Tag Archives: water treatment

#TDIWH—January 27, 1907: Colorado River Levee Repaired—End of Salton Sea Influent Supply; 1916: Typhoid in Louisiana

Dumping rock to heal breach in Colorado River levee

Dumping rock to heal breach in Colorado River levee

January 27, 1907: Colorado River Levee Repaired. In late 1904, water from the Colorado River started leaking from irrigation ditches built for the Imperial Valley into what would become the Salton Sea. After a flood on the Colorado River, the sea filled and it would take two years of effort with many missteps to close the breach and control withdrawals from the River. This is an extract from a description of how that levee breach was fixed. “Ole Nordland, Editor of the Indio Daily News for many years, described the effort of the Southern Pacific [railroad] in these words: ‘The gargantuan effort of stemming the flood tied up a network of 1,200 miles of main [railroad] lines for three weeks while the [Southern Pacific Company] fought to bring the river under control. The work started the very day of the exchange of telegrams, December 20, 1906. Dispatchers sidetracked crack passenger trains to let rock trains through while amazed passengers looked on. Surplus engines stood by to aid in the massive haul of rock and gravel. The rock trains came from as far away as 480 miles to hurtle 2,057 carloads of rock, 221 carloads of gravel, and 203 carloads of clay into the break in 15 days. The loads were dumped from two trestles built across the river break and were literally dumped faster than the water could wash them away. The Colorado River put up a stubborn fight. Three times it ripped away the trestle piles. Finally, on January 27, 1907, the breach was closed and the valley’s farms and cities were saved. The Colorado River was returned to its former path but it left in its wake today’s Salton Sea.’”

Railroad trestles built across the breach; used to dump rock into the breach

Railroad trestles built across the breach; used to dump rock into the breach

Reference: Laflin, P., 1995. The Salton Sea: California’s overlooked treasure. The Periscope, Coachella Valley Historical Society, Indio, California. 61 pp. (http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/salton/PeriscopeSaltonSeaCh5-6.html#Chapter6 Accessed October 11, 2014).

0127 Lake Charles LAJanuary 27, 1916: Municipal Journal article. Water Origin of Typhoid Epidemic. “Lake Charles, La.-Dr. Oscar Dowling, president of the State Board of Health, has been investigating the typhoid epidemic situation here, and has sent Louis Alberta, inspector of the board, to examine the markets, slaughter pens, and all places handling fresh meats, and J. H. O’Neil, sanitary engineer, to make a further survey of the water supply. Up to date there have been reported 153 cases of typhoid fever in Lake Charles and 15 in West Lake, which is practically a suburb, making a total of 168. There are sick at present in both places 90. There have been 12 deaths, 3 of these in West Lake. Investigation has been made and the case history taken of 138 patients. ‘Evidence as to the cause of the infection points to the water,’ says Dr. Dowling. ‘During September and October a number of specimens from the city supply were examined in our laboratories. After repeated analyses, permits to the railroads to use the city water were issued. The city supply is obtained from artesian wells, but in case of fire water from the river is added. This can be made safe by proper treatment and the equipment necessary was installed by the company after condemnation of the water by our board. From lack of supervision the treatment process evidently was not properly carried out.’”

Commentary: That is an understatement. Clearly, the treatment of surface water put into the system to fight a fire was not properly done and people died.

Reference: “Water Origin of Typhoid Epidemic.” 1916. Municipal Journal. 40:4(January 27, 1916): 111.

