Tag Archives: Virginia

July 8, 1909: Water Supply for Roanoke, VA

July 8, 1908:  Municipal Journal and Engineerarticle. Roanoke’s Public Utilities. “Roanoke, VA, is what is known as a railroad town, being largely populated by employees of the Norfolk and Western Railroad, which has its general offices and shops located there. During the 25 years of its history it has grown to a population of about 32,000. It is a beautiful and well-kept city, which is probably largely due to the fact that about 90 per cent of the homes are owned by their occupants.

One of the most interesting features of the city is its water supply, which is owned by a private company. The water is furnished by a single mammoth spring which gushes from the foot of Mill Mountain. The water is clear, cold and pure, and is very satisfactory for drinking purposes, although not entirely so for manufacturing uses. The spring furnishes about five million gallons of water per day, which is about double the amount now being used. It discharges into a large concrete-lined well or pond, the overflow from which forms a small stream. A reservoir is located on the side of the mountain 175 feet above the city. Pumps draw the water from the pond at the spring and force it into a main, one end of which leads to the reservoir and the other to the city; the pumping being thus on the direct-indirect system.”

Advertisements

June 26, 1913: Chlorination in Richmond, VA

Modern Chlorination Facility

June 26, 1913:  Hypochlorite additionto disinfect the municipal water supply was initiated in Richmond, VA. Following a typhoid fever outbreak, Dr. E.C. Levy, who was the Chief Health Officer for the City, recommended the addition of hypochlorite.  Levy was President of the American Public Health Association in 1923–six years before George W. Fuller.

“In 1914, apparatus for applying liquid chlorine was installed. But not until August 29, 1924, was a complete purification plant available, with coagulation basins, mechanical filters, aerators and a clear-water basin, the whole of 30-mgd capacity.”

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, 130.

February 12, 1914: Detroit Sewer Gas Explosion and Front Royal Water Supply

February 12, 1914:  Municipal Journalarticle. Damaging Sewer Gas Explosion. “Detroit. Mich.-An explosion of gas in the 18th street sewer has sent manhole covers flying skyward, torn up pavements, shattered windows, and wrecked outbuildings in the western part of the city. The district affected covered a dozen or more blocks. No one was seriously injured, but there were scores of narrow escapes from death as the heavy pieces of iron and paving blocks fell back to the ground. Damage to pavements is estimated at $25,000, while the loss to private property probably will exceed that amount.”

February 12, 1914:  Municipal Journalarticle. State Board Commends Water System. Front Royal, Va.-Officers of the State Board of Health who have just made an inspection of the new water supply of Front Royal, expressed high commendation of the system in a statement recently issued. The valley town, they declare, now has one of the best water supplies of the state and can guarantee to all visitors absolute freedom from water borne diseases. Front Royal has proceeded to install its new water supply with very creditable foresight. The town is almost ideally situated for good health and now is in a pos1t10n to protect its water beyond possible contamination. The system just installed includes a coagulation basin, gravity mechanical filters, storage basins for the filtered water, and as an extra precaution, apparatus for sterilizing the water before it is turned into the mains. The work is of concrete with the most modern and up-to-date appliances and the total cost, $17,000 was borne by the town without a bond issue. Since the first of the year the people have been getting a supply of clear, sparkling and pure water of the highest quality. The capacity of the plant is 1,000,000 gallons per day, or more than twice as much as the town now uses.

Reference: Municipal Journal 1914. 36:7(February 12, 1914): 213.

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 7, 1914: First Transit of Panama Canal; 1832: Richmond Filter; 2011: Fluoride Exposure

SS Ancon first official transit of the Panama Canal in 1914. The Alexandre La Valley was an old French crane boat that made the first unofficial transit on 1/7/1914.

January 7, 1914:  “On January 7, 1914 the Alexandre La Valleybecame the first ship to make a complete transit of the Panama Canal.The Canal is about 50 miles long and uses a system of locks to transport ships through. The locks are 110 feet wide and 1,000 feet long. Between 13,000 and 14,000 vessels use the canal each year, accounting for about 5% of the world trade….The number of ships able to be processed through is limited by the space available. Larger ships are being built and the locks are limited by size. These forces combined are leading to the Panama Canal Expansion Project. Work began on a new set of locks in 2007 and is expected to be completed by 2014.”

Commentary:The water history connection is that the filling of the locks is accomplished by draining water from Gatun Lake that is fed by precipitation in the Panamanian rain forest. Over 26 million gallons of fresh water is lost to the ocean during each downward lock cycle. The new canal system of locks will recycle about 60 percent of the water so there will be less pressure on the local water resources. A terrific blog posted on October 21, 2012, entitled “Panama Canal Update : Why Water is still King”gave a lot of details on the water resources angle of the new canal. I recommend it.

Albert Stein

January 7, 1832:Completion of the first attempt to filter a public water supply in the U.S.  Filtration was begun in Richmond, VA.  The slow sand filters operated in an  “upflow” mode and consisted of layers of sand and gravel.  The design engineer was Albert Stein who built a downflow filter after the upflow version failed.  Despite the problems, Moses N. Baker declared the Richmond filtration efforts the start of filtration of public water supplies in the U.S.

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, 125-9.

January 7, 2011:  To prevent overexposure to fluoride, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced proposed changes in the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water. The  HHS proposed recommendation of 0.7 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride in drinking water replaced the current recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 ppm.

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

December 24, 1896:  Engineering Newsarticle–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, they 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.

August 29, 1924: Richmond, Virginia Filter Plant Completed

1924 Richmond, Virginia grocery store

August 29, 1924:  A complete filtration plant is finally built in Richmond, Virginia. Albert Stein built the first effort to filter a drinking water supply in the U.S. in Richmond in 1832. However the filtration plant was not successful and it was abandoned in 1835. Other efforts were made over the years to treat the Richmond water supply.

“Although Richmond did nothing effective to improve its water supply until well into the twentieth century, settling basins were proposed from time to time. In 1860, the city council asked the superintendent, Davis, and its city engineer, W. Gill, to make plans for a new reservoir “with a proper filter.” They proposed filters cleaned by reverse flow. A new reservoir was put in use January I, 1876. Later, under Superintendent Charles E. Bolling, and the health officer, two narrow settling basins, about a mile long, with provision for drawing off the sediment alternately, were provided. On December 22, 1909, large coagulation basins were added. Chlorination with hypochlorite was begun June 26, 1913, on Levy’s recommendation, following a few cases of typhoid fever in Richmond. In 1914, apparatus for applying liquid chlorine was installed. But not until August 29, 1924, was a complete purification plant available, with coagulation basins, mechanical filters, aerators and a clear-water basin, for the whole of 30-mgd capacity.”

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, 130-1.