Tag Archives: William T. Sedgwick

November 1, 1836: Birth of Hiram Mills; 1952: Cuyahoga River Catches Fire…Again

November 1, 1836Birth of Hiram Francis Mills. “Born in Bangor, Maine, in the year 1836 and receiving his early schooling there, the young Hiram Mills moved on to the newly-established Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute to be graduated before he was twenty. When he was in his middle thirties he was appointed Chief Engineer of the Essex Company, the corporate owner of the Merrimack River dam at Lawrence, Massachusetts. Ever research-minded, Mr. Mills induced the Essex Company to set up an outdoor laboratory on the riverbank below the power dam. Here was installed a long pipe of large diameter — stoutly supported and shed-covered — by means of which Mills proposed to carry out new and accurate measurements of water flow under varying structural conditions.

In the year 1886…he was appointed a member of the recently reorganized State Board of Health. At the first meeting he was chosen by his associates to be chairman of the Board’s Committee on Water Supplies and Sewage, and from hydraulics, Hiram Mills’ chief scientific concern in life turned to sanitation.

The law of 1886, re-creating the State Board of Health, empowered the members to investigate methods for the disposal of sewage, and Hiram Mills lost little time in seeing that the law’s intent was carried out. As the place for his projected studies in the best practical methods for safe sewage disposal, he persuaded the Essex Company to lend to Massachusetts — for a nominal rental — the experimental plant the company had created for his hydraulic researches. With State funds, a modest laboratory building was added to the existing structures, and the whole was renamed the Lawrence Experiment Station — the first research enterprise of its kind in our country.

It may fairly be said that the investigations which Mills was to plan and carry through to conclusion in this physically limited and always economically equipped plant laid the foundations for many of the scientific methods of treatment of municipal and industrial wastes. Instead of investing in elaborate equipment and costly facilities, Mills invested in brains, as frequently he was pleased to point out. To man his researches, Mr. Mills drew upon the faculty and recent graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and thus employing their varied scientific skills, he perfected a unique investigating team whose inventiveness and productiveness are not likely to be seen again.” (edited by MJM)

Members of the research team included George W. Fuller, Allen Hazen, William T. Sedgwick, and Thomas M. Drown.

November 1, 1952: Cuyahoga River catches fire. “In 1952, leaking oil from the Standard Oil Company facility was accused of creating, ‘the greatest fire hazard in Cleveland,’ a two inch thick oil slick on the river. In spots, the slick spanned the width of the river. Although many companies had taken action to limit oil seepage on the river, others failed to cooperate with fire officials.

It was only a matter of time before disaster struck. On the afternoon of November 1, 1952, the Cuyahoga ignited again near the Great Lakes Towing Company’s shipyard, resulting in a five-alarm fire. (Many sources incorrectly put the date of the fire at November 3, 1952) The next morning’s Cleveland Plain Dealer led with a banner headline, ‘Oil Slick Fire Ruins Flats Shipyard.’ Photos taken at the scene are incredible; the river was engulfed in smoke and flame. Losses were substantial, estimated between $500,000 and $1.5 million, including the Jefferson Avenue bridge. The only reason no one died was that it started on a Saturday afternoon, when few shipyard employees were on duty.”

Commentary:  There was a long history of fires on the Cuyahoga—by one count a total of 13 with the first occurring in 1868. Other fires of note occurred in 1868, 1883, 1887, 1912, 1922, 1936, 1941, and 1948. A relatively minor fire on June 22, 1969 was reported nationwide and became part of the impetus for passing the Clean Water Act in 1972.

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October 21, 1914: Treasury Drinking Water Standards

Dr. Rupert Blue, 4th Surgeon General of the U.S.

October 21, 1914:  The first numerical drinking water regulations in the U.S. were adopted. “On October 21, 1914, pursuant to the recommendation of the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service [Dr. Rupert Blue], the Treasury Department adopted the first standards for drinking water supplied to the public by any common carrier engaged in interstate commerce. These standards specified the maximum permissible limits of bacteriological impurity, which may be summarized as follows:

  1. The bacterial plate count on standard agar incubated for 24 [hours] at 37 [degrees] C was not to exceed 100/cc.
  2. Not more than one of the five 10-cc portions of each sample examined was to show presence of B. coli. [equivalent to no more than 2 /100 mL—MPN index for total coliforms]
  3. The recommended procedures were those in Standard Methods of Water Analysis (APHA, 1912) [2nd edition].

