Outgoing CTAWWA Chair Passes the Gavel

Stephen K. Rupar, P.E. a Vice President with Tata & Howard, formally passed the gavel of Chair to his successor at the 47th Annual Joint Meeting of the Connecticut Section of the American Water Works Association (CTAWWA) and the Connecticut Water Works Association (CWWA).

Passing the Gavel
Outgoing Chair Steve Rupar passes the gavel to Jen Muir.

Jennifer K. Muir, P.E., President of JK Muir, accepted the position as Chair of the CT Section of the AWWA, during a ceremony held on May 23, 2018 at the Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club located in Brewster, Massachusetts.

Approximately 80 guests working in water utility management, board and committee members from both organizations, and other industry professionals attended the three-day conference.

Every year, CTAWWA members and volunteers strive to improve public health and welfare by advancing the technology, science and governmental policies relative to the public drinking water industry’s role in the stewardship of water resources. In partnership with the CWWA, the Annual Joint Conference features technical sessions, legislative updates, national speakers, as well as enjoyable opportunities to network with colleagues and friends.

During Steve’s 8-year tenure as a Board member of the CTAWWA, he served two separate terms as Chair—in 2015-16 and most recently in 2017-18. “Working collectively, the Board solved some very difficult challenges facing the organization,” Steve said. “We corrected our budget deficits by improving the management of our finances.  We also dealt with a common issue facing many of our members, retirement.  We successfully replaced several long-serving volunteers and staff members, including two executive managers, two treasurers, and one secretary, all while maintaining and improving service to our members.  In addition, with the help of many volunteers and board members, we worked long hours to advance the educational programming to keep our members informed on cutting-edge technology.”

A member of the AWWA since 1994, Steve will continue working with the Water Resources Committee and the Education and Program Committee at the CT Section of the AWWA.  He will also be active on the Board in his new role as ‘Past Chair’.  “Over the years, I have come to appreciate the incredible value this organization provides. I look forward to strengthening the technical and educational programming at the Annual Conference, guiding young professionals towards fulfilling careers in the water environment, and improving the quality of services to our members.”

The 2019 Annual Joint Meeting and Conference is currently planned for May 22-24 at a location to be named soon.

For more information about the Connecticut Section of the American Water Works Association visit: www.ctawwa.org

About the American Water Works Association

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) is an international nonprofit scientific and educational society dedicated to the improvement of drinking water quality and supply. Founded in 1881, AWWA is the largest and oldest organization of water supply professionals in the world. Its more than 50,000 individual members represent the full spectrum of the drinking water community: treatment plant operators and managers, scientists, environmentalists, manufacturers, academicians, regulators and others who hold a genuine interest in water supply and public health. Membership includes more than 4,000 utilities that supply water to roughly 180 million people in North America.

The Connecticut Section – AWWA is comprised of those members who live and/or do business within the state of Connecticut. The CT Section membership is about 700 strong and represents more than 60 utilities that supply water to approximately 2.5 million Connecticut residents.

An Unlikely Connection to Safe Drinking Water

The Meatpacking Industry Changed How We Treat Drinking Water

In 1906, Upton Sinclair published his book The Jungle, and shocked the nation by bringing to light the extreme health violations and unsanitary practices occurring in the country’s meatpacking industry. The public outcry eventually led to reforms including the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMAI) of 1906.

Chicago Union Stockyards
The Chicago Union Stockyards at the turn of the century.

The reforms, at the turn of the century, of the filthy stockyards and contaminated facilities had another unlikely connection to the country’s water treatment practices.

Late in the summer of 1908, the livestock at the Chicago’s Union Stockyards, had trouble gaining weight. It was suspected, the problem was the cattle’s drinking water. It seemed that the cattle only gained weight when given Chicago city water and not from the filtered drinking water supplied from a nearby creek.

Bubbly Creek
A man stands among the pollution and fetid carcasses of Bubbly Creek.

