Tag Archives: water supply

November 21, 2006: PFOA in Drinking Water; 1899: Garret Hobart Dies

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

November 21, 2006:  PFOA Contaminates Drinking Water.“On November 21, 2006, the USEPA ordered DuPont company to offer alternative drinking water or treatment for public or private water users living near DuPont’s Washington Works plant in West Virginia (and in Ohio), if the level of PFOA detected in drinking water is equal to or greater than 0.5 parts per billion. This measure sharply lowered the previous action level of 150 parts per billion that was established in March 2002.[133] Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8 and perfluorooctanoate, is a synthetic, stable perfluorinated carboxylic acid and fluorosurfactant. One industrial application is as a surfactant in the emulsion polymerization of fluoropolymers. It has been used in the manufacture of such prominent consumer goods as Teflon and Gore-Tex. PFOA has been manufactured since the 1940s in industrial quantities. It is also formed by the degradation of precursors such as some fluorotelomers.

PFOA persists indefinitely in the environment. It is a toxicant and carcinogen in animals. PFOA has been detected in the blood of more than 98% of the general US population in the low and sub-parts per billion range, and levels are higher in chemical plant employees and surrounding subpopulations. Exposure has been associated with increased cholesterol and uric acid levels, and recently higher serum levels of PFOA were found to be associated with increased risk of chronic kidney disease in the general United States population, consistent with earlier animal studies. “This association was independent of confounders such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, and serum cholesterol level.”

Commentary and Update:  More sensitive analytical methods and widespread monitoring have found PFOA and related compounds in 27 states according to headlines in 2016. But remember, dear reader that this was being publicized by the Environmental Working Group or EWG and must be taken with a huge grain of salt. What does parts per trillion of any chemical really mean?

November 21, 1899Death of Garret A. Hobart.“Garret Augustus Hobart (June 3, 1844 – November 21, 1899) was the 24th Vice President of the United States (1897–1899), serving under President William McKinley…. As vice president, Hobart proved a popular figure in Washington and was a close adviser to McKinley.”

While much is known about Hobart’s role as vice president, his role in the formation of private water companies and his support of these companies through legislation is less well known. Hobart was elected to the New Jersey Assembly and Senate during the early part of his career. During the 1870s and 1880s there was a lot of legislative activity that appeared to be for the benefit of private water companies.

In 1881, one bill that was introduced by Garret A. Hobart, then a state senator, was designed to give private water companies the power to acquire and distribute water resources independent of municipal or state control.  While not explicitly stated, the bill purportedly had a single intention of giving one company, the Passaic Water Company, more power to access water supplies to prevent water shortages at the factories of Paterson which were forced to idle production in the summer season.

The bill was not successful, (New York Times, March 22, 1881) which was undoubtedly due in part to the widespread suspicion that the bill would grant powers to companies to export New Jersey water supplies to New York.  “[New York speculators] have been attracted by the magnificence and extent of New Jersey’s water-shed, and by the sweetness and purity of its waters.  Last year’s scheme was said to be intended to enable the tapping of New Jersey’s hills for the New York supply.”(New York Times, March 7, 1881)

Hobart was a resident of Paterson, New Jersey for most of his life. In 1885, Garret A. Hobart joined the Board of the Passaic Water Company and two years later was elected President of the Company.  Hobart was described in one source as representing a syndicate of New York capitalists. (Nelson and Shriner 1920) The company had been supplying Paterson and the surrounding area since 1857.

The East Jersey Water Company was formed on August 1, 1889 for the stated purpose of supplying Newark, New Jersey with a safe water supply.  All of the men who were shareholders of the new company (including Hobart) were identified with the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company.(New York Times, August 2, 1889) However, the company’s vision extended far beyond a water supply for Newark. The company began as a confidential syndicate composed of businessmen who were interested in executing grand plans for water supply in northern New Jersey and New York City. (Colby and Peck 1900) Nothing came of these grand plans.

Hobart was also a mentor to John L. Leal of Paterson and encouraged Leal to leave city employment and work full time as the sanitary advisor to several private water companies.(McGuire 2013)

“Hobart died on November 21, 1899 of heart disease at age 55; his place on the Republican ticket in 1900 was taken by New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt.”

References:

Colby, Frank M. and Harry T. Peck eds. The International Year Book—A Compendium of the World’s Progress During the Year 1899. n.p.:Dodd, Mead and Co., 1900.

McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

Nelson, William and Charles A. Shriner. History of Paterson and Its Environs. Vol. 2, New York:Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1920.

New York Times.“Jersey’s Water Supplies—Senator Hobart’s Bill and Its Effect.” March 7, 1881.

New York Times.“New Jersey’s Law Makers—Mr. Hobart’s Water Bill Killed.” March 22, 1881.

New York Times.“To Give Newark Water.” August 2, 1889.

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October 25, 1949: Patent issued on ductile iron pipe; 1848: Lake Cochituate water delivered to Boston; San Antonio Water Company incorporated; 1987: Sewers below Paris.

October 25, 1949:  Patent issued on Ductile Iron pipe. On this day, patent Number 2,485,761 was issued to Mr. K. D. Millis and others of the International Nickel Company, for “Gray Cast Iron having Improved Properties.”  It has since become known as ductile iron.   Gray iron becomes ductile iron through the inoculation of the molten mix with magnesium, changing the graphitic carbon from random flake forms into a more geometrically arrayed and spherical form.  The new matrix provides greater yield strength, ultimate strength, and elongation properties.

Cast iron pipe producers had raced International Nickel to the patent office, but International Nickel got there first.  Cast iron pipe producers soon began the commercial production of ductile iron pipe, which has supplanted cast iron due to its greater strength and toughness. Cast iron and ductile iron pipes form the backbone of America’s drinking water distribution systems.

Source:  Maury D. Gaston, American Cast Iron Pipe Company.

Lake Cochituate Dam

October 25, 1848:  First delivery of water from Lake Cochituate into Boston. “Lake Cochituate was created by the construction of Lake Cochituate Damto provide a reservoir for water supply to the City of Boston, via the 14-mile Cochituate Aqueduct. Lake Cochituate was the first major water supply system built for the city, and replaced the previous usage of Jamaica Pond. Developed from 1848 to 1863, it supplied Boston’s water until 1951, when the larger Wachusett and Quabbin Reservoirs replaced it. The surveys and plans for the project were performed by American civil engineer James Fowle Baldwin (1782–1862), the son of Loammi Baldwin who designed the Middlesex Canal, and younger brother of Loammi Baldwin, Jr. (1780–1838) who authored the earlier studies for a Boston water supply. The dam, located on the lake’s former northwestern outlet, formed the headworks of the water supply system, and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”

October 25, 1882San Antonio (California) Water Company, Mutual Water Company, incorporated;natural waters of area part of ‘The Cucamonga Rancho’, 1839 land grant, portion of original territory granted to San Gabriel Mission; statement of purpose: “Acquiring by appropriation, purchase, or otherwise, water, water rights, water privileges and right of way in the Counties of Los Angeles and San Bernardino and to furnish, lease or sell the same for irrigation, milling, manufacturing and other purposes. To own, hold, construct and maintain canals, ditches and all structures, lands, easements and rights appertaining thereto for the purpose of taking and conveying water as herein mentioned to owners of lots and blocks in the Village of Ontario and to stockholders in this Corporation and none others. To make improvements, borrow money and transact any and all business and things connected with the business of the Corporation and relating thereto”; development of water rights, delivery services initiated as migration of people resulted in development of agriculture, business, residency; 1890s– irrigation by Zanjeros (ditch walkers; derived from Spanish words “zanja”, meaning “deep ditch or irrigation ditch”, and “zanjon”, which means, “ditch rider or overseer”; employees who constructed acequias (canals) to provide controlled, dependable water supply to farmers; gave way to automated systems.

October 25, 1987: New York Times headline–The Worlds Beneath Paris. “The great historian of the Paris sewers was, of course, Victor Hugo, who not only has his hero Jean Valjean escape the authorities through the sewers, carrying the wounded Marius Pontmercy on his back, but who also devotes six chapters of ‘Les Miserables’ to a history of the sewers and their peculiarities and dangers. Paris, Hugo wrote, ‘has another Paris under herself: a Paris of sewers, which has its streets, its crossroads, its squares, its blind alleys, its arteries, and its circulation . . . .’

By the time he wrote these words (the book was published in 1862) the city’s ancient sewer system had been considerably modernized. It has been continuously and ingeniously improved since then so that today a 1,305-mile network of canals – one so extensive that if straightened it would reach to Istanbul – carries off, treats and returns to the Seine the city’s daily discharge within the span of a single day. If in a sunny street you have ever paused to wonder at the primitive-seeming phenomenon of Parisian street-cleaning, the gurgling gutter waters directed this way and that by bundles of rags, down here you learn just how sophisticated waste disposal really is.

