Tag Archives: water

September 22, 1990: Main Break in Jersey City

September 22, 1990New York Times headline–300,000 Lose Water Supply In New Jersey. “About 300,000 people in Jersey City, Hoboken, and Lyndhurst were left without water for three and a half hours yesterday when an aqueduct ruptured.

Though the break was isolated and bypassed by 8:30 A.M. and full pressure was restored by noon, water ran brown with sediment throughout the day. Schools in Hoboken were ordered shut, factories were disrupted and thousands of households, after awakening to no water, endured the day with a mix of inconvenience, exasperation and kindness. Josephine Kardell, who lives near the valve station at Summit and St. Paul’s Avenues, said her tap water was still brown late yesterday afternoon. ”It’s too dirty,” she said. ”You can’t fill your tub with it. It’ll be black. I’ll have to wait until it’s clear.”

The broken aqueduct is a 6-foot-wide, 95-year-old main that links Jersey City with its main supply source, the Boonton Reservoir in Morris County. The break occurred about 5 A.M. in marshland on the west bank of the Hackensack River in Lyndhurst about 1.5 miles south of Giants Stadium.”

Commentary:  This is the aqueduct built by the Jersey City Water Supply Company that started operating the water supply in 1904. The history of the Boonton water supply and the first use of chlorine on the supply in 1908 are detailed in my book, The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives.

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September 21, 1906: Death of Robert E. Hungate, Grandfather of Anaerobic Microbiology; 1995: May I fill my birdbath?

Robert E Hungate

September 21, 1906:  Death of Robert E. Hungate, Grandfather of Anaerobic Microbiology. “The development of methods to grow anaerobes was an important stepping stone in microbiology, one that paved the way for the discovery of many new bacteria and radically changed our understanding of microbial metabolism. Many of these discoveries could not have been possible without the pioneering work of Robert E. Hungate. Affectionately referred to as “Mr. Rumen” or even “Bob” by his students and colleagues, Hungate was the first to develop refined methods to grow strict anaerobes. Accordingly, he dedicated his career to advance new techniques to culture and study anaerobes in anoxic environments. The ‘Hungate technique’ is widely known and used in many labs today, but I believe that his life and scientific impact deserve greater appreciation by today’s young microbiologists….

Anaerobic Growths in Hungate tubes

Hungate’s method to cultivate anaerobes, now commonly known by his name, involves several steps to make a growth medium with a reduced anoxic en­vi­ron­ment in a sealed airtight test tube. First, a freshly auto­claved growth medium is heated to maintain a steady boil. Second, after the medium is distributed into rubber-stoppered ‘Hungate tubes, it is ‘sparged’ with a steady stream of an anoxic gas (usually a mixture of CO2, H2, or N2) passed through the medium via a metal cannula. The tube is then quickly sealed with a rubber stopper, using a screw cap to prevent any oxygen from entering. Third, molten agar is added and the tube is rolled horizontally over cold water to produce a thin layer of solidified medium over the inner glass surface. Using a needle and syringe, the inoculum can then be injected through the rubber stopper. To observe the growth of cellulolytic bacteria, an opaque suspension of cellulose is added to the medium beforehand. A clearing around cellulose-degrading colonies can be easily seen after incubation.”

September 21, 1995New York Times headline–May Birdbath Be Filled? “Water Curbs Raise Queries. Can a birdbath be refilled from a bucket of water? Can dusty high school football and soccer fields be sprayed from private wells? Can a car be washed during a rainstorm? The answers given callers to New Jersey’s new drought-emergency telephone line: yes, no and yes, but only with the rainwater.

So goes life — and the dos and don’ts of outdoor water use — after government intervenes in a prolonged dry spell and orders people to start conserving. For now, the mandatory water restrictions imposed Sept. 13 apply to about three million people in 119 communities in northeastern New Jersey.

But, officials warn, millions more in New York City and much of the rest of New Jersey will face mandatory rules — and questions — unless far heavier rains than last Sunday morning’s arrive to revive the region’s reservoirs. Yesterday, Gov. Tom Ridge decreed similar mandatory restrictions over much of Pennsylvania, in an area affecting about 6.5 million people.”

