This Is a Man-Sized Problem—Methods Adopted in Utica, N. Y.—Changes in Population Areas Must Always Be Watched

THE protection of the watershed of a city which is surrounded by agricultural country is a man’s-sised problem. Utica’s troubles treated in the following paper are very largely troubles of many other cities and the suggestions of Professor Hodges will be found of value to many other superintendents whose problems are of a similar nature:

Many years ago, before the explosion of the fatal fallacy that water would spontaneously purify itself if allowed to run for a short distance exposed to the open air, in one of Utica’s suburbs a good old doctor who conducted a cheese factory as a side issue, and who owned a hillside grove which was the source of fine spring water, piped this water to his cheese factory and residence. As the years went on other houses were connected to this supply until finally the doctor’s spring constituted the village water system for domestic use and industrial purposes, as well as fire protection. Meantime the upland swamp which had furnished the water for these springs was drained and became arable soil, receiving liberal quantities of manure and other fertilizer; coincident with this change the water deteriorated in quantity and quality and was, to say the least, a subject of suspicion, which finally became so acute that the spring supply was discontinued and substituted by water from the mains of the Utica Water Company.

Insidious Changes in Water Supply

This nearby illustration is typical of the condition of a multitude of other water supplies. In the early days when swamps and water courses received little if any polluting material, the water was so wholesome that several generations used it without any untoward effects, but after the forests were cut off and the swamps drained, with the resulting agricultural development, the run-off was at certain seasons polluted. So slowly and insiduously do these changes take place, however, that in some cases, the evil is done before it is fully recognized, and it is not until sickness forces it upon the attention of those in charge of the water supply that measures are taken to combat these dangerous conditions.

In reply to a request made to the State Department of Health, that body prepared a set of rules and regulations for the sanitary protection of the public water supply of the city of Utica, and all the preliminaries having been complied with, these rules went into effect in 1897.

Plans for Purifying Utica’s Supply

A detailed and circumstantial inspection was made of the entire southern watershed, and improvements and changes were inaugurated which have been continued to the present time. The officials of the company imposed no restrictions upon the executive in charge of these sanitary matters, cesspools were constructed, house toilets provided with concrete or watertight galvanized iron lined boxes, house drainage properly disposed of and in one case land and ‘buildings acquired at considerable expense, so that we could control and remove a cider mill that formerly discharged its pomace and other refuse into one of the principal reservoir feeders. At certain seasons a rush of dark colored swamp waters produced an objectionable coloration in the supply and also furnished ample supplies of food for those undesirable animal and plant forms which impart objectionable tastes and odor to the water. To obviate this condition we ditched these swamps and the water thus having an obstructed runoff came into our reservoirs free from the humus which had previously caused considerable complaint. Incidentally it may be interesting at this time, when our fuel supply is so depleted, to know that we dug through several abundant supplies of peat, capable of furnishing an excellent fuel if dried and properly prepared.

The experience gained during the years between the inauguration of this watershed care and the introduction of the West Canada water, was fully utilized in connection with the new watershed. Several small hamlets upon this new area were radically changed in their sanitary aspect, manure boxes were constructed, privies boxed, and septic tanks placed to receive house drainage.

Patrol of the Watershed

A force of men was employed to clean up the unsanitary places and a constant and rigid patrol was exercised with the result that the sanitary conditions of the entire watershed was greatly improved. In 1906-7 the great state dam at Hinckley was completed and when this reservoir was filled a new water level was created which in many cases entirely submerged the expensive sanitary improvements we had made. As would naturally be expected, we have not carried on this work without meeting with some opposition from those who fancied their rights were being infringed, or who from pure cussedness denied us the privilege of improving the sanitary condition of their premises. In some instances it has been necessary to invoke the law and the courts have enjoined several parties who were violating the rules and regulations which were enacted for the sole purpose of safeguarding the water supply of more than 100,000 people. That feature of the work pertaining to the emptying of toilets is so repugnant that any device that does away with this disagreeable task is greatly to be desired To obviate the necessity of the human agent in this matter we have turned to the septic tank after investigation and trial of several types, we have decided that the Kentucky Sanitary Privy best meets our demands for a “uniformly safe, inexpensive device, simply constructed, fly proof, water tight and practically odorless, and so largely self-operating as to require little care and no handling of its contents.” The Kentucky Privy was designed by Dr. J. N. McCormick, chief sanitary inspector of the Kentucky State Board of Health, and the plans were first given to the public in the bulletin of Kentucky State Board of Health for May 1916. Our engineering corps has installed a number of these Kentucky privies and so far they have given perfect satisfaction.

