A Few Simple Suggestions as to Water Supplies and Their Use and Abuse.
As intimated in the title, only suggestions are intended in this paper, but suggestions which, from the standpoint of the writer, at least, seem most urgently to claim your careful attention. Untoward circumstances, such as the lateness at which the kind request to write this paper was received, a broken right arm, absence from my library and laboratory for the last four months, etc., have, much to my regret, prevented the embodiment herein of many facts, statistics, and the exactness of statement and disposal of matter which the treatment of so important a subject requires.
It is now unquestionably evidenced by science and practice that pure, wholesome water is the prime essential of health. Hence, it follows that such water is the prime essential to happincss which, in turn, is the foremost object of civilization, learning, labor, religion, art, government and war. If I rightly understand the objective purjrose of this association, it is not merely mutual improvement in the arts and economics of supplying the public with such water as happens to be at hand, without regard to its quality, but also the promotion of the best possible treatment of water for its healthful use. If this understanding be correct, the first claims upon the best efforts of the scientific and mechanical skill of this far reaching body, arc :
* Extract from paper read before the American water-works convention May 19, 1892.
First—Water supplies—whence and how to be procured and served.
Second—The urgent need of immediate united efforts to protect all concerned from caielcss selfishness, and other types of dangerous ignorance.
Supplies of pure ground water (by which is here meant water free from injurious components) served direct are usually more satisfactory than others, because such supplies, except in rock, oil and mineral countries, are, as a rule, of more palatable, quenching and nutritious qualities than rock and surface supplies. It appears that the sooner alter pumping ground and rock water are used, the better. This is especially true of ground water.
It also appears that, for best results, it should not be at all exposed to light or atmospheric warmth, else the innumerable kinds and sorts of excessively small vegetable seeds or germs that seem largely to constitute ground water, transform very quickly in atmospheric warmth, and coriespondingly change the character of otherwise good, wholesome water, lienee, it appears that if reservoirs of any description are used, it is essential that they he as light, tight, and air tight, and cool as the underground source of supply itself.
There is much underground water which is objectionable though not impure. In much of Indiana and Kentucky, for instance, spring and well water is so strongly charged with lime as to seriously discomfort people and stock of both sexes with gravel of enormous proportions. In the Little Miami valley, and from wells in what is known as the “ second bottom ” of the Big Miami, experiments of ten years’ duration have convinced me that the lime in the water is of such active nature that it is naturally impossible to maintain a fine bone strain of animals, the bones developing considerably in relative size with every succeeding generation to the fourth and fifth. This bone is of remarkably line and firm texture, quite the reverse of what results from the use of water charged with the magnesian, porous, spongy limestone of Kansas and Southern Nebraska. Unquestionably the great bone strength of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana horses is largely the result of the character ami quantity of the lime in the water they drink.
All ground water, it is to be profoundly regretted, is rapidly becoming more or less unfit for drinking purposes, owing to the corresponding increase of population and acts of most deplorable selfishness. I allude to that horrible means of clandestine murder practiced by directly sewering homes, public buildings, towns and cities into the underground sources of water supply. Unerring nature carefully covers these reservoirs of the prime essential of health and lile with a genial sail, myriads of thriving shrubs, grasses and insects that convert all decaying matter into active life for the aid and support of more life. Besides, she has spread superposed and compressed substantial beds of clay, packed with neutralizing alumina which, if undisturbed and not overtaxed, allows no living gem of animal disease to pass unreversed or neutralized. But the average citizen, a speck upon this speck of the universe, despite these hints and guards set there by eternal wisdom, proceeds to punch, bore or dig through them all and pour in the seeds of disease, death and desolation that must inevitably follow. What is the result?
Perhaps it is better to assume that it is only ignorance, as is the case with most other crimes, and that, therefore, it be comes the duty of more intelligent citizens in that regard to urge these things upon the attention of Congress and local governments. The federal government seems the first party in interest ; but it has given that particular matter but little if any thought, mainly because, I fully believe, it has not been brought to its attention.
I will now touch upon surface water supplies, which, it is generally known and conceded, are of necessity no purer than those from the ground, because,
First—It is self-evident that all sewage exposed on the surface of the ground endangers the purity of springs and streams, and all liquids liberated on the ground, barring the effects of percolation, absorbtion and evaporation, must tlow into the surface sources of water supply. The consequences are as inevitable as natural, and as natural as inevitable.
Second—It is likewise self-evident, and demonstrated by innumerable tests and analyses on both continents, that germs of various water promulgated diseases, such as typhoid, malarial, diphtheria, etc., live and multiply in rivers, brooks, lakes and ponds almost as freely (though, as a rule, not so virulently, so to speak) as in sewers, cesspools, milk, contaminated meats, moist decaying soils and woods, anil so on. Therefore surface water supplies, unpurified, are not safe and should not be allowed to be served or sold to the people—for drinking purposes, at least.