The tour begins with the smell, which no amount of cleansing can quite eradicate. But once into the small, well-done Musee des Egouts you quickly forget it. Here in documents, engravings, photos, diagrams and models of machinery is a short course in the evolution of the sewer system from the time when chamberpots were dumped into the streets to the present gravity-flow system whose complex network is shown in a map.”

Commentary:  I have crawled through my share of sanitary sewers and there is no way that any museum will ever help me forget the smell.

October 14, 1842: Croton Water Celebration; 1862: Mixing Water with Milk; 1859: Dedication of Glasgow Water Supply

October 14, 1842:  Celebration of the delivery of the Croton water supply to New York City. “Two days before the holiday Hone wrote in his diary: ‘Nothing is talked of or thought of in New York but Croton water; fountains, aqueducts, hydrants, and hose attract our attention and impede our progress through the streets. Political spouting has given place to water spouts, and the free current of water has diverted the attention of the people from the vexed questions of the confused state of the national currency.’

The great day began with the discharge of one hundred cannon and the ringing of church bells. Thousands of jubilant spectators crowded the windows, balconies, and sidewalks to watch a five-mile-long parade pass by. First came an impressive military escort, then a dozen barouches bearing Governor Seward, Mayor Morris, Samuel Stevens, Stephen Allen, Philip Hone, and other dignitaries. These were followed by regiments of soldiers, by fifty-two companies of firemen with bright uniforms, banners, and well-polished machines, by the butchers on horseback, by numerous marching temperance societies, and by organizations of mechanics….

The fountains were a special delight. Of one erected in Union Square, a contemporary newspaper declared: ‘It throws up a noble column of water to a height as great almost as the houses which surround the square …. In the evening, by the moonlight, the effect of the fountain showering its spray on every side, was exceedingly fine.’”

Reference:  Blake, N.M. 1956. Water for the Cities. Syracuse, NY:Syracuse University Press. 165-6.

Commentary: They really knew how to celebrate a new water supply back then. Can you imagine a salute of 100 cannons for delivering State Project water to Southern California in the 1960s? How about we shoot off the cannons when the desalination plant at Carlsbad, CA is operational?

October 14, 1862:  New York Times headline–Mixing of Water with Milk Not an Adulteration. “The People ex rel. Jacob Fauerbach vs. Court of Sessions. — The relator was convicted in the Court of Sessions of vending adulterated milk, and sentenced to pay a fine of $55.

He appealed the case to the New York Supreme Court, contending that the act under which he was convicted was purely a sanitary measure, intending to prevent traffic in impure, diseased and unwholesome milk, and not to prevent fraud in the sale of diluted milk. That to put water into milk was not to corrupt it, according to dictionary definition. Water was not a foreign admixture of milk, but its chief ingredient in its natural state, and it could not be adulterated by adding a little more.

The Court, in an opinion by Justice Ingraham, have now reversed the decision of the Judge at the General Sessions, upon the ground that to put water in milk is not per se such an adulteration as necessarily brings the relator within the late law upon that subject.” Commentary: Adding water to milk to increase profits was a common occurrence in the latter half of the 19th century. The problem was that most of the drinking water in cities during this period was laced with pathogenic organisms. The death of infants before one year of age in U.S. cities from diarrheal diseases was 20% to 40% of live births (that is not a misprint). Diluting cow’s milk with contaminated water was one of the chief means of killing babies. The judges did not help matters by overturning this crook’s conviction.

Glasgow Waterworks—Loch Katrine Outlet, 1859: antique wood engraved print

October 14, 1859:  Dedication of the Loch Katrine Water Works for the City of Glasgow, Scotland, by Queen Victoria. “It is with no ordinary feelings of pride and satisfaction that we are enabled this day to state to your Majesty that we have completed one of the most interesting and difficult works of engineering, and, at the same time, the largest and most comprehensive scheme for the supply of water which has yet been accomplished in your Majesty’s dominions. The deficient and unsatisfactory condition of the water supply, on which so much of the health and comfort of the inhabitants depended, determined the Corporation of Glasgow, some years ago, to purchase the works of the Water Companies then existing, and to take the supply of water into their own hands. For this purpose an Act of Parliament was obtained, which received your Majesty’s royal assent on the 2d day of July, 1855. Empowered by this Act, the Commissioners came to these wild and romantic regions for that copious supply of pure water of which the large and rapidly increasing population of Glasgow stood in need. This beautiful and extensive loch of pure water, fed by a large amount of annual rainfall, and lying at an elevation of 360 feet above the sea, was selected as the fountain-head. The rugged district, of 34 miles in extent, which intervenes between the loch and the city, has been penetrated by tunnels, crossed by aqueducts, or traversed by iron pipes, in the execution of the necessary works for ultimately conveying to the city no less than 50,000,000 gallons of water per day.”

