal to produce black ash, which consisted primarily of sodium carbonate and calcium sulphide. The sodium carbonate was dissolved in water and then crystallized. The Leblanc process was simple, cheap, and direct, but because of the disruption of the French Revolution, he profited little from it. He died by suicide in 1806.”

Commentary:  Soda ash is one of the common treatment chemicals used in precipitative water softening plants.

January 16, 1913:  Engineering Newseditorial– Far Reaching Decision Respecting the Use of the Chicago Drainage Canal. “The denial by the Secretary of War of the application of the Sanitary District of Chicago for authority to withdraw 10,000 cu. ft. per sec. from Lake Michigan in place of the 4167 ft. authorized by a previous Secretary which we print in full elsewhere in this issue, seems to leave Chicago only two alternatives. Either it must fight the question out in Congress, and if successful there which is very doubtful, it must then fight it out again in a probable arbitration proceeding between the United States and Canada with possibilities of a fight with navigation and other interests in the courts as well. Otherwise Chicago must, at an early date, begin the construction of a plant to purify its sewage, at least partially, before discharging it into the drainage canal, and this plant must eventually become one of the largest sewage-treatment plants in the world.

The necessity for purifying its sewage arises not alone from the doubt whether the city will be permitted to permanently divert from Lake Michigan even the amount of water it is now taking but because the towns and cities along the course of the Illinois River will be apt to begin litigation if Chicago sends its sewage past their doors diluted with a smaller proportion of water than that agreed upon when the state legislation authorizing the construction of the sanitary canal was enacted.”

Reference:  “Far Reaching Decision Respecting the Use of the Chicago Drainage Canal.” Engineering News.69:3(January 16, 1913): 125.

Commentary:  Even 13 years after the opening of the Chicago Drainage Canal, it was clearly a large point of contention between Chicago and its neighbors to the south. Ultimately, of course, Chicago had to build one of the largest sewage treatment plants in the world.

January 10, 1983: Wards Island Dumps Sewage

January 10, 1983:  New York Times headline—Repair of Plant Ends Dumping of Raw Sewage. “The Wards Island sewage treatment plant, disabled when a huge valve burst six days ago, was back in operation yesterday, ending the daily discharge of 300 million gallons of raw sewage into the Harlem, Hudson and East Rivers.

The city had been forced to divert the sewage from the plant after a ”cone check valve” cracked at 8:30 P.M. on Tuesday, sent a 12-foot jet of water into the air and caused the flooding of the plant’s six main motors….

The total cost of fixing the plant will be about $330,000, according to John Cunningham, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection….

‘All the charts, the records, the work schedules went by the wayside,’ said Fred DiSisto, an operating engineer with the plant for 20 years. ‘We operated out of the kitchen. It kind of turned into a holiday atmosphere. Everybody was all pumped up. It broke the routine around here.’

Some of the men at the plant estimate that 50 pounds of coffee were consumed in the kitchen in the last four days. Men slept there, too, as 12-hour shifts were the norm.

Officials have not yet determined what caused the cone check valve to burst. The valve is made of cast iron and is 48 inches in diameter. It was installed six years ago, when the 45-year-old plant was upgraded.

‘We are still doing some tests to find out why the valve broke,’ said Mr. Cunningham. ‘The valve should have lasted 40 years.’ The valve is one of six that keeps the waste water in the plant’s treatment tanks from flowing back into the plant’s main pumping gallery. When it burst, the water came back into the gallery and then overflowed onto the plant’s motors. Released Into Rivers

The sewage had to be released into the Hudson, Harlem and East Rivers from 52 regulators in Manhattan and 36 regulators in the Bronx to avoid a backup at the plant and the eventual flooding of homes, officials said.”

TDIWH—January 9, 2014: MCHM Chemical Spill in West Virginia; 1985: Plane Crashes into Kansas Water Treatment Plant; 2012: First Haitian Cholera Victim; 1997: Water is Still Deadly Drink in Parts of the World

Middle Tank (#396) was the source of most of MCHM spill

January 9, 2014:  MCHM Chemical Spill in West Virginia. “Charleston, WV; January 9, 2014. 7:46AM. You’re trying to get your children up, fix breakfast and get them ready for school. You stick your head out the door to see how cold it is, and a wave of something smelling like black licorice hits you. The Elk River below you seems fine, but that odor is rolling off the surface. None of the radio news stations are saying anything. Wait. You know where your water comes from-the Elk River. Is the drinking water safe? You call the water department to find out what’s going on.

Sounding the Alarm: Do Not Use!

So began the day for 300,000 people in Charleston, West Virginia and in the surrounding nine counties. A tweet from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin at 2:36 PM on January 9 previewed the 5:45 pm press conference where a Do Not Use order was issued by West Virginia American Water (WVAW) for all of the water in their service area. (A Do Not Use order is the most serious warning that can be given for drinking water. It means that tap water can only be used for flushing toilets and fighting fires.) At the press conference, the governor declared a state of emergency for the affected area.

It later became clear that a spill of about 10,000 gallons of something called Crude MCHM took place at a Freedom Industries facility 1.5 miles above the intake of the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant (KVWTP), which is run by WVAW. When the spill actually occurred and when the material entered the water treatment plant has not been determined at this writing. The maximum MCHM concentration measured in the influent to the plant was about 3.4 mg/1. No one has adequately explained why the plant intake was not shut down early on January 9.