The sewage, if not infected at one time, may become infected at another, and is therefore an ever present impending danger to the health and lives of the consumers. But when the constant and extensive prevalence of typhoid fever is taken into consideration, with the vast numbers of the contributors to the sewage outflow of a large city, the sewers of that city cannot be safely assumed to be uninfected. Hence, the sewage of a city entering a river above the point suggested as the intake for the water supply of another community, should suffice to disapprove of ail such suggestions, irrespective of chemical analysis or any other considerations. As the well water may become freed from the ordinary organic matter of sewage during its percolatton through the soil, so the running water may have its ordinary sewage matter destroyed by a reVoyersion of its elements to inorganic forms ; but there is evidence to show —the Plymouth epidemic, for example—that this purifying influence cannot be relied upon to protect from specific infection. Nor can reliance be placed on the dilution which takes place in a laige stream. Recent experiments on the causative essential of typhoid fever point to matter in particulate form as the element of danger. Dilution does not dissolve and dissipate into innocuity, as the typhus miasm is dissipated by ventilation. It is there, and although one tumblerful may not contain it, another may.
Unquestionably the germ of disease and death “ is there,” and proves its deadly presence most expensively and tragically not less than 140,000 times every twelve months, and conditions are daily growing worse.
A gross evil forces itself upon our notice at this juncture, and one most dangerously neglected, even by several large cities throughout this country and continent. It is in proper sewering. As before indicated in this writing, most of the sewering done so far has been done in such a manner as to largely pollute and poison both the ground and the surface sources of water supply. And there end, with very few exceptions, all efforts at intelligent, economical, safe sewering.
Of course there is more or less excuse for this, besides greed and avarice bolstered by a class of voters already referred to. It is not long since fine-spun dreams concerning the self purification of streams as they flow, obtained. In fact they seem still to obtain with many, or something worse if we may judge from devices now constructing. But such dreams answered the objections of a bygone age. Fixed to the centre of the present, with the light of to-day’s science dashed through them, they prove to be but “words, words, words?” Test for yourselves, l’our constantly an eight foot stream of black ink from the centre of Brooklyn bridge into the stream that (lows under it. Will that stream puiify itself of that blackness solong as you keep pouring? Impossible. Ink will dilute, as alcohol does, exactly, according to mathematical proportions. Mayhap in water ; mayhap in sand, mayhap in silt on the stream’s bed. And there it must remain, as does the diluted sulphuric acid, iron, lead, sink, arsenic, which poison multitudes of ground water supplies throughout this continent in the primitive liver beds and many mountain streams. Positive proof of the fact that streams do not and cannot purify themselves of what is being incessantly poured into them is set before you at least a score of times every spring and summer. When a sufficient rain falls to wash the plowed ground, or the cuttings of ravines into thin mud that co’ors your home stream, do you ever see that stream “ clear up” till the mud ceases to come into it ? Never. It is not in the nature of things.
Of course it cannot be denied that living creatures in streams as in air and ocean, feed on and thus revive dead and decaying matter, which is, in fact, a very good, but also very limited process of purification. On the other hand all aquatic life breeds, and much of it very rapidly. And that seems to be especially the case with the disease germs under discussion. It is held that over 200,000 have been counted in a cubic inch of water, so that the fact that the different kinds prey upon one another only argues a chance for the survival of the fittest, which can simply mean that the stronger the germ the more copious the harvest, or dangerous the disease it develops.
Briefly, it appears unquestionably demonstrated by facts of sciem e and practice that, for the highest welfare of the greatest number, all sewage should be separated and the solids either cremated or safely put to economical uses, and the liquids neutralized and filtered before liberated. And thus, once mere, itapptars that the government should be duly informed and means devised and executed to meet this most urgent public want.
After quoting many authorities on impure water sources, Mr. Monjeau continued: Now, Mr. President and gentlemen, it is sineerely hoped that such a multitude of facts anil conclusions, arrived at and established by so many eminent authorities and repeatedly tested for from two to twenty years by over 300 careful, conscientious, systematically trained scientists from the best schools of both continents, with uniformly corroborative results, may be deemed worthy of your favorable consideration and may lead you to a hearty support of measures necessary to direct the earnest attention of the proper authorities to these destructive evils, and the public mind to a prompt and intelligent reception and application of such constitutional provisions and protection as may result.
In the hope of making the foregoing facts and suggestions of practical service, they have embodied in the following shorter and simpler suggestions or rules, namely :
- First purify and then filter all drinking water fur human beings, milch cows and house animals.
- Avoid sprinkling in and near the house with water polluted with disease germs.