The creek known as Bubbly Creek was a polluted tributary of the Chicago River, foul with decaying animal parts from the upstream meatpacking facilities and ‘bubbling’ with oozing methane and hydrogen sulfide.  A nearby filtration plant cleared the water of particles and debris before it was distributed to the animal drinking troughs, but the smell of rotten eggs was overwhelming. Poaching water from City’s water supply was illegal and the Bubbly Creek was the stockyard’s only other water source.

To supply the stockyard with clean water, something had to be done.

Filtration and Disinfection

The Chicago Union Stockyards hired George A. Johnson of the New York firm of Hering & Fuller to test the quality of the Bubbly Creek’s filtered water. Although he confirmed the filtration process was satisfactory, the bacterial count was extreme due to the high content of organic matter in the water.

Johnson began testing a germicide known as “chloride of lime” or bleaching powder in the filtered water. The results were astounding. With the addition of the chlorine disinfection, filtered Bubbly Creek water became cleaner that Chicago municipal water! The Union Stockyard’s drinking water problem was solved.

Years later, Johnson would use the example of Bubbly Creek to demonstrate that filtration and disinfection, were equally important in the treatment of safe drinking water.

Chlorine Used to Treat Drinking Water

The first use of bleaching powder, or chloride of lime, as a disinfectant was temporarily introduced in 1897 to the water distribution mains in Maidstone, England to treat a typhoid epidemic. During another typhoid epidemic of 1904-05, bleaching powder was used again to disinfect the water supply in Lincoln, England. Chlorination, it was thought, could disinfect and kill certain bacteria and other waterborne diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid in water sources.

Lincoln typhoid
The Lincoln, England typhoid epidemic.

Electrolytic solutions of sea water or salt water produced the same general effect as bleaching powder and had been used for treating water, sewer and for general disinfection for the past fifteen years in England, France and China.

But the first use of bleaching powder on a large-scale use in the U.S. began in 1908 and continued into 1909 at the large Boonton Reservoir owned by the Jersey City Water Supply Company. The water was treated at a rate of 40,000,000 gallons per day, primarily as a germicide to remove bacteria and was delivered to the approximately 265,000 residents of Jersey City, several miles away.

The Jersey City Water Supply Company was the first municipality to use chlorine as a disinfectant for water in the U.S.

The Best Water in the Country

Like all cities across the country at the time, Jersey City struggled with outbreaks of typhoid fever, especially during high bacterial counts from high water and floods. Typhoid could be transmitted through unsanitary water and the death rates from the city were recorded as high as 80 per 100,000 people in the early 1900’s.

Dr. John L. Leal
Dr. John L. Leal, adviser to the Chicago Water Supply Company.

At the Boonton Reservoir, Dr. John L. Leal, an advisor to the Jersey City Water Supply Company was consulted to solve the bacteria problem in the drinking water. In the past, Leal had experimented with electrolytic solutions of salt and liquid bleach to purify water.  He had discovered that only a fraction of a part per million (ppm) of chlorine would kill disease-causing bacteria and was convinced that adding a chemical disinfectant to the water supply was the best solution.

With an impending deadline of 90 days to treat the city’s drinking water, Leal needed to improvise a quick way to distribute chlorine. Unable to find suitable electrolytic equipment that would yield enough hypochlorite or liquid bleach, he partnered with George Warren Fuller, a filtration expert at Hering & Fuller. This was very same firm only a few years earlier, George Johnson used powdered ‘chloride of lime’ to disinfectant Bubble Creek in Chicago.

Treatment Building
The bleach powder sanitation building at the Boonton Reservoir.

Fuller designed a ‘sterilization’ system that would dissolve 5 pounds of bleaching powder per 1,000,000 gallons (as a bactericide), that would cause a chemical reaction of 0.2 parts of available chlorine per 1,000,000 gallons of water.  The water was treated as it left the Boonton Reservoir and flowed to the city.