January 12, 1933: Drought Cartoon; 1987: Cryptosporidiosis Outbreak in Georgia; 1870: Birth of Edward Bartow

0112 Drought CartoonJanuary 12, 1933: 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.

Cryptosporidium oocysts on an intestinal cell surface, S.E.M. Image courtesy of Dr. Udo Hertzel,Verterinary Pathology, University of Liverpool

Cryptosporidium oocysts on an intestinal cell surface, S.E.M.
Image courtesy of Dr. Udo Hertzel,Verterinary Pathology, University of Liverpool


January 12, 1987: A large outbreak of cryptosporidiosis began on this day. “Between January 12 and February 7, 1987, an outbreak of gastroenteritis affected an estimated 13,000 (out of 64,900) people in Carroll County in western Georgia (including Carrollton, GA). Cryptosporidium oocysts were identified in the stools of 58 of 147 patients with gastroenteritis (39 percent) tested during the outbreak. Studies for bacterial, viral, and other parasitic pathogens failed to implicate any other agent. In a random telephone survey, 299 of 489 household members exposed to the public water supply (61 percent) reported gastrointestinal illness, as compared with 64 of 322 (20 percent) who were not exposed (relative risk, 3.1; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.4 to 3.9). The prevalence of IgG [Immunoglobulin G—an antibody isotype] to Cryptosporidium was significantly higher among exposed respondents to the survey who had become ill than among nonresident controls. Cryptosporidium oocysts were identified in samples of treated public water with use of a monoclonal-antibody test. Although the sand-filtered and chlorinated water system met all regulatory-agency quality standards, sub-optimal flocculation and filtration probably allowed the parasite to pass into the drinking-water supply. Low-level Cryptosporidium infection in cattle in the watershed and a sewage overflow were considered as possible contributors to the contamination of the surface-water supply. We conclude that current standards for the treatment of public water supplies may not prevent the contamination of drinking water by Cryptosporidium, with consequent outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis.”

A single Cryptosporidium oocyst

A single Cryptosporidium oocyst

Commentary: This outbreak caused a lot of concern in the drinking water community, but it was the epidemic of cryptosporidiosis in Milwaukee in April six years later that drove the second phase of the enhanced surface water treatment rule.

Reference: Hayes, E.B. et al. 1989. “Large community outbreak of cryptosporidiosis due to contamination of a filtered public water supply.” N. Engl J Med. 320:21(May 25): 1372-6.0112 Edward_BartowJanuary 12, 1870: Edward Bartow was born. “Edward Bartow (1870–1958) was an American chemist and an expert in the field of sanitary chemistry. His career extended from 1897 to 1958 and he is best known for his work in drinking water purification and wastewater treatment. He was well known as an educator, and his many students went on to leadership positions in the fields of sanitary chemistry and engineering….

He began his career as an instructor of chemistry at Williams College about 1896. His first academic appointment was as an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Kansas. He taught there from 1897 to 1905. While in Kansas, he worked with the U.S. Geological Survey analyzing the waters of southeastern part of the state.

His next position was as Director of the Illinois State Water Survey. He also held the title of professor of sanitary chemistry at the University of Illinois from 1905 to 1920. He led efforts to eliminate typhoid fever by developing treatment methodologies for water purification. In 1914, he began the first large-scale investigations of the new sewage treatment process called activated sludge. A bronze plaque was placed on the grounds of the Champaign-Urbana Sanitary District to commemorate the work on this process done by Bartow and his colleagues. The Illinois State Water Survey became well known for producing high quality work and the fourteen volumes of bulletins and reports published during his tenure are classics in the field of sanitary chemistry and engineering.

From 1920 until his retirement in 1940, he was professor of chemistry at the University of Iowa. He significantly enhanced the department and when he left, the number of PhD degrees awarded totaled 240 in chemistry and chemical engineering….

Bartow received many honors including an honorary D.Sc. from Williams College in 1923. Several societies honored him with life memberships. In 1971, he was inducted into the American Water Works Association Water Industry Hall of Fame.”

