Tag Archives: slow sand filter

January 14, 1973: First Recorded Typhoid Case in South Florida Outbreak; 1829: First Slow Sand Filter in England

5/13/1976, Roy Bartley/Miami Herald: Everglades farm labor camp 19400 SW 376th St.

January 14, 1973:  First Recorded Typhoid Case in South Florida Outbreak.The last major recorded epidemic of typhoid fever in the United States occurred in Manteno State Hospital, Illinois, in 1939. There were 453 cases, with 60 deaths. Sanitation procedures generally have been improved markedly since that time, but despite such improvement the South Dade Labor Camp near Homestead, Florida, developed a sizable outbreak early in 1973 (172 hospitalized, 38 not hospitalized,no deaths).

Intensive investigation of the water supply and of the sewage system was begun immediately. A number of suspicious findings  were observed. These systems had originally been installed about 1940, and were replaced in 1969. The water  was supplied from  two wells. The first suspicious finding  was that these wells were reported at first to be 50 feet deep with 38 feet of casing. The well driller’s job log confirmed these depths. By sounding, however,  an approximate depth of 20 feet was discovered. Later in our studies,  we noted that the certificate provided by the state’s Sanitary Engineering office had approved the 20 foot depth.

Second, in the center of the well house was a floor drain connected to an outside dry well surrounded by a vitreous clay pipe. When fluorescent dye was introduced into this well, it appeared in the water supply in 3 1/2 min.

Third, dye was also painted on the ground about 10 feet from the water wells. In less than 15 min, the dye appeared in the water.

Fourth, several holes were dug in the area of the well house. The old sewer system, abandoned in 1969, but close to the origin of the water supply, was found to contain human feces, as evidenced by the recovery of Salmonella saint-paul.

Fifth, inspection of the character of the ground revealed many solution channels in the area surrounding the wells.

Sixth, about 100 yards from the wells was a common toilet facility. Immediately outside this facility was a grease trap, connected only to the sinks. Upon emptying the trap, human feces were found in it.

Seventh, about 1000 feet away from the wells was a 50,000-gallon storage tank. This tank was cleaned and found to contain beer cans, bottles, other rubbish, and feces.

Commentary:  I guess that there is no real surprise that there was a typhoid outbreak in this labor camp given all of the sanitary defects in the water and wastewater systems. Remember, this typhoid outbreak occurred in 1973. 1973!

January 14, 1829:  The first slow sand filter in England was put into operation by James Simpson. “Best known of all the filtration pioneers is James Simpson. He was born July 25, 1799, at the official residence of his father, who was Inspector General (engineer) of the Chelsea Water Works Co. The house was on the north bank of the Thames, near the pumping station and near what was to become the site of the filter that was copied the world over. At the early age of 24, James Simpson was appointed Inspector (engineer) of the water company at a salary of £300 a year, after having acted in that capacity for a year and a half during the illness of his father. At 26, he was elected to the recently created Institution of Civil Engineers. At 28, he made his 2,000-mile inspection trip to Manchester, Glasgow and other towns in the North, after designing the model for a working-scale filter to be executed in his absence. On January 14, 1829, when Simpson was in his thirtieth year, the one-acre filter at Chelsea commonly known as the first English slow sand filter, was put into operation….

Skepticism as to the wholesomeness of filtered water in 1828 and Simpson’s reassurances on the subject are amusing today. At the hearing before the Royal Commission a member asked whether any persons had been in the habit of drinking the water filtered on a small scale. ‘Yes,’ answered Simpson. Had they complained of the water ‘being insalubrious, giving them cholic or any other complaints?’ To this, the engineer replied that none of the more than 100 men working on the ground (presumably on the permanent filter) had complained of the filtered water…Fish, the commission was assured, did not die in the filtered water.Simpson willingly admitted that ‘water may contain so many ingredients chemically dissolved, that filtration will not purify it.’ Asked whether the discharge from King’s Scholars Sewer could be ‘so filtered as to be fit to drink,’ Simpson cannily said he had never tried it. Asked whether filtration would remove bad taste from water, Simpson replied that ‘Thames water has a taste according to season, of animal and vegetable matter’; filtration ‘seems to deprive it of the whole of that, and we cannot discover it after it has passed the bed.’”

