Tag Archives: sewage

#TDIWH—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 News editorial– 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.

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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.

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?

The most effective treatment for cholera is intravenous hydration.

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.”

#TDIWH–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.”

December 24, 1896: Large Centrifugal Pump; 1914: Death of John Muir

December 24, 1896:  Engineering News article–A Large Direct-Driven Centrifugal Pump. “We illustrate herewith a centrifugal sewage pump designed and built for the city of Norfolk, Va., by the Morris Machine Works, Baldwinsville, N. Y. The pump has 20-in. suction and 18-in. discharge, the latter connected to a 20-ln. piping. The actual head worked against Is 26 ft., but when the pump is driven to Its maximum capacity, discharging about 9,000 gallons of water per minute and forcing It through the discharge pipe, which is 1,600 ft. long, the total head pumped against Is equivalent to about 5 ft….

The sewage and drainage from the city flows into a well from which the pump takes its supply, discharging it in the river. The side and sectional views, Fig. 2, show the construction of the pump. The runner is made completely of bronze, so as to withstand the corroding action of sewage and the gases contained therein.”

Commentary:  Great pump. Unfortunately, the used it to pump raw sewage into the river, which was a common occurrence in the 1890s. Sewage treatment plants were rare during this period. It would take several decades before sewage treatment was the rule instead of the exception.

Reference:  “A Large Direct-Driven Centrifugal Pump.” Engineering News. 36:26(December 24, 1896): 421.

December 24, 1914:  John Muir dies. “John Muir (21 April 1838 – 24 December 1914) was a Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States. One of the most well-known hiking trails in the U.S., the 211-mile (340 km) John Muir Trail, was named in his honor. Other places named in his honor are Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach, John Muir College, Mount Muir, Camp Muir and Muir Glacier.

In his later life, Muir devoted most of his time to the preservation of the Western forests. He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing both Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Because of the spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings, he was able to inspire readers, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large nature areas. He is today referred to as the “Father of the National Parks,” and the National Park Service produced a short documentary on his life.”

Commentary:  Dam construction to create the Hetch Hetchy water supply for San Francisco in Yosemite National Park was approved by Congress in early December of 1913.  This was a major defeat for Muir and some say that it affected his health so much that he died of a broken heart.

December 18, 1913: Atlanta Public Health; 1913: Fox River Pollution

December 18, 1913:  Municipal Journal article—Organizing Public Health Service. “Like most other municipal departments which have developed from small beginnings, the boards of public health in most of our cities are in need of reorganization, not only within themselves but in their relations to other departments of the city government generally. Several cities have employed experts in this line of business to make a survey of the public health situation and recommend improvements therein. One of the latest reports resulting from such a survey is that recently made to the Chamber of Commerce of Atlanta, Ga., by Franz Schneider, Jr., of the Russell Sage Foundation.

It does not appear from this report that conditions at Atlanta were found to be either very much better or very much worse than those in the majority of our reasonably well-governed cities. It is found, for instance, that a large part of the energy of and appropriation made to the Board of Health is used in street cleaning and garbage disposal, which have a comparatively small effect upon the health of the community—a condition that can be found in a great many cities.”

Commentary:  Vestiges of the miasma theory of disease lasted well into the 20th century. Removing bad smells by cleaning streets did nothing to reduce the incidence of disease. If the money used to clean streets had been spent on treating the water supply, many lives could have been saved in the U.S.

Reference:  Municipal Journal. 1913. 35:25, 828 and 833.

December 18, 1913:  Municipal Journal article—To Prevent Fox River Pollution. “Geneva, Ill.-Acting under authority conferred at the last session of the legislature, the State Rivers and Lakes Commission has ordered officials of the cities of Batavia, Aurora, Geneva, Elgin and St. Charles to take immediate steps to prevent the pollution of Fox river by sewage and factory wastes. The five cities were given until April 7, 1914, to prepare plans and specifications for filtration or sewage disposal plants or otherwise prepare to discontinue the emptying of sewage into the river. The Fox river cases are the first of the sort to be acted upon by the commission. Similar action will be taken in numerous other cities located along Illinois rivers or lakes if complaints are made and substantiated. Lake Forest and other North Shore cities that have complained of lake water pollution by factories are expected to take their grievances to the commission. Witnesses before the commission testified that during low water periods the Fox river was polluted to such an extent as to he a serious menace to the health of 200,000 inhabitants of the Fox river valley. It was also shown that thousands of tons of ice were taken from the river every year and sold in these cities and in Chicago. Another objection to the emptying of sewage into the river was the fact that fish were unable to survive.”

Commentary: River commissions in several states were beginning to take action against the grossest pollution problems in the early part of the 20th century.

December 17, 1914: Small Sewage Treatment Plant

December 17, 1914:  Municipal Journal article—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.