By 7 PM on January 9 a full-blown water-buying panic had gripped the area. Cases of bottled water were stripped from shelves within a 20-mile radius of Charleston. The morning of January 10, President Obama declared the nine counties a federal disaster area.”

Reference:  McGuire, M.J., 2014. “The West Virginia Chemical Spill: A Massive Loss in Public Confidence.” Source. CA NV Section AWWA,28:3:31 Summer.

January 9, 1985:  Plane crashes into Kansas water treatment plant. “Last January the Board of Public Works (BPU) of Kansas City, Kansas was the victim of an airplane crash at their Quindaro water treatment plant complex. Although all members of the airplane’s crew were killed, the members of the BPU operations staff on duty that morning were unharmed, although shook up. The airplane managed to miss two nearby power plant structures, the east side of the treatment plant, and the chemical treatment plant building where the four employees were working, but landed in a primary basin less than 50 feet away from the building. An intensive manpower effort was launched to get the debris cleaned up and the plant back in operation as soon as possible. Three weeks to the day after the crash, the basin without a walkway bridge was returned to service. Kermit

Mangum, the water plant superintendent, is scheduled to talk about this story at the KSAWWA conference in Wichita.”

Commentary:  Thanks to Paul Crocker of the Kansas City BPU for providing this information.

Map: Distribution of cholera cases in Haiti

January 9, 2012:  New York Times headline—Haiti: Cholera Epidemic’s First Victim Identified as River Bather Who Forsook Clean Water. “The first Haitian to get cholera at the onset of the 2010 epidemic was almost undoubtedly a 28-year-old mentally disturbed man from the town of Mirebalais, researchers reported Monday.

The man, whose name was not revealed in the report, in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, was known as the village “moun fou” — Creole for “crazy person” — said the authors, who work for Partners in Health, a Boston group associated with Dr. Paul E. Farmer that has provided free health care in Haiti since 1987.

Although his family had clean drinking water, the man often walked naked through town to bathe and drink from the Latem River just downstream from the Meye River, into which raw sewage drained from an encampment of United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal.

Haiti’s outbreak was of a Nepali strain, and that encampment is considered the source.

The man developed severe diarrhea on Oct. 12, 2010, and died in less than 24 hours. Two people who washed his body for a wake fell ill 48 hours later. Haiti’s first hospitalized cholera case was in Mirebalais on Oct. 17.

The epidemic has since sickened nearly 500,000 people across Haiti and killed nearly 7,000.”

Commentary:  The death toll is now about 10,000 with no end in sight. The UN finally took some responsibility for starting the epidemic. It was caused by poor sanitation habits of Nepalese soldiers who were stationed in Haiti to aid in recovery from the devastating earthquake.

The most effective treatment for cholera is intravenous hydration.

January 9, 1997:  New York Times headline— For Third World, Water Is Still a Deadly Drink. By Nicholas Kristof “THANE, India— Children like the Bhagwani boys scamper about barefoot on the narrow muddy paths that wind through the labyrinth of a slum here, squatting and relieving themselves as the need arises, as casual about the filth as the bedraggled rats that nose about in the raw sewage trickling beside the paths.

Parents, like Usha Bhagwani, a rail-thin 28-year-old housemaid, point out their children and fret about how to spend their rupees. Should they buy good food so that the children will get stronger? Or should they buy shoes so that the children will not get hookworms? Or should they send their sons and daughters to school? Or should they buy kerosene to boil the water?

There is not enough money for all of those needs, so parents must choose. It was to save money, as well as to save time, that Mrs. Bhagwani was serving unboiled water the other day to her 5- and 7-year-old boys in her one-room hovel. Her bony face and sharp eyes softened as she watched them take the white plastic cup and gulp the deadly drink.

The water has already killed two of her children, a 15-month-old, Santosh, a boy who died two years ago, and Sheetal, a frail 7-month-old girl who died just a few months ago. But everyone in the slum drinks the water, usually without boiling, and water seems so natural and nurturing that Mrs. Bhagwani does not understand the menace it contains.”

January 3, 1982: Boat Sewage Rules

Princess Anna—a Mainship 390 that I owned for over 13 years before I sold it in December 2014. I assure everyone that I had an approved marine toilet and holding tank!

January 3, 1982:  New York Times headline—Protests Bring a Review of Boat Sewage Rules. “Government regulations designed to control the discharge of sewage from pleasure boats are being reexamined because of complaints about their cost and complexity. The Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency have made no final decision on whether the rules should be revised, revoked or left alone.

But in a notice that appeared Christmas Eve in the Federal Register, the two agencies listed a number of options open for discussion, including getting the Government out of the matter entirely and leaving the control of such pollution up to the states. The two agencies said the review had been undertaken ‘because of the many complaints by the public regarding the costs and impracticability of the existing program.’

The rules went into effect in January 1980 after a decade of debate. At one point the Government considered regulations that would have required the more extensive use of sewage holding tanks and a generally higher level of treatment over all.

The rules that finally went into effect do not require pleasure boats to have installed toilets. Any owner of a pleasure boat can, for example, use a portable toilet that can be emptied on shore at an approved facility.”