Test results from the treated water from the Boonton Reservoir showed a dramatic decline of bacteria and the local typhoid fever rate—and according to a 1928 sanitary engineering report, “is not only of a high sanitary quality, but…it compares favorably with the best in the country.”1

History in the Making

Despite the low bacteria counts and decline in water-born illnesses, chlorinated water was not readily accepted by the City officials. Years of litigation followed between the City and the Jersey City Water Supply Company. The City was convinced the chemical treatment of the Boonton Reservoir had not proven satisfactory and the water supply company should install sewer works in the watershed. It was a political tug-of-war that ultimately proved very costly for the residents and tax payers.

Boonton Resevior
Water treatment facility at the Boonton Reservoir dam.

In June of 1909, Leal, Fuller and Johnson presented to the American Water Works Association (AWWA) membership, the detailed account of the continuous chlorination treatment of drinking water at the Boonton Reservoir. Their argument for the low-cost and safe treatment of drinking water by chemical disinfection was finally widely accepted. By the 1920s, chlorination was a well-established primary means of disinfecting drinking water across the country.

Today, millions of people get their drinking water from the nation’s public-supply systems that is filtered and safely treated with chemical disinfectants. History was in the making over a 100 years ago at the Chicago Union Stockyards and with the unlikely connection of providing safe drinking water across the country.



1Report of W.C. Mallalieu, Sanitary Engineer consultant, New York City, 1928.

Dam Safety Awareness Commemorates an Epic Flood

The Johnstown Flood of 1889

It had been raining heavily for several days in late May of 1889.  People living below in the narrow Conemaugh Valley were eager for the spring rains to end. Just a month earlier, deep snow had lined the steep ravines of the Allegheny Mountains range and the ground was sodden with the heavy spring runoff. Floodwaters at the South Fork Dam high above the City of Johnstown, Pennsylvania were causing the lake level to rise, threatening to overtop the large earth embankment dam.

Before the dam breachAs the spring rains continued, life was about to change for the working-class city of 30,000 and other communities beneath the South Fork Dam.

Originally constructed in 1852, the South Fork Dam provided a source of water for a division of the Pennsylvania Canal. After a minor breach in 1862, the dam was hastily rebuilt creating Lake Conemaugh. By 1881, the dam was owned and maintained by the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, who created a recreational area by the large lake, enjoyed by their elite clientele from nearby Pittsburgh.

Lake ConemaughFor the pleasure of their private members, club owners soon began modifications to the dam. Fish screens were installed across the spillway to keep the expensive game fish from escaping. The dam was lowered by a few feet so that two carriages could navigate the carriage road to the clubhouse. Relief pipes and valves that controlled the water level and spill off from the original dam were sold off for scrap, and rustic cottages were built nearby.

Ignored Warnings

Notoriously leaky, repairs to the earthen dam had been neglected for years.  As torrential rains came down, swollen waters from the lake put tremendous pressure on the poorly maintained dam. With fish screens trapping debris that kept the spillway from flowing and with no other way to control the lake level, the water kept rising.

Aftermath of floodClub officials struggled to reinforce the earthen dam, but it continued to disintegrate. When the lake’s water began to pour over the top, it was apparent that a catastrophic collapse was inevitable and imminent.  Frantic riders were sent down the valley to alert the local communities and tell them to evacuate.  Sadly, few residents heeded the alarm being so often used to the minor seasonal flooding from the Little Conemaugh river.

This time, however, the flood danger was much more serious and deadly.

On May 31, 1889 at 3:10pm, the South Fork Dam washed away, leaving a wake of destruction that killed 2,209 people and wiped the City of Johnstown off the map forever. It took only 10 minutes for the raging torrent of 20 million tons or about 4.8 billion gallons of water to rip through the communities of South Fork, Mineral Point, Woodvale, and East Conemaugh.

Along the way, the deluge accumulated everything in its path, including all sorts of debris—from city buildings, houses, and barns. Piles of boulders, trees, farm equipment, rolls of barbed wire, horse carriages, and railroad cars churned in the turmoil. Embroiled in the devastation were also animals and people—both dead and alive.