December 23, 1791: James Peacock’s Filter

1223 Peacock Filter Bottoms Like Wheeler BottomsDecember 23, 1791: James Peacock, a London architect of note in his day, was granted the first British patent on a process and apparatus for water filtration (December 23, 1791, No. 1,841). In 1793. Peacock published a promotion pamphlet setting forth the need for filtration and the principles that should guide the choice, preparation and placing of filtering media, showing sketches of filters of different sizes and design. It includes a diagram showing superimposed spheres of diminishing size, illustrating a mathematical exposition of the reasons why coarse filtering material should be placed at the bottom of a filter with layers of material of regularly decreasing size above it. Peacock’s exposition brings to mind the Wheeler filter bottom designed more than a century afterwards. No such thesis had appeared before Peacock’s day and none surpassing it has appeared since….

Peacock’s Design.-The novelty of Peacock’s invention, he declared in his patent, was filtration by ascent instead of the common method of descent. This could be applied under any head, in any quantity and for public as well as private use. A further novelty, far more significant, was cleaning the filter by reverse flow, the descending water carrying with it “all foul and extraneous substances.”

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, 67-72.

Commentary: Even though Peacock’s filter was a failure, it marked the beginning of period of experimentation which resulted in the successful slow sand filters that are still used today.1223 James Peacock

November 28, 1837: Birth of John Wesley Hyatt.

1128 John W HyattNovember 28, 1837: Birth of John Wesley Hyatt. Hyatt was an inventor who developed new materials and machines that resulted in hundreds of patents. He is mostly known for his invention of a commercially viable way of producing solid, stable nitrocellulose, which he patented in the United States in 1869 as “Celluloid.” However, he was one of the early developers of commercial filtration systems in the U.S. He invented improvements to mechanical filtration systems, which are called rapid sand filters or granular media filters today. During the 1880s, mechanical filters were installed to remove particles and “organic matter.” Filtration to control microbial pathogens would come later with better bacteriological methods and the maturation of the germ theory of disease.

“John Hyatt, an inventor and manufacturer of Newark, N.J., applied for a patent February 11, 1881, on what was virtually a stack of Clark’s filters, placed in a closed tank and operated each independently of the others by means of common supply, delivery and wash pipes. His application, like Clark’s, was granted on June 21, 1881, and assigned to the Newark Filtering Co. On the same day, Hyatt obtained a patent in England.

Col. L. H. Gardner, Superintendent of the New Orleans Water Co., after making small-scale experiments on coagulation at New Orleans, was convinced that it was more efficacious than filtration for the clarification of muddy water.

Isaiah Smith Hyatt, older brother of John, while acting as sales agent for the Newark Filtering Co., was baffled in attempts to clarify Mississippi River water for a New Orleans industrial plant. Colonel Gardner suggested using a coagulant. This was a success. Isaiah Hyatt obtained on February 19, 1884, a patent on simultaneous coagulation-filtration. Although unsound in principle, it largely dominated mechanical filtration for many years….

Thus in 1880-85 did four men join in the evolution of mechanical or rapid filtration. Clark soon faded out of the picture. Gardner entered it only by suggesting to Isaiah Hyatt the use of a coagulant, and Isaiah Hyatt, still a young man, died in March 1885. John Hyatt was then alone. Already he had taken out 20 filter patents while only two were granted to his older brother. By the close of 1889, John had obtained about 50 patents. Scattered grants in the 1890’s brought his record above 60. Most notable of all these were three on washing systems, including sectional wash; several on strainers for underdrain systems; and two on aeration, primarily in connection with filtration. The Hyatt aeration patents, like those granted to Professor Albert R. Leeds a little earlier, were of little practical importance, but they marked an era in water purification during which stress was laid on the removal of organic matter.”

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: American Water Works Association, 183-5.

1128 Hyatt Pure Water  Filter

July 25, 1698: Thomas Savery Gets Patent for Steam Pump; 1799: Birth of James Simpson

Thomas Savery

Thomas Savery

July 25, 1698: “Thomas Savery received a British patent for a “New Invention for Raiseing of Water and Occassioning Motion to all sorts of Mill Work by the Impellent Force of Fire”; first application of steam for pumping water, intended for draining mines, serving towns and supplying water to mills; design had major problems containing high-pressure steam due to the weakness of available construction materials.”

