Standards of Water Quality Discussed by A.W.W.A.

Standards of Water Quality Discussed by A.W.W.A.

Chemical and Bacteriological Section at Montreal Considers Paper on this Topic by Jack J. Hinman, Jr. — Importance of Section to Small Water Works Superintendents

(NOTE—Discussion on the paper on “Standards of Quality of Water,” by Jack J. Hinman, Jr., Water Bacteriologist and Chemist for Iowa Stale Board of Health).

DR. HURLEY—Mr. Chairman, it may be interesting to state some of my experiences with reference to this subject of many years ago. I was fortunate enough in 1880 to be sent abroad by the Government to study certain sanitary engineering matters, and while there happened to come in, I might say, at the birth of Bacteriology with reference to water supplies. At that time in London they were talking about what afterwards developed into bacteria. In Berlin and Paris they showed me some peculiar experiments that had been made. Paris was the only place where I found some suspicions with reference to the relation of water supply and disease. I am sorry that I do not recall the names of the gentlemen interested. Not being a chemist or a bacteriologist I merely was watching and interested in the progress. In 1883 I was appointed by the Chief Engineer of the water supply of Philadelphia to investigate a new supply for that city. I was the Engineer. The chemist was Dr. Levis, of the Hoboken Institute, and in going over this matter with Dr. Levis and Dr. Ludlow, who was the Chief Engineer of the department, we planned out what was best to be done to get a good water supply for Philadelphia. Dr. Ludlow handled the bacteriological end of it. Dr. Levis made some examination of the various sources that we were considering at the time, but without much result. It was the chemical analysis that he was chiefly making. Now what was I to do as an engineer? It seemed to me that the only thing, at the time, to say whether you had a good water supply or not, was to make a survey of the territory which was to furnish the water, and we made what we then termed, (and I think it was the first case of the sort, at least to that extent), a “sanitary survey” of this district, extending over 450 square miles more or less northwest of Philadelphia. A gentleman who died quite young, Dr. Mervin, whom some of you know, who was connected with the Engineering Record at that time, was the principal assistant, whom I employed for this sanitary survey relating to the diseases that occurred on the various water sheds that we examined. We published these records in the Water Works Department Reports of Philadelphia in 1883. This survey was made very extensively and I think it was very valuable and undoubtedly it has been repeated in a number of instances since. It showed what diseases were prevailing in these different water sheds. This was done by the bacteriologist.

We decided to have a topographical survey made which had never been done up to that time. We made a survey of these 450 square miles and made a map of them to the scale of 450 feet to the inch. We did it in this way. We singled out various surfaces that were to be surveyed, and besides the populations, (it was a regular census too), we determined the wood surface: the plowed surface, the agricultural surface, the road surface and the route surface in this way, and then the grass surface too. These maps were prepared under such titles that you could sec how many square miles of wood surface there were, how much grass area, how many were plowed, how much road surface, etc. Then we had analysis made. We had laid canals through this territory. We also found out how much rain fell. Now generally these results have been kept up. The rain records were also kept up in Philadelphia, I think, until quite recently, if it is not done yet.

There is no place in the world where you cannot connect the intensity of the rainfall with the turbidity of the water flowing over watered areas and plowed surfaces and road surfaces which make the water turbid. I thing in that respect that survey has done a great deal of good and is full of value, if the result would only be worked up by somebody, but you cannot get the city councils to appropriate money, for some of them said in my hearing these were “scientific playthings.” Still the records are there, and Mr. Davis, our president, chief engineer of that department now, told me that he was looking over that information again with reference to extending the work and extending the investigation for an increased supply for Philadelphia.

Now I think still, in our water supply, we ought to do more in regard to a sanitary survey of the water sheds. Personally, I have thought for many years that there were only two sorts which we should supply to the city; one natural filtered ground water, and the other, artificially filtered water. That is the law in Europe today, and has been for many years. No city is supplied with water unless it is ground water or filtered. In England they are not quite so particular. Mr. Easton said to me some years ago: “We think that a very large storage basin is sufficient because bacteria will gradually settle out and they were not in favor of filtering their water at that time.” That is about twelve years ago, I think. The London supply to a large extent is surface water, but on the continent, particularly in Germany, they are very strict about filtering surface water because it has been proved to be capable of pollution and many years ago, when I happened to be on the State Board of Health of Pennsylvania, I met with a case of that sort, just after the World’s Fair in Philadelphia, (where they had an epidemic of typhoid fever). We kept a record as to where the people who attended camfe from and so on, and one of these men went back to his home, at Barmouth, in the Mountains. He developed typhoid fever and his excretions were thrown out in the snow, and when the sun came out the snow melted, and his excretions went into a little brook that flowed into the reservoir supplying the water to the town. They had 1,100 cases of typhoid fever and about 10 per cent proved fatal.

Now, there was a perfectly clean line of water supply, and yet see what happened. For that reason they afterwards refused to allow into the city a water supply which had not been filtered, either naturally or artificially. And that seems to me to be the standard that is certainly going to come. Personally, I practice that. As far as the chemical standards that are to come are concerned, of course I have nothing to say, so I follow the lead of these gentlemen.

