The secretary of the State Board of Health, in an effort to secure information concerning public water supplies and sewers in the cities and towns of the state, has addressed questionnaires to about 100 mayors in Tennessee. In thirteen of the thirty-five towns from which answers have been received, the water supply is taken from springs. Deep wells are sources of supply in ten towns, the water for four is taken from rivers, a creek and a “town spring” furnish the water for one, while five have no public water supply. The source of supply was not stated in one answer.

Water Plants Owned

Twenty-two own their own water plants, while one is owned by the. county, and seven are privately owned, the other five having no public supply. In two of the thirty-five towns the public water supply goes to every home, while in six 95 per cent or more of the homes are so supplied. Three towns furnish water to at least 90 per cent of their homes, four to at least 85 per cent, and two to at least 80 per cent. Of the other eighteen towns, only three furnish water to 50 per cent of their homes, and four to 25 per cent. One town owning its own water supply puts water into only 15 per cent of its homes. The information as to number of homes supplied from public sources and the number not so supplied could not be furnished in three instances. Approximately 40 per cent of the homes in the towns having their own municipally owned water plants are not connected with the public supply.

Few Changes Contemplated

Only six contemplate changes, while twenty-nine are content with the water plants now in use, notwithstanding the fact that fifteen of the mayors who answered the questionnaires declare themselves as believing that changes are needed, while three decline to commit themselves on this point.

Bacteriologic tests are made at regular intervals to determine the safety of water in only ten of the thirty-five towns. Only six have any system of purification in use and only four of these employ automatic devices for chlorination, one treating the water only during the summer months. One mayor writes that, though the water for his town is pumped raw straight from a much-polluted river into the mains, and though no tests are ever made, he does not consider that any changes are needed. The county in which this mayor lives had twelve deaths from typhoid fever in 1917. and thirteen deaths of babies less than two years old from enteritis were reported from this county last year.

Sanitary Engineer Proposed

It is the purpose of the board eventually to secure the passage of an act authorizing the employment of a sanitary engineer, whose duty it will be to make a survey of these matters with a view of instructing the people of the towns and cities as to the importance of proper sewerage and a pure water supply as the best means of preventing the spread of epidemic diseases. The subject is one of supreme importance, especially in view of the ravages of the late epidemic of influenza. It has been established beyond controversy that those cities enjoying pure water supplies and adequate sewerage suffered less front the epidemic than those where these things were lacking. Lack of sewerage and a pure water supply is a menace to public health and typhoid epidemics are usually traceable to these causes.

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