September 20, 1981: Hackensack Water Expansion

Hackensack Weehawken Water Tower-Built in 1883

September 20, 1981:  New York Times headline–Hackensack Water Plans Its Largest Expansion. “The future bills of the Hackensack Water Company will present, in stark dollars and cents, the financial legacy of the 1980-81 water shortage: A 47 percent increase for tens of thousands of homes and industries that were forced by state law to save water from last September to May.

The higher rates will generate $21 million in new income for the company. Both it and the state’s Board of Public Utilities, which approved the increase on Sept. 3, emphasize that it is in the best interests of Hackesack Water’s 800,000 customers to pay the money.

They say that new supplies can be developed with it, ending the company’s chronic water shortage and freeing customers from future threats of mandated conservation. The new rates, so the argument goes, are the best and only way to end the ”drought” and prevent future ones.”

September 19, 1886: Houston Water Supply Problems

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.

Update:  With the devastation of the Houston by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, it is astonishing that water service in Houston was never lost, nor was a boil water order ever issued. Houston OBVIOUSLY made a lot of improvements in their water supply over 124 years.

Germ Theory of Disease

September 18, 1985: Mineral Water from Georgia; 1981: Valley of the Drums

September 18, 1985New York Times headline–Mineral Water From Georgia Being Bottled. Mineral-rich water from a spring that was once known for its supposed curative powers is being bottled for sale again for the first time in almost 50 years.

Water flowing beneath the 750 million-year-old granite formation underlying much of metropolitan Atlanta picks up minute amounts of salt, potassium, magnesium and lithium, a rare light metal that gave Lithia Springs its name and its reputation. Lithium, a potentially dangerous substance in large doses, is used in the treatment of manic depression.

In the late 1800′s and early 1900′s, tourists and invalids flocked to Lithia Springs, a small city 20 miles west of Atlanta, to drink and bathe in the mineral water. A Congress of Physicians was held there in 1887, which recommended the salty-tasting water for dozens of ailments including kidney stones, typhoid fever, eczema, nervous prostration, and ”diseases of delicate women.” [Typhoid fever?  Really?]

September 18, 1981USEPA Press Release–”An expenditure of $400,000 will be made from the new Superfund for emergency cleanup work at Kentucky’s top priority hazardous waste site–the Valley of the Drums, near Louisville. Anne M. Gorsuch, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said today EPA will spend the money to pay for removal of about 1,500 drums containing chemical waste to reduce the possibility of fire.

The Valley of the Drums drew national attention in 1979 as one of the country’s worst abandoned hazardous waste sites. Thousands of drums–accumulated over a 10-year period–were strewn in pits and trenches over a 23-acre site in Bullitt County. The drums of the site scheduled for cleanup are deteriorating quickly. When it rains, they overflow and leak into Wilson Creek, a tributary of the Ohio River. They contain such chemicals as benzene, toluene and methylmethacrylate.”

September 17, 1983: Colorado River Floods and the Blame Game

September 17, 1983New York Times headline–Floods Along Colorado River Set Off a Debate Over Blame. “So much water is coursing through the Colorado River system that Federal engineers now say flooding will not end until September or later.

”That’s great news for the people who live here, isn’t it?” said James Campbell, the Mohave Valley fire chief, as he poled an aluminum rowboat through a flooded subdivision of nearly 60 homes in this sunblistered community. ”I’ll bet some of this water will still be here through the winter.”

It has been more than three weeks since engineers from the Federal Bureau of Reclamation first sent torrents of water crashing over dams to relieve reservoirs swollen by record runoff from late spring snows in the Rocky Mountains. Those spills pushed the Colorado over its banks in its worst flooding in decades, resulting in at least seven deaths and more than $12 million in property damage.

What Federal officials call controlled flooding has contaminated underground wells, damaged hundreds of homes and furnished ample breeding grounds for millions of mosquitoes, raising fears of encephalitis and other diseases. It has also touched off an acrimonious debate as to whether man or nature is to blame for the high water.”

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.