Commentary:  It is a good thing that fish did not die in the filtered water. That would have been the end of the sanitary engineering profession.

Reference:  Baker, Moses N. 1981. The Quest for Pure Water: the History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. 2nd Edition. Vol. 1. Denver, Co.: American Water Works Association, 99, 109.

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December 15, 2014: Death of Ken Kerri; 1989: Cabool, Missouri Outbreak; 1909: Water Quality Stories; 1909: Filtration Definitions

December 15, 2014:Dr. Ken Kerri, the founder of the Office of Water Programs, passed on the morning of December 15, 2014. The academic community and the water industry were made better by his energetic contributions over the course of 50 years. Professor Ken Kerri was a faculty member in the Department of Civil Engineering at California State University, Sacramento, for almost 40 years before retiring from teaching in 1997. During his teaching career, Ken mentored hundreds of civil engineering students, and both the students and faculty have recognized his special contributions by awarding him many distinguished honors.

In 1972, Professor Kerri was a pioneer in establishing the Office of Water Programs, which is now recognized as the leading national training program for the operators and managers of drinking water and wastewater plants and facilities. Over one million operator and manager training manuals have been sold throughout the world, and some have been translated into many foreign languages. Because of Ken’s tireless efforts, this unique training program brings special recognition to the university. As Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering, Ken continued to be active with the Office of Water Programs, as chief project consultant, further developing the catalog of training materials and looking for opportunities to expand services.

Dr. Kerri also continued to be active in many professional organizations and received numerous awards in recognition of his outstanding service to the profession. In August 2014, the Water Environment Federation inducted Dr. Kerri into the WEF Fellows Program in the category of Education/Research. He was also the recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Award by the Sacramento State Alumni Association. As part of his legacy to the university community, he leaves the Ken Kerri Endowment Fund, which will continue to honor a lifetime of achievement and contribution to the field of civil engineering by a man who was deeply committed to and energetic about his lifelong, professional endeavors.”

E. coli O157:H7

December 15, 1989:Cabool, Missouri outbreak of E. coliO157:H7. “Case patients were residents of or visitors to Burdine Township [adjacent to Cabool, Missouri] with bloody diarrhea or diarrhea and abdominal cramps occurring between 15 December 1989 and 20 January 1990…. Among the 243 case patients, 86 had bloody stools, 32 were hospitalized, 4 died, and 2 had the hemolytic uremic syndrome. In the case-control study, no food was associated with illness, but ill persons had drunk more municipal water than had controls (P = 0.04). The survey showed that, during the peak of the outbreak, bloody diarrhea was 18.2 times more likely to occur in persons living inside the city and using municipal water than in persons living outside the city and using private well water (P = 0.001). Shortly before the peak of the outbreak, 45 water meters were replaced, and two water mains ruptured. The number of new cases declined rapidly after residents were ordered to boil water and after chlorination of the water supply. This was the largest outbreak of ECO157 infections [at the time], the first due to a multiply resistant organism, and the first shown to be transmitted by water.”

Commentary:  One of the largest outbreaks of waterborne disease in the U.S. in modern times. E. coliO157:H7 was just being recognized as a waterborne pathogen. A significant outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario, Canadain 2000 was caused by the same pathogen.

References:  Swerdlow, D.L. et al. 1992. “A waterborne outbreak in Missouri of Escherichia coliO157:H7 associated with bloody diarrhea and death.” Ann Intern Med.117(10):(Nov 15): 812-9.

Geldreich, E.E., et al. 1992. “Searching for a water supply connection in the Cabool, Missouri disease outbreak of Escherichia coli0157:H7.” Water Research. 26:8 1127-37.

December 15, 1909:  Municipal Journal and Engineerarticles about water supply and water quality in the early 20thcentury.

Well Water is Cause of Typhoid Epidemic. Concordia, Kan.-The source of typhoid infection in this city has been located in the well water that has been used by the people in the infected block. All of the families in which a case of the fever has developed have been using well water for drinking purposes. The doctors attending the cases are of the opinion that the city water is free from typhoid fever germs.