These standards were drafted by a commission of 15 appointed members. Among the members of this commission were Charles Gilman Hyde, Milton J. Rosenau, William T. Sedgwick, George C. Whipple and C.-E. A. Winslow, names well known to those who have studied early developments in water treatment.

Though not a part of the standards, the accompanying first progress report is very interesting as it provides insight into the commission’s deliberations on other problems. There appears to have been considerable discussion on whether the standards should also state that the water shall ‘be free from injurious effects upon the human body and free from offensiveness to the sense of sight, taste, or smell’; whether the quality of water required should be obtainable by the common carriers without prohibitive expense; and whether it would be necessary to require more than a ‘few and simple examinations to determine the quality of drinking water.’”

Reference:  AWWA. Water Quality and Treatment. 3rd ed. New York:McGraw Hill, 1971, p. 16-7.

Commentary: Sedgwick, Whipple and Winslow were professors at MIT, Harvard and Yale, respectively. They were also expert witnesses who played prominent roles in the lawsuit between Jersey City and the Jersey City Water Supply Company in 1906-1909. During the second Jersey City trial, they adamantly opposed the use of chlorine by Dr. John L. Leal. The story of the trials and the first continuous use of chlorine to disinfect a U.S. water supply are detailed in The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives, which was published in the spring of 2013.

October 4, 1921: Death of Hiram Mills

October 4, 1921Death of Hiram Francis Mills. “Born in Bangor, Maine, in the year 1836 and receiving his early schooling there, the young Hiram Mills moved on to the newly-established Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute to be graduated before he was twenty. When he was in his middle thirties he was appointed Chief Engineer of the Essex Company, the corporate owner of the Merrimack River dam and water power rights at Lawrence, Massachusetts. Ever research-minded, Mr. Mills induced the Essex Company to set up an outdoor hydraulic laboratory on the river bank below the power dam.

In the year 1886 came a momentous change in the direction of Mr. Mills’ scientific interests. In that year he was appointed a member of the recently reorganized State Board of Health. At the first meeting he was chosen by his associates to be chairman of the Board’s Committee on Water Supplies and Sewage; and from hydraulics, Hiram Mills’ chief scientific concern in life turned to sanitation.

The law of 1886, re-creating the State Board of Health, empowered the members to investigate methods for the disposal of sewage, and Hiram Mills lost little time in seeing that the law’s intent was carried out. As the place for his projected studies in the best practical methods for safe sewage disposal, he persuaded the Essex Company to lend to Massachusetts the experimental plant the company had created for his hydraulic researches. With State funds a modest laboratory building was added to the existing structures, and the whole was renamed the Lawrence Experiment Station — the first research enterprise of its kind in our country.

It may fairly be said that the investigations which Mills was to plan and carry through to conclusion in this physically limited and always economically equipped plant laid the foundations for many of the scientific methods of treatment of drinking water and municipal wastes. Instead of investing in elaborate equipment and costly facilities. Mills invested in brains, as frequently he was pleased to point out, To man his researches, Mr. Mills drew upon the faculty and recent graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and thus employing their varied scientific skills, he perfected a unique investigating team whose inventiveness and productiveness are not likely to be seen again.” [editied by M.J. McGuire]

Commentary: Members of the research team included George W. Fuller, Allen Hazen and William T. Sedgwick. MIT professors William Ripley NicholsEllen Swallow Richards, and Thomas M. Drown also played important early roles. Allen Hazen and George W. Fuller were in charge of some of the earliest research on sewage treatment and drinking water filtration.

#TDIWH—January 25, 1921: Death of William T. Sedgwick; 1945: Fluoridation in Grand Rapids, MI; 1870: Patent for Soda Water

1229 William T SedgwickJanuary 25, 1921: William T. Sedgwick dies. William Thompson Sedgwick (December 29, 1855, West Hartford – January 25, 1921, Boston) was a key figure in shaping public health in the United States. He completed his college education at the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale University in 1877 and received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1881. He taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1883 until his death in 1921, aged 65, initially as Associate Professor (1884), as tenured Professor (1891) and eventually as head of the department of Biology and Public Health. Also, he was curator of the Lowell Institute from 1897 on.