By the time the raging waters reached Johnstown at 4:07 pm, the mass of debris was a wave 45-feet-tall, nearly a half mile wide and traveling at 40 miles per hour.

Despite the shocking immensity of this tragedy, relief efforts to the ravaged communities began almost immediately. Emergency shelters for homeless residents popped up and the grim task of cleaning up began.  Volunteers and donations poured in from across the country and world, sending tons of supplies and help. One of the first to arrive was Clara Barton, who had founded the American Red Cross just a few years earlier.

aftermathIt would take months to sift through all the wreckage to find the bodies and years to fully recover from the aftermath.

Lessons Learned

It is widely thought the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club was to blame for the catastrophic failure of the South Fork Dam. Members of the club neglected to properly maintain the dam and made numerous dangerous modifications. Lowering the dam crest to only about four feet above the spillway severely impaired the ability of the structure to withhold stormwater overflow. The missing discharge pipes and relief valves prevented the reservoir from being drained for repairs and the elaborate fish screens clogged the spillway with debris. The club had also been warned by engineers that the dam was unsafe.

flood damageA hydraulic analysis published in 2016 confirmed what had long been suspected, that the changes made to the dam by the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club severely reduced the ability of the dam to withstand major storms.1

The South Fork Dam was simply unable to withstand the large volume of stormwater that occurred on that fateful day on May 31, 1889.

Although the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club failed to maintain the dam, club members were never legally held responsible for the Johnstown Flood after successfully arguing that the disaster was an “act of God.”

Due to what many perceived as an injustice and outrage towards the wealthy club members, American law was ultimately challenged and “a non-negligent defendant could be held liable for damage caused by the unnatural use of land”. This legal action eventually imposed laws for the acceptance of strict liability for damages and loss.

National Dam Safety Awareness Day

On May 31st, we commemorate the catastrophic failure of the South Fork Dam by recognizing this day as National Dam Safety Awareness Day.

The Johnstown flood or the Great Flood of 1889, as it was later known as, was the single deadliest disaster in the U.S at the time. This tragedy, 129 years later, is still a harsh reminder of the critical importance of the proper maintenance and safe operation of dams.

Earth embankment dams may fail due to overtopping by flood water, erosion of the spillway discharge channel, seepage, settling, and cracking or movement of the embankment.

Routine dam evaluations and inspections, as required by law, can identify problems with dams before conditions become unsafe.  Dams embankments, gatehouses and spillways, like other structures, can deteriorate due to weather, vandalism, and animal activity.  Qualified engineering firms can perform soil borings, soil testing, stability analyses, hydrologic and hydraulic modeling for evaluating spillway sizing and downstream hazard potential, arrange for under water inspections by divers, permitting, and assistance in applying for funding for repairs. Also required, are Emergency Action Plans (EAP) that identifies potential emergency conditions and specifies preplanned actions to be followed in the case of a dam failure to minimize property damage or loss of life.

The required frequency of dam inspections will vary depending on the state, but generally are based on hazard classification, with high hazard dams requiring more frequent inspection.   Generally dam inspections should be performed every two years for high hazard dams, unless the state requires more frequent inspections.  The best time of year for inspections is in the fall, when reservoir levels are typically low, and when foliage and tree leaves are reduced, allowing improved visibility around the dam.

A wealth of information on dam safety awareness, can be found at the Association of State Dam Safety Officials website






The Buzz about Honeybees and Water

Signs of spring are everywhere.  Flowers are blooming, leaves are budding on trees, and sneeze-inducing pollen is abundant.

Pollinating bee
Honeybees are important pollinators.

Spring is also the start of beekeeping season.  As one of our most important pollinators for our food crops, the health and survival of honeybees is vital to our ecosystem.

Just like all living things, bees need food and water. Honeybees however, cannot simply turn on a faucet for a drink and they rarely store water. Instead, honeybees must forage for water, bringing it into their colonies as needed, as they do pollen, nectar and propolis for their survival.

How Bees Use Water

There are several uses for water in a bee colony.