Tannic Acid in City Water.Knoxville, Tenn.-.Members of the Knoxville Water Commission are somewhat disturbed over the impurities now found in the Tennessee river water owing largely to the refuse of a tannery which .is being poured into the French Broad river at Newport. At times the water coming out of the French Broad is almost black, owing to the tannic acid. This is killing the fish in the river and it is thought the water with this impurity in it is deleterious to health….Local sportsmen, who are interested in the preservation of the game fish in the river, have also taken the matter up. Commentary:  This is an early concern about surface water quality that was not related to human health.

Proposed Tunnel Profile

Water Tunnel Under New York City.New York, N. Y.-The Board of Estimates has adopted plans for building a $30,000,000 tunnel in solid rock under Manhattan Island to distribute the water supply from the Catskill system, The report of a committee of engineers to whom the matter has been referred was that the original pipe line plan would cost $10,000,000, whereas the new tunnel plan would cost $25,000,000 or more. However, there is estimated to be a saving in the cost of connecting mains amounting to 50 per cent. The tunnel is to be 17 ½, miles long beginning at Hill View Reservoir, north of the New York City line at an elevation of -20, where the diameter will be 17 ½, feet. Through the city the elevation will range from -140 to -600, according to the solidity of the rock through which it goes. Under the East River, where the tunnel crosses to Brooklyn, the diameter will be 11 feet.

Commentary:  This was the first of three tunnels built by New York City for water supply—a unique and impressive engineering marvel.

Will Try Chemical Purification.Hartford, Conn.-Engineer E. M. Peck of the Water Department has been authorized by the Board to conduct experiments in the chemical purification of river water, to see if it can be made safe for use in the lower part of the city, should the supply in the reservoirs fail. This is the chemical treatment used at Harrisburg, which city the engineer, President Henry Roberts and Secretary Fred D. Berry recently visited.

Commentary:  Dr. John L. Lealwas hired by the city to conduct these studies. He presented his findings to the water department on March 28, 1910.

Reference:  Municipal Journal and Engineer. 1909. 27:24(December 15, 1909): 896-7.

Slow Sand Filters At Portsmouth, UK 1927

December 15, 1909:  Municipal Journal and Engineerarticle–Mechanical Water Filtration. “There are two general classes of water filtration. In one of these a large part of the purification is performed by bacteria, the process involving a slow passage of the water through sand or a similar fine-grained mass [slow sand filtration]. In this there is practically no pressure head, but the water simply trickles through the interstices, although in a greater or less time a collection of mud and fibrous and other organic matter collects on the surface and a slight head of water is necessary for forcing the water to be purified through this material. This was the method of purification originally adopted in England, and is sometimes called the English method.

In mechanical filtration [rapid sand filtration or granular media filtration] the water is passed under greater pressure and at much higher rates of speed through sand or similar material, and the purification is entirely one of straining. Owing to the high speed, however, and the absence of any mat on the surface, it is found necessary to introduce a coagulant into the water before it reaches the filter. This coagulant collects together the suspended matters in the water, including a large percentage of the bacteria, and the suspended matter thus coagulated is strained out by the filter….

The mechanical filters were apparently so named because of the entirely mechanical nature of the purification as distinguished from bacteriological, and because of the fact that the entire apparatus was, in effect, a mechanism of iron and steel, while the English filters consisted of outdoor beds of sand simply retained by earthen banks or stone walls.”

Reference: “Mechanical Water Filtration.” 1909. Municipal Journal and Engineer,27:24(December 15, 1909): 893.

#TDIWH—January 14, 1829: First Slow Sand Filter in England

January 14, 1829:  The first slow sand filter in England was put into operation by James Simpson. “Best known of all the filtration pioneers is James Simpson. He was born July 25, 1799, at the official residence of his father, who was Inspector General (engineer) of the Chelsea Water Works Co. The house was on the north bank of the Thames, near the pumping station and near what was to become the site of the filter that was copied the world over. At the early age of 24, James Simpson was appointed Inspector (engineer) of the water company at a salary of £300 a year, after having acted in that capacity for a year and a half during the illness of his father. At 26, he was elected to the recently created Institution of Civil Engineers. At 28, he made his 2,000-mile inspection trip to Manchester, Glasgow and other towns in the North, after designing the model for a working-scale filter to be executed in his absence. On January 14, 1829, when Simpson was in his thirtieth year, the one-acre filter at Chelsea commonly known as the first English slow sand filter, was put into operation….