Sedgwick was the first president of the Society of American Bacteriologists (now American Society for Microbiology) in 1899-1901. He was a mentor to George Warren Fuller and George C. Whipple who would both go on to notable careers in water and wastewater technology.

Reference:  “William Thompson Sedgwick.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_T._Sedgwick, retrieved December 27, 2012.

Grand Rapids schoolchildren giving saliva samples as part of the city's water fluoridation project.

Grand Rapids schoolchildren giving saliva samples as part of the city’s water fluoridation project.

January 25, 1945: CDC Honors 65 Years of Community Water Fluoridation. “Sixty-five years ago, on January 25, 1945, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, added fluoride to its municipal water system and community water fluoridation began. Since that day, this simple, safe, and inexpensive public health intervention has contributed to a remarkable decline in tooth decay in the United States, with each generation enjoying better oral health than the previous generation.

After fluoride’s oral health benefits were discovered in the 1930s, the next step was to achieve optimal levels in community water supplies. Four communities had agreed to undertake community studies, but Grand Rapids was the first to begin implementation. After fluoride was added to its water supply, Grand Rapids was compared to “control” communities with no added fluoride, and a detailed assessment of the relationship between fluoridation and tooth decay was performed. The National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council (NRC) reviewed the results and found a dramatic decline in tooth decay in the Grand Rapids children. On November 29, 1951, the NRC declared water fluoridation safe, effective, and beneficial.”

Soda Fountain

Soda Fountain

January 25, 1870: “Gustavus D. Dows, of Boston, MA, received a patent for an “Improvement in Soda-Fountains”; vessel in which carbon dioxide was injected, formed soda-water beverage, delivered drink using internal pressure; modern form of soda fountain; 1858 – made first ornamented soda fountain in the U.S. from white Italian marble with spread eagles perched on the syrup cocks; 1862 – invented a double stream draft arm and cock, for a large or small stream; 1863 – made and sold soda fountains for $225.”

Reference: “Business History.” Website http://www.businesshistory.com/index.php, Accessed November 14, 2012.

December 29, 1855: Birth of William T. Sedgwick

1229 William T SedgwickDecember 29, 1855: William T. Sedgwick is born. William Thompson Sedgwick (December 29, 1855, West Hartford – January 25, 1921, Boston) was a key figure in shaping public health in the United States. He completed his college education at the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale University in 1877 and received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1881. He taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1883 until his death in 1921, aged 65, initially as Associate Professor (1884), as tenured Professor (1891) and eventually as head of the department of Biology and Public Health. Also, he was curator of the Lowell Institute from 1897 on.

Sedgwick was the first president of the Society of American Bacteriologists (now American Society for Microbiology) in 1899-1901.” He was a mentor to George Warren Fuller and George C. Whipple who would both go on to notable careers in water and wastewater technology.

Reference: “William Thompson Sedgwick.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_T._Sedgwick, retrieved December 27, 2012.

November 1, 1836: Birth of Hiram Mills; 1952: Cuyahoga River Catches Fire…Again

1101 Hiram F MillsNovember 1, 1836Birth of Hiram Francis Mills. “Born in Bangor, Maine, in the year 1836 and receiving his early schooling there, the young Hiram Mills moved on to the newly-established Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute to be graduated before he was twenty. When he was in his middle thirties he was appointed Chief Engineer of the Essex Company, the corporate owner of the Merrimack River dam at Lawrence, Massachusetts. Ever research-minded, Mr. Mills induced the Essex Company to set up an outdoor laboratory on the riverbank below the power dam. Here was installed a long pipe of large diameter — stoutly supported and shed-covered — by means of which Mills proposed to carry out new and accurate measurements of water flow under varying structural conditions.

In the year 1886…he was appointed a member of the recently reorganized State Board of Health. At the first meeting he was chosen by his associates to be chairman of the Board’s Committee on Water Supplies and Sewage, and from hydraulics, Hiram Mills’ chief scientific concern in life turned to sanitation.

The law of 1886, re-creating the State Board of Health, empowered the members to investigate methods for the disposal of sewage, and Hiram Mills lost little time in seeing that the law’s intent was carried out. As the place for his projected studies in the best practical methods for safe sewage disposal, he persuaded the Essex Company to lend to Massachusetts — for a nominal rental — the experimental plant the company had created for his hydraulic researches. With State funds, a modest laboratory building was added to the existing structures, and the whole was renamed the Lawrence Experiment Station — the first research enterprise of its kind in our country.