For brood to develop properly, the hive requires a constant temperature of approximately 94°F and relative humidity of 50-60%. Worker bees spread gathered water droplets on the rims of honeycomb cells, on top of sealed brood, and along the hive walls. To regulate the temperature and humidity in the hive, bees will fan their wings to evaporate the water to cool the hive—similar to how we use air conditioners to cool our own homes in the summer.

Bee brood
Honeybees need water to feed developing brood.

Nurse bees, who feed the developing eggs, larvae and pupae, also have a high demand for water. The nurses attending the brood, consume copious amounts of water, pollen, and nectar so that their hypopharyngeal glands can produce royal jelly used to feed the eggs. As the larvae develops, they are fed diluted honey, nectar, and pollen.

Honeybees make honey as a means of storing food to eat. This is especially important in the winter months when bees can’t forage for nectar and rely on stored honey for food.  But before bees can easily consume honey, it first must be diluted. Bees add water to dilute honey to 50% moisture. Honey will also crystallize if the temperature drops below 50ºF.  Bees use water to dilute the crystals back into liquid before they can eat it.

Where Bees Find Water

Bees find water in a number of places, often lining up on the edges of birdbaths, mud puddles, damp rocks, branches, and drops clinging to vegetation. Foraging bees swallow the water and store it in their crops before flying home. The water is then transferred to waiting worker bees in the hive—a process known as trophallaxis—the direct transfer from one bee to another.

Drinking Bees
Bees line up on the edge of a bird bath for water.

It has been estimated that under really hot and dry temperatures, bees may bring back nearly a gallon of water each day to their hives.

As honeybees search for water, they often find water in agricultural areas—runoffs in ditches, culverts, or stormwater in waterways—that may contains insecticides, pesticides or fungicides.  Plants sprayed with pesticides or treated with systemic insecticides exude sap and form drops on the tips of stems and leaves that bees consume. These toxins, brought back to the hive can impair bee development, contaminate honey, and sadly, can completely destroy a bee colony.

Clean water supplies are essential for the operation and survival of honeybee colonies. 

Creating Water Sources for Bees

Fortunately, bees are not too picky about the type water they need. Bees tend to select the most fragrant, nutrient-rich water sources they can find. It could be the odor of mud, leaf tannin, mold, bacteria, or even chlorine from nearby swimming pools that attract bees. Minerals, salts, and other natural organic materials found in water adds important nutrients and vitamins to the bee diet.

Bees on Rocks
Provide plenty of rocks, sticks and other materials for bees to perch on while drinking water.

It is widely thought it is the scent of the source that helps bees find water. Foragers will also mark unscented sources of water with their bee pheromones to communicate to others where to find these resources.

Providing fresh sources of water is easy to do. Water can be left in shallow trays, birdbaths, flower pots, and bowls—just about anything that will hold water. Bees don’t like to get their feet wet and cannot swim. So, remember to add small stones, sticks, and other floating materials, such as cork to these containers. This will allow bees to safely stand near the water source without drowning.

And, eliminate the use of systemic and applied pesticides, insecticides and fungicides—not only for the health and welfare of bees but for our own health and the environment.  Pesticides and other chemicals applied to farmlands, gardens and lawns can make their way into ground water or surface water systems that feed drinking water supplies.

As the weather heats up and the days turn hot and lazy, the bees will be busy. Honeybees will travel incredible distances for their food and water, often flying two miles or more visiting 50 to 100 flowers each trip and returning to the hive as many as twelve times a day. A single bee colony can pollinate up to 300 million flowers a day. As a vital part of our food source, bees also pollinate 70 of the top 100 food crops we eat.

So, help our little pollinators by providing sources of fresh water.

Please Do Not Flush

Please Do Not Flush

Even though a product may be small enough to flush, does not mean it should be. Flushing items down the toilet that are not meant to be flushed, including those labeled flushable, can lead to problems in the sewer system, at the wastewater treatment facility and for the environment.

This handy two-page infographic illustrates things never to flush!

Please Do Not Flush