Reference: Burnet, J. 1869. History of the Water Supply to Glasgow. Glasgow, Scotland:Bell & Bain. 148-9.

Commentary:  I actually bought an inexpensive reproduction of this print. It is fun to own something that is 156 years old.

October 13, 1821: Birth of Rudolf Virchow; 1986: Hudson River as Source of Water for NYC

October 13, 1821:  German physician Rudolf (Carl) Virchowwas born.  He was  famed for cell theory, founded the medical journal Medical Reform(Medicinische Reform), and wrote “Report on the Typhus Epidemic in Upper Silesia.” He was also was a well-known pathologist, anthropologist and statesman, widely credited for his advancements in public health.   Later in life, Virchow fought for improving the health and welfare service, meat inspections, and the first four urban hospitals in Berlin. He encouraged water and sewage system development.

Hudson River at Poughkeepsie

October 13, 1986:  New York Times headline–Report Backs Hudson as Water Source. ”Supplementing New York City’s water supply of 1.5 billion gallons a day with up to 300 million gallons from the Hudson River is feasible, an engineering study commissioned by the city has concluded.

But even before the study has officially been made public, concern has been mounting here in the Hudson Valley about the potential impact of such withdrawals, which have been called the only realistic means of meeting the city’s water needs by the year 2000.

‘If New York City were to take 300 million gallons from the Hudson, the major question is: would there be enough for us?’ said Herbert Hekler, chairman of the water supply committee of the Hudson Valley Regional Council. Several municipalities in the fast-growing Hudson Valley, including the city of Poughkeepsie, rely on the river as their sole source of drinking water.”

Commentary:  Mayor Koch called for universal metering in the city to cut water use and that is exactly what happened. There was no need to tap the Hudson after all.

October 11, 1961: Dedication of LaDue Reservoir; 1989: Water-Main Break Spews Asbestos Into 8th Ave.; 1988: Less Lead in Rivers

October 11, 1961:  Dedication of Wendell R. LaDue Reservoir. LaDue Reservoir is a water supply, flood control and recreation reservoir located in Geauga County, Ohio, in the northeastern part of the state. The reservoir was originally called the “Akron City Reservoir” before it was renamed for Wendell R. LaDue. Wendell R. LaDue was a water supply visionary who made many improvements to the water supply for Akron, Ohio. He was born in Mt. Pleasant, Ohio on October 1, 1894. He earned his BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Southern California in 1918. Shortly afterwards, he joined the staff of the Akron Waterworks.

While serving as its manager, LaDue developed a watershed plan to insure adequate clean water supply. The plan included purchasing property along the Cuyahoga River and building a series of reservoirs. In 1932, the City of Akron began purchasing property along the Cuyahoga River in Geauga County and removing homes and farms to protect the watershed. LaDue oversaw the construction of the 695 acres Rockwell Lake, the 395 acres East Branch in 1938, and the 1,477 acres Akron City Reservoir, now called LaDue Reservoir, in 1961. The capacity of the three reservoirs is 10.5 billion gallons.

In 1947, LaDue founded the Akron-Canton Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. In honor of his contributions, the Wendell R. LaDue Civil Engineer Award is awarded each year by the ASCE to a member who has promoted professionalism and the advancement of the civil engineering profession. In 1946 and 1947, LaDue was the president of the American Water Works Association. Since 2003, several Wendell R. LaDue Utility Safety Awards are presented by the AWWA to recognize distinguished water utility safety programs.

LaDue retired from the City of Akron in 1963, and began teaching at the University of Akron where he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Engineering Degree.”

October 11, 1989New York Times headline–Water-Main Break Spews Asbestos Into 8th Ave. “A water main burst at the intersection of Eighth Avenue and West 43d Street yesterday, sending asbestos-laden mud gurgling up the avenue and cascading down onto the IND subway tracks below, officials said.

