Conditions at Auburn.
Last year Auburn, N Y., suffered considerably from typhoid fever, and it was noticed that the proportion of cases that occurred among the operatives of certain mills was unusually great. This was found to be the case, because in some of these mills there were local sources of pollution. Engineers Hazen and Whipple, of New York city, were consulted on the matter, and from their report the following condensed excerpts have been made.
The fire insurance companies require the mills in the city to have two independent sources of water for fire protection—one the city supply; the other from the nearest stream or well, the water of which is as likely as not to be contaminated. 1 bus, though there are two sources ot supply, there is but one system of distribution pipes in and round the factory. Of these two sources, one, as has been said, is taken from he street main and enters the one system of distribution. passing through a gate and check-valve, ben through a service-pipe to the mill, where it supplies automatic sprinklers and furnishes water for drinking, sanitary purposes, etc. The auxiliary supply is taken from the river, frequently below the entrance of sewers, and, when used, is pumped into the system at the point already reterred to, the check-valve being intended to* prevent t his water from flowing back into the street main. As a rule, the pressure maintained by the lire pump of the mill is greater than that of the city mains. The fire pump is intended to be used only at times of fire; but the insurance companies require that the pump shall be operated once each week to make sure that it is in -good working order. According to this arrangement of pipes, therefore, whenever the fire pump is used, the polluted water of the river may be pumped into the factory through the pipes mentioned, and thus at such times the drinking water in the mill is unsatislactory in quality. Although the fire pump may be operated only a short time during these weekly trials, the system is likely to be filled with contaminated water from the river, so that the danger to the operatives may extend over a longer period than that during which the pump is actu ally operated. If the check-valve were perfectly light, there would be no danger of the city supply being contaminated by this arrangement; but check valves are almost never tight and have a habit of sticking so as to leave the ports nearly always wide open. Thus the probabilities are that the river water wi 1 be pumped into the city mains, also, because of the greater pressure maintained by the fire pump. This was proved to be so in the case of some of the Auburn mills.
As to the remedies: Several have been suggested. One is to use two check-valves, instead ot one. But this does not always protect the mill hands against polluted water. Indicators, also, that give an alarm, in case the check-valve leaks, are not satisfac tory, inasmuch as they do not always close the valves. One, and the sole adequate remedy, of course, is to take the auxiliary supply from a source that is pure; another, to have an entirely separate distribution system loi the auxiliary supply. Both of these remedies are being adopted in various places. Sometimes the auxiliary supply is taken from a small reservoir or basin constructed on the grounds and filled with city water. Local conditions, of course, must rule; but, so far as Auburn is concerned, the report of the experts is to the eftect that the board of water commissioners would be justified in refusing to furnish water to any mill through pipes that are so arranged -that they may receive water from another source of supply subject to contamination. The safety of the drinking water supply of the mills and the protection of the supply in the city mains should not depend upon check-valves.
At some of the mills in Auburn there are separate water supplies for use in case of fire, taken from the polluted water of the river. This water is pumped into pipes, which are directly connected with the city mains. In spite of check valves, this polluted water not only reaches the operatives in the mills, but at times is forced into the mains of the city. Experiences in many cities have shown this to be a dangerous condition. and. in view of this danger, it is recommended that appropriate steps he taken to have the city mains disconnected from all pipes so arranged that they can receive water from a source ot supply subject to contamination. “The safety of the water supply of the city should not he allowed to depend upon check-valves, which are notoriously faulty in operation. The use of double check valves cannot be considered as a permanent solution of this problem.”
The report of the expert engineers shows clearly enough that the present system of auxiliary lire supplies of water used at Auburn mills is dangerous, because, in taking water from contaminated sources, such as the Owasco river, the check-valves, often leaky, permit contaminated water to enter the city mains.