Skepticism as to the wholesomeness of filtered water in 1828 and Simpson’s reassurances on the subject are amusing today. At the hearing before the Royal Commission a member asked whether any persons had been in the habit of drinking the water filtered on a small scale. ‘Yes,’ answered Simpson. Had they complained of the water ‘being insalubrious, giving them cholic or any other complaints?’ To this, the engineer replied that none of the more than 100 men working on the ground (presumably on the permanent filter) had complained of the filtered water…Fish, the commission was assured, did not die in the filtered water. Simpson willingly admitted that ‘water may contain so many ingredients chemically dissolved, that filtration will not purify it.’ Asked whether the discharge from King’s Scholars Sewer could be ‘so filtered as to be fit to drink,’ Simpson cannily said he had never tried it. Asked whether filtration would remove bad taste from water, Simpson replied that ‘Thames water has a taste according to season, of animal and vegetable matter’; filtration ‘seems to deprive it of the whole of that, and we cannot discover it after it has passed the bed.’”

Commentary:  It is a good thing that fish did not die in the filtered water. That would have been the end of the sanitary engineering profession.

Reference:  Baker, Moses N. 1981. The Quest for Pure Water: the History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. 2nd Edition. Vol. 1. Denver, Co.: American Water Works Association, 99, 109.

December 15, 2014: Death of Ken Kerri; 1989: Cabool, Missouri Outbreak; 1909: Water Quality Stories; 1909: Filtration Definitions

December 15, 2014:Dr. Ken Kerri, the founder of the Office of Water Programs, passed on the morning of December 15, 2014. The academic community and the water industry were made better by his energetic contributions over the course of 50 years. Professor Ken Kerri was a faculty member in the Department of Civil Engineering at California State University, Sacramento, for almost 40 years before retiring from teaching in 1997. During his teaching career, Ken mentored hundreds of civil engineering students, and both the students and faculty have recognized his special contributions by awarding him many distinguished honors.

In 1972, Professor Kerri was a pioneer in establishing the Office of Water Programs, which is now recognized as the leading national training program for the operators and managers of drinking water and wastewater plants and facilities. Over one million operator and manager training manuals have been sold throughout the world, and some have been translated into many foreign languages. Because of Ken’s tireless efforts, this unique training program brings special recognition to the university. As Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering, Ken continued to be active with the Office of Water Programs, as chief project consultant, further developing the catalog of training materials and looking for opportunities to expand services.

Dr. Kerri also continued to be active in many professional organizations and received numerous awards in recognition of his outstanding service to the profession. In August 2014, the Water Environment Federation inducted Dr. Kerri into the WEF Fellows Program in the category of Education/Research. He was also the recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Award by the Sacramento State Alumni Association. As part of his legacy to the university community, he leaves the Ken Kerri Endowment Fund, which will continue to honor a lifetime of achievement and contribution to the field of civil engineering by a man who was deeply committed to and energetic about his lifelong, professional endeavors.”

E. coli O157:H7

December 15, 1989: Cabool, Missouri outbreak of E. coli O157:H7. “Case patients were residents of or visitors to Burdine Township [adjacent to Cabool, Missouri] with bloody diarrhea or diarrhea and abdominal cramps occurring between 15 December 1989 and 20 January 1990…. Among the 243 case patients, 86 had bloody stools, 32 were hospitalized, 4 died, and 2 had the hemolytic uremic syndrome. In the case-control study, no food was associated with illness, but ill persons had drunk more municipal water than had controls (P = 0.04). The survey showed that, during the peak of the outbreak, bloody diarrhea was 18.2 times more likely to occur in persons living inside the city and using municipal water than in persons living outside the city and using private well water (P = 0.001). Shortly before the peak of the outbreak, 45 water meters were replaced, and two water mains ruptured. The number of new cases declined rapidly after residents were ordered to boil water and after chlorination of the water supply. This was the largest outbreak of ECO157 infections [at the time], the first due to a multiply resistant organism, and the first shown to be transmitted by water.”