James Simpson

James Simpson

July 25, 1799: James Simpson born. Simpson is one of the best-known filtration pioneers. He developed, built and put into operation the first slow sand filter in England. The filter was part of the Chelsea Water Works Co. which served part of London.

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.

June 21, 1961: First Practical Desalination Plant; 1881: Filter Inventions

0621 Seawater desalination plant Freeport TXJune 21, 1961: “President John Kennedy pressed a switch installed in his office in Washington DC to dedicate first practical plant for the conversion of seawater to drinking water; built in less than a year at a cost of $1.5 million at Freeport, Texas by the Dow Chemical Co.; capable of producing about a million gallons of water a day, supplying fresh water to the city of Freeport at a cost of about $1.25 per thousand gallons; May 8, 1961 – Office of Saline Water, U.S. Department of the Interior opened the plant; reverse osmosis has replaced large-scale evaporation method used then as scientific advances have produced special polymers suitable for use as filtering membranes.”

Filter Backwash Process

Filter Backwash Process

June 21, 1881: “Patrick Clark, of Rahway, NJ, received a patent for a ‘Process of Cleaning Filter-Beds;’ “…the novelty of the process consists in the employment of jets of water for the purpose of agitating a bed of sand or other suitable granular material which forms the upper part of the filter bed. By this means the silt and other impurities are separated from the sand, and, being of inferior specific gravity, rise above the filter bed, and are removed preferably by a natural current of water in which, when practicable, the apparatus will be immersed”; assigned to Newark Filtering Company (incorporated by Clark, John W. Hyatt, Albert Westervelt in December 1880); origin of modern rapid filter; June 21, 1881 – John W. Hyatt also received a patent for a “Filter”; could be cleaned mechanically; assigned to Newark Filtering Company; prototype for rapid filtration concept.”

April 13, 1918: Ft. Madison, Iowa Replacing Its Water Treatment Plant

0413 Ft Madison Iowa replacing WTPApril 13, 1918: Municipal Journal article. Reconstructing Water Plant Without Interrupting Service. “Fort Madison, Iowa, Replaces Old Pumps, Boilers and Buildings with New, One Item at a Time—Also Builds Storage Reservoir and Filtration Plant, and New River Intake. The building of a new water works plant on the exact site of an old plant, and entirely removing every vestige of material and equipment of the old plant and replacing it with new and without interruption of service, calls for an unusually close study of the engineering features and a careful handling of the construction work and material. It is not an unusual thing to replace an old steel bridge with a new one without interfering with traffic, but in bridge work you at least have a few minutes interval between trains; but in supplying a community of fifteen thousand people with continuous water service, a single interruption, even for a minute, not only jeopardizes the property of the city, but the safety of the citizens as well.

Many municipalities and water companies hesitate about carrying out improvements because of the fear of interruption of service and the criticism that this interruption might bring. However, in the case of the Fort Madison, Iowa, water works, criticism had already reached an alarming stage because of the quality of the water and insufficiency of the fire pressure, and it became incumbent upon the city to provide a more satisfactory water and a better fire service. The city was without bond power to provide for a municipal plant, consequently twenty-five of the leading citizens organized the “Citizens’ Corporation,” which was granted a franchise, and they immediately took over the old property and began the reconstruction of the entire water works plant, involving an expenditure of about three hundred thousand dollars. The criticism and suspicion arising from the operation of the old plant was a lesson which caused the new corporation to exert every effort to avoid the errors of the past and to rescue, if possible, an unprofitable business and to adopt measures of economy and efficiency that would make the new project profitable. The consulting engineers, in preparing the plans and specifications for machinery and equipment for the .pumping plant, power plant and filtration system kept in mind the previous unprofitable business and exerted every effort to provide an equipment that would not only give the very best of service but do this at a minimum of expense.

Reference: “Reconstructing Water Plant Without Interrupting Service.” 1918. Municipal Journal article 44:15(April 13, 1918): 293.