Mr. Goodell spoke of the important relation which the paper bore to the section and to the general association. He emphasized the fact that the publication committee considered the report of the committee on standards of water analysis the most important of the convention, apparently laboring under the impression that the paper by Mr. Hinman was that committtee’s report, Mr. Hinman being the chairman. Mr. Goodell said that the Chemical and Bacteriological Section had a most important bearing on the American Water Works Association in that superintendents of small water works had to wrestle with the purification problem and the association could help them through this section. He wanted to see the section develop into a great body, as he believed that it was the most important of the American Water Works Association. He said the publishing Committee felt that “the report of this Committee which is being presented to you here today is the most important thing that was happening, because we felt that out of this report and the other papers, Mr. Chairman, we could develop a good big section which would put the punch behind this matter of the quality of the water supplied, and we would make of the Association something that stood for a real standard, so far as it was desirable; something that would help the cause, would help the officials in determining the questions of consulting engineers, concerning chemists and bacteriologists, and determining the standard required, and we felt that out of the discussions by you gentlemen here at this meeting, would be drawn the American Water Works Association tests, as out of the meetings that were held in this hotel years and years ago developed the work that the American Public Health Association has been doing. Now for this reason, not speaking to the Chairman, and not trying to appear as a critic (which I am not competent to do), and speaking of the report as being the most important thing presented here at the association. I hope you will look at that as a means of getting together, organizing a great section, organizing work which will enable the water works managers, chemists, and bacteriologists, whether working for cities or States, to get together and put this water supply business to the forefront Now, why is it so important for you people to do that?—It is important for two reasons. We have in our American Water Works Association, a very large number of superintendents of small plants, men who have not been technically educated; they dread—now I am talking out in meeting because the only way to do this thing is to talk out in meeting and my friends, who have been going around and sounding them at this Convention have been talking—the submerging of their interests as superintendents, men who are responsible for the administration of the mechanical part of the plant; they dread the submerging of their work by the scientific elements and they are the men who have to be helped most of all. They are the men we have got to get and to whom we have to teach the facts; the chemists, bacteriologists; and the technical men are the men who can help them today more than any other persons, because you know the time is coming when the water works manager who does not furnish pure water is likely to have an awful hard time in courts when the results of impure water are demonstrated.”

MR HINMAN—I think apparently from what Mr. Goodell said he thought that the paper was the report of the Committee.


MR. HINMAN—It was not. It was simply a part of another paper.

THE CHAIRMAN—I think what Mr. Goodell said about the relation of this section to the main body is quite pertinent.

MR. GORE—I would just like to make one remark which follows from what Dr. Hurley has said. I was very familiar with conditions over in England, at the time of which he spoke. At that time, I was chief assistant to Alexander Penny, and the impression I had with regard to the attitude toward water supply was quite different from what Dr. Hurley stated. The idea to my mind was that all surface water should be filtered, and I think the idea must have come through Dr. Hostig’s experience in storing water. Dr. Hostig had great faith in the storing of water, although he did not carry it out. They did not store the water in anything like the way that Dr. Hostig wished to do it. It is my impression that the whole question of water works engineering in England was, first, to get a good source. That is, you selected an area free from contamination if you could, and if you could not, you did the best you could with it, and all surface waters were to be drained off. That is my impression.

MR. HOWARD—I too am particularly interested in this paper of Mr. Hinman’s, because from the water works point of view we realized quite a long time ago that supplies should be taken under the standardization of the quality and of the methods used where water is occasionally affected. However, it would seem as though we should go very slow on this matter of the preparation of standards because the standards which might apply in one city might be absolutely unsuitable for another city.

Going back a little to the standards of the American Public Health Association, which are generally in use in the United States and Canada at the present time, it has been found that the standards in use in some cities may give results, while in another it may give no results at all. The standards that might be good in one instance frequently fail in different qualities of water. The chemical standards seem a difficult matter because of the enormous difference in chemical contents of lake, river and well waters. And the chemical standard would seem to be much more difficult, for the reasons proviously stated, and I think we should go very slow in formulating any standards until a better opportunity has been presented, and different surveys taken at the different points of the United States to determine what cities are in a position, not only to accept, but to carry out these standards, providing this Association should formulate any set of standards.

MR. ORCHARD—I desire to say in spite of what might subsequently come up in connection with the following papers, that four years ago at Richmond I presented a synopsis of standards then existing in various parts of the country which, though not recognized as standards, were the yardsticks of water supply throughout the country. Now there is no question about the difficulty in the adoption of standards for water. I cannot think of a much harder problem, but we have standards in most everything. We have standards in most everything that goes into pure food. We have standards in metal, we have standards in everything other than water, that is, which enter into the preservation of the public health. Now it is obvious that the real object of the standard is to give a yardstick by which the value of the water supply can be measured, and until we have such a yardstick the speaker can see great obstacles in the way of getting the public, who, in the last analysis, are the fellows to pay the bills, to evidence such interest in material improvements in water supply matters that State Departments of Health, the City Departments of Health, and Water Works and Water Companies will be able to get enough money to carry out the improvements which they need. Although the obstacles in the way of getting these are tremendous until we are able to say to the town of “A,” your town does not measure up, and the town of “B” does, so that the people of “A” will get behind the officials and give the necessary money to bring up “A” to “B.” Until then, you are not going to get what you should get in water appropriation work. That, in my opinion, is the most important feature of this proposition.

(To be continued)

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