Commentary:  One of the largest outbreaks of waterborne disease in the U.S. in modern times. E. coli O157:H7 was just being recognized as a waterborne pathogen. A significant outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario, Canada in 2000 was caused by the same pathogen.

References:  Swerdlow, D.L. et al. 1992. “A waterborne outbreak in Missouri of Escherichia coli O157:H7 associated with bloody diarrhea and death.” Ann Intern Med.117(10):(Nov 15): 812-9.

Geldreich, E.E., et al. 1992. “Searching for a water supply connection in the Cabool, Missouri disease outbreak of Escherichia coli 0157:H7.” Water Research. 26:8 1127-37.

December 15, 1909:  Municipal Journal and Engineer articles about water supply and water quality in the early 20th century.

Well Water is Cause of Typhoid Epidemic. Concordia, Kan.-The source of typhoid infection in this city has been located in the well water that has been used by the people in the infected block. All of the families in which a case of the fever has developed have been using well water for drinking purposes. The doctors attending the cases are of the opinion that the city water is free from typhoid fever germs.

Tannic Acid in City Water. Knoxville, Tenn.-.Members of the Knoxville Water Commission are somewhat disturbed over the impurities now found in the Tennessee river water owing largely to the refuse of a tannery which .is being poured into the French Broad river at Newport. At times the water coming out of the French Broad is almost black, owing to the tannic acid. This is killing the fish in the river and it is thought the water with this impurity in it is deleterious to health….Local sportsmen, who are interested in the preservation of the game fish in the river, have also taken the matter up. Commentary:  This is an early concern about surface water quality that was not related to human health.

Proposed Tunnel Profile

Water Tunnel Under New York City. New York, N. Y.-The Board of Estimates has adopted plans for building a $30,000,000 tunnel in solid rock under Manhattan Island to distribute the water supply from the Catskill system, The report of a committee of engineers to whom the matter has been referred was that the original pipe line plan would cost $10,000,000, whereas the new tunnel plan would cost $25,000,000 or more. However, there is estimated to be a saving in the cost of connecting mains amounting to 50 per cent. The tunnel is to be 17 ½, miles long beginning at Hill View Reservoir, north of the New York City line at an elevation of -20, where the diameter will be 17 ½, feet. Through the city the elevation will range from -140 to -600, according to the solidity of the rock through which it goes. Under the East River, where the tunnel crosses to Brooklyn, the diameter will be 11 feet.

Commentary:  This was the first of three tunnels built by New York City for water supply—a unique and impressive engineering marvel.

Will Try Chemical Purification. Hartford, Conn.-Engineer E. M. Peck of the Water Department has been authorized by the Board to conduct experiments in the chemical purification of river water, to see if it can be made safe for use in the lower part of the city, should the supply in the reservoirs fail. This is the chemical treatment used at Harrisburg, which city the engineer, President Henry Roberts and Secretary Fred D. Berry recently visited.

Commentary:  Dr. John L. Leal was hired by the city to conduct these studies. He presented his findings to the water department on March 28, 1910.

Reference:  Municipal Journal and Engineer. 1909. 27:24(December 15, 1909): 896-7.

Slow Sand Filters At Portsmouth, UK 1927

December 15, 1909:  Municipal Journal and Engineer article–Mechanical Water Filtration. “There are two general classes of water filtration. In one of these a large part of the purification is performed by bacteria, the process involving a slow passage of the water through sand or a similar fine-grained mass [slow sand filtration]. In this there is practically no pressure head, but the water simply trickles through the interstices, although in a greater or less time a collection of mud and fibrous and other organic matter collects on the surface and a slight head of water is necessary for forcing the water to be purified through this material. This was the method of purification originally adopted in England, and is sometimes called the English method.

In mechanical filtration [rapid sand filtration or granular media filtration] the water is passed under greater pressure and at much higher rates of speed through sand or similar material, and the purification is entirely one of straining. Owing to the high speed, however, and the absence of any mat on the surface, it is found necessary to introduce a coagulant into the water before it reaches the filter. This coagulant collects together the suspended matters in the water, including a large percentage of the bacteria, and the suspended matter thus coagulated is strained out by the filter….