The police closed West 43d Street and blocked off several lanes of Eighth Avenue while the City Department of Environmental Protection tested the mud to determine the level of asbestos, which was scattered from underground steam pipes.

A spokeswoman for the environmental agency, Tina Casey, said that the first round of tests showed varying amounts of asbestos, with one sample above ground containing 60 percent. Anything greater than 1 percent asbestos is considered hazardous, she said.”

October 11, 1988New York Times headline–Science Watch; Less Lead in Rivers. “A decline in lead contamination in major American rivers has been found at two-thirds of 300 sites studied from 1974 to 1985, scientists at the United States Geological Survey have reported.

The report chiefly attributed the decline to a 75 percent drop in use of leaded gasoline in that period. The most rapid drop in lead content was recorded from 1979 to 1980, when use of leaded gasoline took its sharpest drop.

Preliminary analyses of more recent data indicate that the decline in lead contamination is continuing.”

September 16, 1999: Champlain Water District Receives Partnership Award; 1908: Hetch Hetchy Supply Investigated

Partnership for Safe Water Past-Chair, Steve Hubbs (Corona Environmental – L) and Jim Westrick (USEPA – R), congratulate Champlain Water District representatives, James Fay and Michael Barsotti

September 16, 1999:  Champlain Water District Receives Partnership Award. On this date in 1999, Champlain Water District’s Peter L. Jacob Water Treatment Facility received the Phase IV Excellence in Water Treatment Award from the Partnership for Safe Water program. This prestigious award recognizes water treatment plants that have achieved stringent water quality and operational optimization goals, as determined through a utility peer-review process.  The plant was the first of 14 facilities in North America to be recognized for this level of achievement in the Partnership for Safe Water program.  Champlain Water District has maintained this level of optimized performance for the past 16 years and was recognized with the 15-Year Excellence in Water Treatment Award in 2015.  The utility has been an active participant in and contributor to the Partnership for Safe Water program for the past 20 years.

The Partnership for Safe Water celebrates its 20th Anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1995, the program is an alliance of AWWA, USEPA, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA), the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), and the Water Research Foundation (WRF).  The program was established “for utilities, by utilities” to help utilities assess and optimize water treatment plant and distribution system operation and performance. Over its 20-year history, hundreds of treatment plants and distribution systems, serving a total population of over 100 million, have employed Partnership for Safe Water tools to improve performance beyond regulatory requirements.  More information about the program, including annual water quality reports, may be accessed at www.awwa.org/partnership.

O’Shaughnessy Dam which forms the reservoir for the Hetch Hetchy water supply

September 16, 1908:  Municipal Journal and Engineerarticle. Municipal Party Returns from Sierras. “San Francisco, Cal.-The Supervisors and other city officials have completed their trip of inspection of the Sierra watersheds which it is proposed to acquire for purposes of a municipal water supply for San Francisco and neighboring towns. The members return with the conviction that the opportunity offered to secure water rights should not be allowed to pass even though no immediate use be made of the water. The quality of the water was found to be all that was expected and the quantity sufficient to supply the bay cities for the next hundred years.”

Commentary:  And we all know what happened after that. The Hetch Hetchy water supply project was completed in 1934 and water was delivered to San Francisco and its wholesale customers.

August 27, 1914: Providence, Rhode Island Water Supply

William P. Mason

August 27, 1914:  Municipal Journal article. Experts Chosen for Providence Water Supply. “Providence, R.I.-Prof. William P. Mason, head of the department of chemistry at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, and X. H. Goodnow, chief engineer of the Massachusetts State Board of Health, have been engaged as experts to report upon the proposed Scituate source for an increased water supply for Providence, by the special City Council committee in charge of the matter. Messrs. Mason and Goodnow will begin work at once, and will report on the problem of quality and quantity of supply needed for this city, the best source for this supply, whether or not it shall be filtered, and any other problems in connection with the matter which the committee may put before them. An examination of all possible water supplies within the State will be made by them, in an endeavor to find whether or not there is another source which, for quality and quantity of supply, is as good as or better than the Scituate scheme. They will be given time enough to investigate all phases.”

Commentary:  William P. Mason was President of AWWA in 1909. He also testified in favor of chlorination of the Jersey City water supply at Boonton Reservoir during the second Jersey City trial. Besides being a professor at a distinguished engineering university, he obviously had a thriving consulting practice.27