It may fairly be said that the investigations which Mills was to plan and carry through to conclusion in this physically limited and always economically equipped plant laid the foundations for many of the scientific methods of treatment of municipal and industrial wastes. Instead of investing in elaborate equipment and costly facilities, Mills invested in brains, as frequently he was pleased to point out. To man his researches, Mr. Mills drew upon the faculty and recent graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and thus employing their varied scientific skills, he perfected a unique investigating team whose inventiveness and productiveness are not likely to be seen again.” (edited by MJM)

Members of the research team included George W. Fuller, Allen Hazen, William T. Sedgwick, and Thomas M. Drown.

1101 Cuyahoga R Fire 1952November 1, 1952: Cuyahoga River catches fire. “In 1952, leaking oil from the Standard Oil Company facility was accused of creating, ‘the greatest fire hazard in Cleveland,’ a two inch thick oil slick on the river. In spots, the slick spanned the width of the river. Although many companies had taken action to limit oil seepage on the river, others failed to cooperate with fire officials.

It was only a matter of time before disaster struck. On the afternoon of November 1, 1952, the Cuyahoga ignited again near the Great Lakes Towing Company’s shipyard, resulting in a five-alarm fire. (Many sources incorrectly put the date of the fire at November 3, 1952) The next morning’s Cleveland Plain Dealer led with a banner headline, ‘Oil Slick Fire Ruins Flats Shipyard.’ Photos taken at the scene are incredible; the river was engulfed in smoke and flame. Losses were substantial, estimated between $500,000 and $1.5 million, including the Jefferson Avenue bridge. The only reason no one died was that it started on a Saturday afternoon, when few shipyard employees were on duty.”

Commentary: There was a long history of fires on the Cuyahoga—by one count a total of 13 with the first occurring in 1868. Other fires of note occurred in 1868, 1883, 1887, 1912, 1922, 1936, 1941, and 1948. A relatively minor fire on June 22, 1969 was reported nationwide and became part of the impetus for passing the Clean Water Act in 1972.

October 21, 1914: Treasury Drinking Water Standards

Dr. Rupert Blue, 4th Surgeon General of the U.S.

Dr. Rupert Blue, 4th Surgeon General of the U.S.

October 21, 1914:  The first numerical drinking water regulations in the U.S. were adopted. “On October 21, 1914, pursuant to the recommendation of the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service [Dr. Rupert Blue], the Treasury Department adopted the first standards for drinking water supplied to the public by any common carrier engaged in interstate commerce. These standards specified the maximum permissible limits of bacteriological impurity, which may be summarized as follows:

  1. The bacterial plate count on standard agar incubated for 24 [hours] at 37 [degrees] C was not to exceed 100/cc.
  2. Not more than one of the five 10-cc portions of each sample examined was to show presence of B. coli. [equivalent to no more than 2 /100 mL—MPN index for total coliforms]
  3. The recommended procedures were those in Standard Methods of Water Analysis (APHA, 1912) [2nd edition].

These standards were drafted by a commission of 15 appointed members. Among the members of this commission were Charles Gilman Hyde, Milton J. Rosenau, William T. Sedgwick, George C. Whipple and C.-E. A. Winslow, names well known to those who have studied early developments in water treatment.

Though not a part of the standards, the accompanying first progress report is very interesting as it provides insight into the commission’s deliberations on other problems. There appears to have been considerable discussion on whether the standards should also state that the water shall ‘be free from injurious effects upon the human body and free from offensiveness to the sense of sight, taste, or smell’; whether the quality of water required should be obtainable by the common carriers without prohibitive expense; and whether it would be necessary to require more than a ‘few and simple examinations to determine the quality of drinking water.’”

Reference:  AWWA. Water Quality and Treatment. 3rd ed. New York:McGraw Hill, 1971, p. 16-7.

Commentary: Sedgwick, Whipple and Winslow were professors at MIT, Harvard and Yale, respectively. They were also expert witnesses who played prominent roles in the lawsuit between Jersey City and the Jersey City Water Supply Company in 1906-1909. During the second Jersey City trial, they adamantly opposed the use of chlorine by Dr. John L. Leal. The story of the trials and the first continuous use of chlorine to disinfect a U.S. water supply are detailed in The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives, which was published in the spring of 2013.