- Drink no unpurified water from any well that is less than 500 feet from any privy, old or new, any cesspool, old cr new, if the water in such wells is below ten feet from the surface of the ground, and such well sunk through a thick bed of clay to water in sand and gravel unreached by surface drainage in the neighborhood.
- Drink no unpurified water from any kind of well reaching an underground flow of water coursing toward you and receiving any of the sewage of dwellings, graves, etc., within a distance not more than five miles.
- Drink no unpurified water from any well in immediate proximity to a dwelling, burial place, slaughter house, or any kind of sewer except the head of that well’s supply is so strong as to force its water steadily to the highest average level of a radius of five miles, and the source of supply is not less than ten miles distant (the water supplies of Memphis, Tenn.. Hamilton, O., afford safe, practical illustrations of the important principles upon which this suggestion or rule is founded; per contra, in this island is a well, drilled in granite for hundreds of feet, which revealed the presence of dangerous sewage pollution 4t several points to its deepest depth whilst being drilled).
- Proper water-works and proper sewerage are prime requisites in a civilized community deserving permanent pro gress.
- No hamlet, village, town or city of 200 souls and upwards should be without sufficient and proper water-works and sewerage.
- No water supply is sufficient and proper which is not free from disease germs and matters which effect disorder in consumers.
- No sewerage system is sufficient and proper which does not extract and consume, or safely utilizes the solids, and sterilizes and filters the liquids before lilrerating them.
- No water-works should be without a good accurate meter for every family or household. The meter is tire best existing check on water, which is even more dangerous than costly.
- Never “ shut off ” water for non-payment of dues. It is too dangerous for immediate consumers, and it exposes innocent neighbors to too many grave dangers.
- Trust not to chemical analysis alone.
- Rely on nothing less than the closest bacterial analysis. The too are none too safe.
- Cultivate the closest intimacy with your water shed, water sources and immediate supplies.
To Professors Leeds of New Jersey, Snow of the Kansas State University, Lanpenbeck, city analyst of Cincinnati ; MacFarlane, chief analyst of Canada ; Dr. A. W. Riley, practitioner of Omaha ; Monsieur Pasteur of France, my worthy professor and friend Kohler, of the University of Berlin, Prussia ; J. A. Davenport, engineer and inspector of the Nantwich Rural Sanitary Authority, Great Britain ; Rudolph liering. C. E., of this city, and Prof. Salmon, usually of Washington, D. C., I am under lasting obligations for many of the facts and experi mcnts and observations resulting in the above suggestions.
I firmly believe it is with you to say whether the great annual social and morally criminal waste of life and money shall continue or not. I firmly believe that this association, intimately connected as it is with the supplying of water to a large majority of the people, has but to call the attention of government to the actual condition of things in order to have radical remedial means quickly devised and applied. And I firmly believe it our solemn duty here and now to lay this matter clearly before the President and Congress, and let them bear the awful responsibility of longer inaction if they dare.
There can be no question as to the constitutional power of Congress to remedy such flagrant evils. Article I, sec. S, of the Constitution of the United States plainly and clearly provides that: “ The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises to pay the debts and provide for the common and general welfare of the United Slates, and to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for the carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.”
May I not here, then, in view of the foregoing facts, the graves of millions of strong young people who might now enjoy life and bless their homes and country ; the sorrow and desolation that succeed to their untimely demise; the thousands who are now languishing unto death ; the 240 graves that close every day over more victims amid the sobs and agonizing groans of loving one’s hearts—in view of such unutterable waste and desolation that are positively and readily preventable, may I not, I ask, submit these few words as the sense and request of this association to the proper authorities ? They read thus:
To the President and the Congress of the United States :
WHEREAS, it appears that the people are submitted to much discomfort, great suffering, the sorrows of death, and the nation to the annual loss of not less than 100.000 souls from among the younger and more energetic citizens by the spread of preventable diseases arising from the use of water poisoned by means of sewering into the ground and the surface sources of water supply ; and
WHEREAS, no betterment of existing conditions can reasonably be looked for except from the Federal Government, assisted by the States, and this great wrong and waste must not only continue, but rapidly increase, unless corrective measures be forthwith enacted and applied ;
Therefore, we most respectfully and urgently pray that you may be pleased to grant this weighty matter the prompt and careful attention it deserves.
Now, Mr. President and gentlemen, it seems to me that all these simple suggestions are so plain, the accompanying facts so clear, and your loyalty to home and country and kind so firm that there is no need of argument or effort of rhetoric to move you to prompt and vigorous support of an act so evidently and urgently needed, and a petition whose influence, if productive of intended results, can but evoke grateful thanks, not from this republic alone, but all the republics of this vast continent, and from all quarters of the globe where humans congregate and where homes are built and heart tendrils twine themselves about those lives and forms which God entrusts to parental arms at the altars of love.