Tag Archives: Texas

April 6, 1916: Typhoid Lawsuit and Reservoir Damage Lawsuit

April 6, 1916: Municipal Journal articles.

“Three Sue City for Typhoid Deaths. Milwaukee, Wis.-Three suits brought against the city of Milwaukee as a result of the recent typhoid epidemic, have been filed in circuit court, by two men for the deaths of their sons, and by a woman for the death of her husband. They are for $10,000 each. The complainants claim that the victims contracted the disease from the use of lake water, alleged to be unfit to drink because of the sewage which is being constantly emptied into the lake. The suits charge negligence in allowing the water to become polluted and at the same time supplying it to drink. It is claimed that at various times during the last ten years the city officials have been notified of the condition of the water, but that no attention has been paid to the warnings.”

Lake Worth Spillway

“City Wins Reservoir Damage Suit. Fort Worth, Tex.-The second court of civil appeals has reversed and remanded the reservoir damage case against the city of Fort Worth, in which a jury in the sixty-seventh district court had awarded the plaintiff $39,867.88 for damage to her land flooded by the backwaters of Lake Worth and alleged damage to adjoining uplands. This is the first of four big reservoir damage suits that have gone against the city under the present administration to be submitted to the higher court. It was appealed on the grounds that the court erred in admitting certain testimony and of misconduct of the jury in considering matter that was not in evidence. The jury awarded $75 an acre for 361 acres of lowlands and $9 an acre for 839 acres of uplands. City witnesses appraised the lowlands at from $35 to $50 an acre and testified the uplands were not damaged. By the reversal the city also saves the interest on $39,867.88 from April 28, 1915.”

Reference: Municipal Journal. 1916. 40:14(April 6, 1916): 489.

Commentary: The typhoid fever epidemic in Milwaukee was caused by a city employee turning off the chlorine disinfection system for about 10 hours. The epidemic resulted in 513 cases and 59 deaths from typhoid fever. As filtration and chlorination became more widely installed to protect water supplies, it became harder for cities to claim that contaminated water supplies were not responsible for typhoid fever deaths. The combination of engineers wanting to do the right thing and lawsuits resulted in an accelerated introduction of the new technologies.

October 6, 1906: Houston Buys Water Works

Ground Subsidence in Houston Area

Ground Subsidence in Houston Area

October 6, 1906The City of Houston bought the private Water Works Company for $901,700—the amount of debt owed by the company. With the sale, the City acquired the Water Works plant, 55 wells and 65 miles of mains. The newly organized Water Department rapidly drilled sixty-six new artesian wells to augment the recently acquired infrastructure.

Commentary:  Go to This Day in Water History for September 25, 1982 to see the consequences of the rapid withdrawal of groundwater under Houston–subsidence!

September 25, 1982: Houston’s Thirst

Land Subsidence in and Around Houston, TX

Land Subsidence in and Around Houston, TX

September 25, 1982New York Times headline–Houston’s Great Thirst is Sucking City Down Into the Ground. “It started to the east of the city some years ago, when homes and industry began to slide into Galveston Bay. Now the entire city of Houston is sinking into its base of sand and clay, including the glittery new residential, commercial and retail developments that have sprung up like weeds in the prairie to the west of downtown. The cause is water. The vast aquifers beneath the city have been overpumped to feed the breakneck development of the last decade. But the solution will cost money, big money, or compel a slowing of growth, so the issue is potentially as much a political one as a geological one in a town in which unbridled growth is gospel.”

September 19, 1886: Houston Water Supply Problems

Germ Theory of Disease

Germ Theory of Disease

September 19, 1886:  Loss of life and property in Houston, Texas  demonstrated the inadequacies of the Water Works operations and underscored its failure to supply uncontaminated, potable water and adequate water pressure to Houstonians. Many of the town’s citizens were deeply concerned.

The Houston Post newspaper rallied to the company’s defense in the following article, printed on September 19, 1886:

“A great many people think that the water furnished by the water works is unfit for drinking or culinary purposes, but in that they are greatly mistaken. The supply is obtained from a portion of the bayou which is pregnant with springs, and the water is free from all impurities and is pure and wholesome to drink. Of course, after heavy rains the banks of the bayou wash into the stream and the water is then discolored slightly. But even then it is good and much better at all seasons than Mississippi river water, especially at St. Louis, where the river is muddy and dirty.”

Commentary: Full acceptance of the germ theory of disease and development of bacteriological monitoring methods would be necessary before the public or the newspapers really understood the quality of their water supplies.

September 8, 1854: Removal of Broad Street Pump Handle; 1900: Galveston Devastated by Hurricane of the Century

Broadwick [formerly, Broad] Street showing the John Snow memorial and public house.

Broadwick [formerly, Broad] Street showing the John Snow memorial and public house.

September 8, 1854:  On this day, the pump handle was actually removed from the Broad Street pump.  History does not record who actually took the handle off, but we know it was not Dr. John Snow.  After all, the removal of the pump handle was the job of the St. James Board of Commissioners of Paving.  Incredibly, public protests resulted in the replacement of the pump handle on September 26, 1855.  The Broad Street well was not permanently taken out of service until the cholera epidemic of 1866.