Hydrogen-Ion Concentration

Ozone, violet rays, and chlorine have all been used for the purpose of water purification, but everything considered, efficiency, practicability and cost, the chlorine treatment is probably superior to ozone or violet rays, and when chlorine is properly used it is unquestionably the cheapest and best method for making a water safe for dietetic use.

The modern concept of an element is that it is an aggregate of unit electric charges called electrons, grouped about a centrally neutralizing positive charge. The number and arrangement of these electrons distinguishes the elements (hard rubber triangles). An atom or group of atoms carrying an electric charge is called an ion, those with the positive charge are cations and those with negative charges are called anions. Hydrogen-ions are believed to consist of a positive charge alone. Litmus, phenol phtalein, and other indicators have been used for years to indicate the acid or alkaline character of a substance, but application of the electric theory has given us a method far more accurate and trustworthy than the use of the timehonored litmus or other indicators, and we now express the reaction of a substance in terms of hydrogen concentration or as it is symbolized the pH value. This value may be determined by an elaborate and expensive electrical equipment or by means of a series of prepared colored solutions of known pH value, and of moderate expense. Such solutions are called comparators. Investigation has shown that the pH value has an important bearing upon a number of water works problems. Among them the corrosion of metals, with special reference to iron pipes and “red water.” the effect upon the vitality of low animal and vegetable life in water and the operation of filtration plants. The literature of the subject is somewhat abstruse, but the practical application of this theory of hydrogen-ion concentration is so important in its applications that I believe the near future will see it very generally employed.

Hardness of Water

Although all of those present are familiar with the term hard and soft as applied to waters, I do not believe we fully realize how important a matter it really is. Carbon dioxide, a waste product from the natural processes of fermentation, decay and putrefaction produced in enormous quantities by respiration and combustion, dissolves in water to produce a weak acid and thus a drop of rain water becomes an agent capable of dissolving rock material. All the great caves and caverns of the world have been dissolved out of limestone. Mammoth cave, Luray caverns and others are all the result of the action of this weak carbonic acid. Granites, sandstones and other siliceous rocks are effected but little by this weak acid, while limestones are very susceptible to it. This acid brought down to the earth by the rain drops, dissolves the lime and magnesian rocks, making solutions of the bicarbonates which may be clear, sparkling, and palatable, but possessing the quality we describe by the words “hard waters.” When we use these waters for domestic purposes or industrial purposes, we must overcome this hardness. In the laundry we use sal soda, borax or other alkaline substances to soften’ the waters. If these permutit substances are not used then it devolves upon the soap to soften the water and the portion of soap used for this purpose is lost for cleaning purposes. In other words, the soap added to water to produce a lather, the visible indication of the softening, is really thrown away and wasted so far as doing any cleaning or detersive action.

(Continued on page 701)

How Should Watershed Be Protected?

(Continued from page 681)

One grain of calcium or magnesium carbonate in one gallon of water will in one million gallons of water require 200 pounds of soap to produce a lather.

Twenty thousand residences in Utica consume an average of 37,000 gallons water per year. Assuming that soap is used with one half the supply or 18,500 gallons the W. C. water with a hardness of about 30 will require about six and one half pounds soap to produce a lather.

Water of 83 hardness will require almost three times as much soap.

(Excerpts from paper read before the New 5.ork Section of the American Water Works Association at Utica, N. Y.


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