The mechanical filters were apparently so named because of the entirely mechanical nature of the purification as distinguished from bacteriological, and because of the fact that the entire apparatus was, in effect, a mechanism of iron and steel, while the English filters consisted of outdoor beds of sand simply retained by earthen banks or stone walls.”

Reference: “Mechanical Water Filtration.” 1909. Municipal Journal and Engineer, 27:24(December 15, 1909): 893.

#TDIWH—January 14, 1829: First Slow Sand Filter in England

0114 First Slow Sand FilterJanuary 14, 1829: The first slow sand filter in England was put into operation by James Simpson. “Best known of all the filtration pioneers is James Simpson. He was born July 25, 1799, at the official residence of his father, who was Inspector General (engineer) of the Chelsea Water Works Co. The house was on the north bank of the Thames, near the pumping station and near what was to become the site of the filter that was copied the world over. At the early age of 24, James Simpson was appointed Inspector (engineer) of the water company at a salary of £300 a year, after having acted in that capacity for a year and a half during the illness of his father. At 26, he was elected to the recently created Institution of Civil Engineers. At 28, he made his 2,000-mile inspection trip to Manchester, Glasgow and other towns in the North, after designing the model for a working-scale filter to be executed in his absence. On January 14, 1829, when Simpson was in his thirtieth year, the one-acre filter at Chelsea commonly known as the first English slow sand filter, was put into operation….

Skepticism as to the wholesomeness of filtered water in 1828 and Simpson’s reassurances on the subject are amusing today. At the hearing before the Royal Commission a member asked whether any persons had been in the habit of drinking the water filtered on a small scale. ‘Yes,’ answered Simpson. Had they complained of the water ‘being insalubrious, giving them cholic or any other complaints?’ To this, the engineer replied that none of the more than 100 men working on the ground (presumably on the permanent filter) had complained of the filtered water…Fish, the commission was assured, did not die in the filtered water. Simpson willingly admitted that ‘water may contain so many ingredients chemically dissolved, that filtration will not purify it.’ Asked whether the discharge from King’s Scholars Sewer could be ‘so filtered as to be fit to drink,’ Simpson cannily said he had never tried it. Asked whether filtration would remove bad taste from water, Simpson replied that ‘Thames water has a taste according to season, of animal and vegetable matter’; filtration ‘seems to deprive it of the whole of that, and we cannot discover it after it has passed the bed.’”

Commentary: It is a good thing that fish did not die in the filtered water. That would have been the end of the sanitary engineering profession.

Reference: Baker, Moses N. 1981. The Quest for Pure Water: the History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. 2nd Edition. Vol. 1. Denver, Co.: American Water Works Association, 99, 109.

December 15, 2014: Death of Ken Kerri; 1989: Cabool, Missouri Outbreak; 1909: Water Quality Stories; 1909: Filtration Definitions

1215 Ken KerriDecember 15, 2014:Dr. Ken Kerri, the founder of the Office of Water Programs, passed on the morning of December 15, 2014. The academic community and the water industry were made better by his energetic contributions over the course of 50 years. Professor Ken Kerri was a faculty member in the Department of Civil Engineering at California State University, Sacramento, for almost 40 years before retiring from teaching in 1997. During his teaching career, Ken mentored hundreds of civil engineering students, and both the students and faculty have recognized his special contributions by awarding him many distinguished honors.

In 1972, Professor Kerri was a pioneer in establishing the Office of Water Programs, which is now recognized as the leading national training program for the operators and managers of drinking water and wastewater plants and facilities. Over one million operator and manager training manuals have been sold throughout the world, and some have been translated into many foreign languages. Because of Ken’s tireless efforts, this unique training program brings special recognition to the university. As Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering, Ken continued to be active with the Office of Water Programs, as chief project consultant, further developing the catalog of training materials and looking for opportunities to expand services.