Reference:  Vinten-Johansen, Peter, Howard Brody, Nigel Paneth, Stephen Rachman and Michael Rip. Cholera, Chloroform, and the Science of Medicine. New York:Oxford University, 2003, 292-4, 310, 316-317.

Reconstruction of the 1900 Hurricane making landfall at Galveston

Reconstruction of the 1900 Hurricane making landfall at Galveston

September 8, 1900: On this date, a Category Four hurricane struck Galveston, Texas, and destroyed, among other things, the drinking water system for the city.  The storm surge killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people, making it the deadliest natural disaster ever to hit the United States. Basic water service was not restored until September 12, 1900.

Commentary: If you ever visit Galveston, go to the museum devoted to the hurricane. It is hard to comprehend the devastation and loss of life caused by this natural disaster.

May 6, 1915: Sweetwater, Texas Waterworks

0506 Sweetwater TX Water WorksMay 6, 1915: Municipal Journal article. Sweetwater Waterworks System and Reservoir. “Sweetwater, Tex.-The city of Sweetwater is building a municipal waterworks system at a cost of $320,000. The sources of the supply are numerous springs in the headwaters of Sweetwater creek, and the runoff of fifty-four square miles of uninhabited rocky hills, in which is to be a billion and a quarter gallon reservoir eight miles south of the city. The city now has a population of 6,500 people with an average daily consumption of 250,000 gallons of water. The present conduit that is being constructed from the lake will reach the requirements of 20,000 inhabitants, while the lake will reach the requirements of a city of 40,000 to 50,000 people. The reservoir covers an area of 200 acres and will be more than fifty feet in depth at the dam. Its capacity is sufficient to supply the city’s present demands for a period of nine years’ continuous drought, with allowances for seepage and evaporation. A portion of the surplus water will therefore be utilized for irrigating some 2,000 acres of fertile land lying in the valley of Sweetwater creek between the lake and the city. The greatest elevation of the city is such that it will permit water by gravity direct from the conduit, but an elevated tank of 250,000 gallons capacity, in addition the present 70,000 gallon tank, will be provided for fire protection and the higher outlying districts of the city. The dam will be an earthen structure sixty feet in height and 1,150 feet long, with concrete and steel piling wall on bedrock fifteen feet below the channel of the stream to cut off the underflow. The spillway will be ten feet below the crest of the dam and 350 feet in length with concrete sills twenty feet deep connected by a concrete floor. The accompanying illustration gives a view of the work.”

Reference: “Sweetwater Waterworks System and Reservoir.” 1915. Municipal Journal. 38:18(May 6, 1915): 631.

April 6, 1916: Typhoid Lawsuit and Reservoir Damage Lawsuit

0406 Milwaukee typhoid feverApril 6, 1916: Municipal Journal articles.

“Three Sue City for Typhoid Deaths. Milwaukee, Wis.-Three suits brought against the city of Milwaukee as a result of the recent typhoid epidemic, have been filed in circuit court, by two men for the deaths of their sons, and by a woman for the death of her husband. They are for $10,000 each. The complainants claim that the victims contracted the disease from the use of lake water, alleged to be unfit to drink because of the sewage which is being constantly emptied into the lake. The suits charge negligence in allowing the water to become polluted and at the same time supplying it to drink. It is claimed that at various times during the last ten years the city officials have been notified of the condition of the water, but that no attention has been paid to the warnings.”

“City Wins Reservoir Damage Suit. Fort Worth, Tex.-The second court of civil appeals has reversed and remanded the reservoir damage case against the city of Fort Worth, in which a jury in the sixty-seventh district court had awarded the plaintiff $39,867.88 for damage to her land flooded by the backwaters of Lake Worth and alleged damage to adjoining uplands. This is the first of four big reservoir damage suits that have gone against the city under the present administration to be submitted to the higher court. It was appealed on the grounds that the court erred in admitting certain testimony and of misconduct of the jury in considering matter that was not in evidence. The jury awarded $75 an acre for 361 acres of lowlands and $9 an acre for 839 acres of uplands. City witnesses appraised the lowlands at from $35 to $50 an acre and testified the uplands were not damaged. By the reversal the city also saves the interest on $39,867.88 from April 28, 1915.”

Reference: Municipal Journal. 1916. 40:14(April 6, 1916): 489.

Commentary: The typhoid fever epidemic in Milwaukee was caused by a city employee turning off the chlorine disinfection system for about 10 hours. The epidemic resulted in 513 cases and 59 deaths from typhoid fever. As filtration and chlorination became more widely installed to protect water supplies, it became harder for cities to claim that contaminated water supplies were not responsible for typhoid fever deaths. The combination of engineers wanting to do the right thing and lawsuits resulted in an accelerated introduction of the new technologies.

Lake Worth Spillway

Lake Worth Spillway