Sanitary Condition of the Capitol.
The experts employed to investigate the sanitary condition of the national capital, Dr. John S Billings of the SurgeonGeneral’s office and Colonel George Waring Jr., of Newport, R. L, after a searching examination, with the help of trained assistants, during the last six weeks, have handed in their report. It shows that the elaborate appliances for mechanical heating and ventilation are in the main satisfactory, though minor modifications and emendations are suggested in the Senate wing. The drainage of the building, its sewers and its plumbing appliances are, on the contrary, extremely defective and faulty. The examination has included the searching out of obscure lines of piping of the most complicated character ; the locations of the waste pipes of the various fixtures, and the investigation of the character of traps, pipe connections, etc., and the clear representation of all parts of the work, new and old, by plans, diagrams, sketches and a minute detailed description. This is the first time that any one has known the character, condition and arrangement of this work. Now that it is known the knowledge is, says Colonel Waring, by no means reassuring. He continues, in part : “ The sewer of the old capitol—the central building—is about ninety years old, and the principal pipes of the drainage system are nearly as old. The original work of the wings is about forty years old. Most of the drainage of the capitol was put in at a time when no one knew how the work ought to be done. The result is a condition which it would not be fair to criticise, but at which we may well stand aghast. The more recent extensions of the plumbing have, naturally, been made little by little, in accordance with the existing work, and on the same general system. The experts recommend the renewal of the entire plumbing, except the water supply pipes. The cost of this is estimated at under $70,000, which surely is a reasonable price to pay for transforming the national capitol from one of the worst drained buildings in the country to one of the very best. There arc, in all, nearly 350 plumbing fixtures, water closets, bowls, etc., and there are about 100 vertical soil pipes and waste pipes. Most of these arc built into the walls ; many of them, put in forty years ago or more, have probably been eaten out by rust, leaving only unprotected holes in the masonry. The branch pipes are of infinite variety, and are largely built into the solid arches supporting the floors. Every waste pipe in the building is trapped at its lower end, with no inlet for fresh air. Not one of the waste pipes extends above the roof for ventilation. The Supreme Court toilet room is a sanitary curiosity. Under a sink in the kitchen a 3-incb branch pipe, in full connection with the waste pipe, has been thrown out of use, cut off and left open. In preparing for this examination, five wheelbarrow loads of grease were taken out of a 2-foot brick sewer that is used as a kitchen drain.
“ If the capitol were a private building, and were in its present condition as to its plumbing, the board of health of the district would probably order it closed as a dangerous nuisance. It is to be remembered, however, that huge fans are constantly at work forcing fresh air and drawing foul air out, so that there is not much chance for the accumulation of what is called ‘sewer gas,’ but its production must be constant, and the condition is one that would not be tolerated in a prison or an asylum.”