Dr. Kerri also continued to be active in many professional organizations and received numerous awards in recognition of his outstanding service to the profession. In August 2014, the Water Environment Federation inducted Dr. Kerri into the WEF Fellows Program in the category of Education/Research. He was also the recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Award by the Sacramento State Alumni Association. As part of his legacy to the university community, he leaves the Ken Kerri Endowment Fund, which will continue to honor a lifetime of achievement and contribution to the field of civil engineering by a man who was deeply committed to and energetic about his lifelong, professional endeavors.”

E. coli O157:H7

E. coli O157:H7

December 15, 1989: Cabool, Missouri outbreak of E. coli O157:H7. “Case patients were residents of or visitors to Burdine Township [adjacent to Cabool, Missouri] with bloody diarrhea or diarrhea and abdominal cramps occurring between 15 December 1989 and 20 January 1990…. Among the 243 case patients, 86 had bloody stools, 32 were hospitalized, 4 died, and 2 had the hemolytic uremic syndrome. In the case-control study, no food was associated with illness, but ill persons had drunk more municipal water than had controls (P = 0.04). The survey showed that, during the peak of the outbreak, bloody diarrhea was 18.2 times more likely to occur in persons living inside the city and using municipal water than in persons living outside the city and using private well water (P = 0.001). Shortly before the peak of the outbreak, 45 water meters were replaced, and two water mains ruptured. The number of new cases declined rapidly after residents were ordered to boil water and after chlorination of the water supply. This was the largest outbreak of ECO157 infections [at the time], the first due to a multiply resistant organism, and the first shown to be transmitted by water.”

Commentary: One of the largest outbreaks of waterborne disease in the U.S. in modern times. E. coli O157:H7 was just being recognized as a waterborne pathogen. A significant outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario, Canada in 2000 was caused by the same pathogen.

References: Swerdlow, D.L. et al. 1992. “A waterborne outbreak in Missouri of Escherichia coli O157:H7 associated with bloody diarrhea and death.” Ann Intern Med.117(10):(Nov 15): 812-9.

Geldreich, E.E., et al. 1992. “Searching for a water supply connection in the Cabool, Missouri disease outbreak of Escherichia coli 0157:H7.” Water Research. 26:8 1127-37.

December 15, 1909: Municipal Journal and Engineer articles about water supply and water quality in the early 20th century.

Well Water is Cause of Typhoid Epidemic. Concordia, Kan.-The source of typhoid infection in this city has been located in the well water that has been used by the people in the infected block. All of the families in which a case of the fever has developed have been using well water for drinking purposes. The doctors attending the cases are of the opinion that the city water is free from typhoid fever germs.

Tannic Acid in City Water. Knoxville, Tenn.-.Members of the Knoxville Water Commission are somewhat disturbed over the impurities now found in the Tennessee river water owing largely to the refuse of a tannery which .is being poured into the French Broad river at Newport. At times the water coming out of the French Broad is almost black, owing to the tannic acid. This is killing the fish in the river and it is thought the water with this impurity in it is deleterious to health….Local sportsmen, who are interested in the preservation of the game fish in the river, have also taken the matter up. Commentary: This is an early concern about surface water quality that was not related to human health.

Proposed Tunnel Profile

Proposed Tunnel Profile

Water Tunnel Under New York City. New York, N. Y.-The Board of Estimates has adopted plans for building a $30,000,000 tunnel in solid rock under Manhattan Island to distribute the water supply from the Catskill system, The report of a committee of engineers to whom the matter has been referred was that the original pipe line plan would cost $10,000,000, whereas the new tunnel plan would cost $25,000,000 or more. However, there is estimated to be a saving in the cost of connecting mains amounting to 50 per cent. The tunnel is to be 17 ½, miles long beginning at Hill View Reservoir, north of the New York City line at an elevation of -20, where the diameter will be 17 ½, feet. Through the city the elevation will range from -140 to -600, according to the solidity of the rock through which it goes. Under the East River, where the tunnel crosses to Brooklyn, the diameter will be 11 feet.

Commentary: This was the first of three tunnels built by New York City for water supply—a unique and impressive engineering marvel.

Will Try Chemical Purification. Hartford, Conn.-Engineer E. M. Peck of the Water Department has been authorized by the Board to conduct experiments in the chemical purification of river water, to see if it can be made safe for use in the lower part of the city, should the supply in the reservoirs fail. This is the chemical treatment used at Harrisburg, which city the engineer, President Henry Roberts and Secretary Fred D. Berry recently visited.

Commentary: Dr. John L. Leal was hired by the city to conduct these studies. He presented his findings to the water department on March 28, 1910.

Reference: Municipal Journal and Engineer. 1909. 27:24(December 15, 1909): 896-7.

Slow Sand Filters At Portsmouth, UK 1927

Slow Sand Filters At Portsmouth, UK 1927

December 15, 1909: Municipal Journal and Engineer article–Mechanical Water Filtration. “There are two general classes of water filtration. In one of these a large part of the purification is performed by bacteria, the process involving a slow passage of the water through sand or a similar fine-grained mass [slow sand filtration]. In this there is practically no pressure head, but the water simply trickles through the interstices, although in a greater or less time a collection of mud and fibrous and other organic matter collects on the surface and a slight head of water is necessary for forcing the water to be purified through this material. This was the method of purification originally adopted in England, and is sometimes called the English method.

In mechanical filtration [rapid sand filtration or granular media filtration] the water is passed under greater pressure and at much higher rates of speed through sand or similar material, and the purification is entirely one of straining. Owing to the high speed, however, and the absence of any mat on the surface, it is found necessary to introduce a coagulant into the water before it reaches the filter. This coagulant collects together the suspended matters in the water, including a large percentage of the bacteria, and the suspended matter thus coagulated is strained out by the filter….

The mechanical filters were apparently so named because of the entirely mechanical nature of the purification as distinguished from bacteriological, and because of the fact that the entire apparatus was, in effect, a mechanism of iron and steel, while the English filters consisted of outdoor beds of sand simply retained by earthen banks or stone walls.”

Reference: “Mechanical Water Filtration.” 1909. Municipal Journal and Engineer, 27:24(December 15, 1909): 893.

#TDIWH—January 14, 1829: First Slow Sand Filter in England

0114 First Slow Sand FilterJanuary 14, 1829: The first slow sand filter in England was put into operation by James Simpson. “Best known of all the filtration pioneers is James Simpson. He was born July 25, 1799, at the official residence of his father, who was Inspector General (engineer) of the Chelsea Water Works Co. The house was on the north bank of the Thames, near the pumping station and near what was to become the site of the filter that was copied the world over. At the early age of 24, James Simpson was appointed Inspector (engineer) of the water company at a salary of £300 a year, after having acted in that capacity for a year and a half during the illness of his father. At 26, he was elected to the recently created Institution of Civil Engineers. At 28, he made his 2,000-mile inspection trip to Manchester, Glasgow and other towns in the North, after designing the model for a working-scale filter to be executed in his absence. On January 14, 1829, when Simpson was in his thirtieth year, the one-acre filter at Chelsea commonly known as the first English slow sand filter, was put into operation….

Skepticism as to the wholesomeness of filtered water in 1828 and Simpson’s reassurances on the subject are amusing today. At the hearing before the Royal Commission a member asked whether any persons had been in the habit of drinking the water filtered on a small scale. ‘Yes,’ answered Simpson. Had they complained of the water ‘being insalubrious, giving them cholic or any other complaints?’ To this, the engineer replied that none of the more than 100 men working on the ground (presumably on the permanent filter) had complained of the filtered water…Fish, the commission was assured, did not die in the filtered water. Simpson willingly admitted that ‘water may contain so many ingredients chemically dissolved, that filtration will not purify it.’ Asked whether the discharge from King’s Scholars Sewer could be ‘so filtered as to be fit to drink,’ Simpson cannily said he had never tried it. Asked whether filtration would remove bad taste from water, Simpson replied that ‘Thames water has a taste according to season, of animal and vegetable matter’; filtration ‘seems to deprive it of the whole of that, and we cannot discover it after it has passed the bed.’”

Commentary: It is a good thing that fish did not die in the filtered water. That would have been the end of the sanitary engineering profession.

0114 James Simpson first filter

Reference: Baker, Moses N. 1981. The Quest for Pure Water: the History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. 2nd Edition. Vol. 1. Denver, Co.: American Water Works Association, 99, 109.