6 Facts About Lead In Drinking Water

6 Facts About Lead In Drinking Water

Drinking Water contaminated with lead can be a health hazard.

Whether water comes from a Public Water System or a private well, water contaminated with lead is most likely the result from corrosion of the plumbing materials, lead pipes, or the service lines from the water main in the street to the building.

Here are some facts about lead contamination and tips to avoid lead in drinking water.

6-Facts-About-Lead-in-Drinking-Water

Please feel free to print and share our 6 Lead Facts Infographic with attribution to Tata & Howard, Inc.

The History of Fluoride

The History of Fluoride

Fluoride in History

After the common cold, tooth decay is said to be mankind’s second most common disease. Because the mouth is a primary entryway into the body, bacteria caused by poor oral health, can easily enter the bloodstream and cause infection and inflammation wherever it spreads. From arthritis to dementia and cardiovascular disease to diabetes—all these ailments, and many more, have been associated with poor oral health.

Tooth AnatomyEven so, that millimeter of enamel making up the outer part of the tooth is the hardest substance of the human body and can outlast even the human skeleton when interred.  In fact, the oldest vertebrate fossil relics going back 500 million years are teeth. Despite these details, teeth can be surprisingly fragile and prone to decay.

Our teeth and gums, so often taken for granted, have until as recently as the mid-twentieth century, a very interesting and painful past.

A Toothless History

Tooth decay is not merely a modern disease; scientists have discovered mankind has suffered from dental disease throughout history. During the early years of human history, evidence shows ancient hunter-gatherers did not suffer too greatly from tooth decay. Rather, the shift in poor oral health occurred with the transition to agricultural societies and the introduction of crops that were high in carbohydrates and sugars.  The consumption of these bacteria-causing foods destroyed tooth enamel.

That change in diet was the beginning of centuries of barbarous dentistry and a mouthful of pain.

Young or old, rich or poor—no one was immune to the ravages of toothaches, swollen bleeding gums, and tooth loss. It wasn’t until the reign of Louis XIV in the early 17th century, when fashionable society demanded—more for appearance than for eating—solutions for missing teeth. With that, Pierre Fauchard, who was to be called the “Father of Dentistry,” introduced a new era of dental care. He not only practiced more humane tooth extraction, he also developed the first dental drill and methods for filling cavities, learned to fill a root canal, and introduced a spring to the upper portion of his ivory-carved dentures to keep them in place.

false teethStill, with these advances in dentistry, tooth loss and decay persisted.  Since ancient times, it was widely thought that toothaches were caused by worms that destroyed teeth. It wasn’t until 1890, when a dentist named Willoughby Miller identified that tooth decay was caused by a certain type of bacteria that thrives on sugar, creating an acid that ate away at tooth enamel.

But preventing tooth decay was still a mystery.

Brown-Stained Teeth

Dentists in Colorado wondered why their patients had mottled, discolored teeth. The cause of the brown-stained tooth enamel, it was discovered, was from high levels of fluoride in the water supply. Dr. Frederick McKay, the dentist spearheading this research, found that teeth afflicted by the “Colorado Brown Stain,” as it was called, were surprisingly resistant to decay.

Dr. McKay
Dr. Frederick McKay

Fluoride, which is a component of tooth enamel, is also found naturally in many foods we eat and is detected in water supplies around the world—as it was in water supplies to the small Colorado towns of Dr. McKay’s research. At low concentrations, fluoride can be beneficial to healthy teeth. However, too much exposure can have adverse effects, such as dental fluorosis, which causes tooth enamel to become mottled and stained.

Fluoride in Water and Other Sources

By the early 1930s, Dr. H. Trendley Dean, head of the Dental Hygiene Unit at the National Institute of Health (NIH) began investigating the prevalence of dental fluorosis, and exposure to fluoride in drinking water. After considerable debate, on the afternoon of January 25, 1945, powdered sodium fluoride was added to the Grand Rapid’s municipal water supply in Michigan.

Smiling Kids

Dentists stress that fluoride strengthens the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to tooth decay and thereby can greatly help dental health. However, most people now receive fluoride in their dental products, such as toothpaste, gels, and mouth rinses.

 

My Water's Fluoride

The public can search the CDC’s My Water’s Fluoride website to research fluoride levels in their drinking water.

State Revolving Fund Loan Program

Financial Assistance through the State Revolving Fund

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), is now accepting Project Evaluation Forms (PEFs) for new drinking water and wastewater projects seeking financial assistance in 2019 through the State Revolving Fund (SRF).  The SRF offers low interest loan options to Massachusetts cities and towns to help fund their drinking water and clean water projects. PEFs are due to the MassDEP Division of Municipal Services by August 24, 2018, 12:00 PM.

Water Main ReplacementFinancing for The Clean Water SRF Program helps municipalities with federal and state compliance water-quality requirements, focusing on stormwater and watershed management priorities, and green infrastructure. The Drinking Water SRF Program, provides low-interest loans to communities to improve their drinking water safety and water supply infrastructure.

This year, the MassDEP Division of Municipal Services (DMS) announced the following priorities for SRF proposals.

  • Water main rehabilitation projects which include full lead service replacement (to the meter) – this is a high priority for eligibly enhanced subsidy under the Drinking Water SRF.
  • Reducing Per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) contaminants in drinking water.
  • Asset Management Planning to subsidize Clean Water programs.
  • Stormwater Management Planning for MS4 permit compliance and implementation.

In addition, Housing Choice Communities will receive a discount on their SRF interest rate of not less than 1.5%.

Summaries of the Intended Use Plans (IUP), will be published in the fall, which will list the project name, proponents, and costs for the selected projects. After a 30-public hearing and comment period, Congress will decide which programs may receive funding from the finalized IUPs.

To Apply for SRF Financing

Tata & Howard is experienced with the SRF financing process and is available to help municipalities develop Project Evaluation Forms along with supporting documentation, for their local infrastructure needs.

Please contact us for more information.

The MassDEP Division of Municipal Services are accepting Project Evaluation Forms until August 24, 2018 by 12:00 PM.

 

We Can Help

For more information on the MassDEP State Revolving Fund and assistance preparing a PEF contact us.

October 25th – NH Drinking Water Exposition and Trade Show

2018 NH Drinking Water Expo & Trade Show.

We’ll be at the 2018 NH Drinking Water Exposition a& Trade show on October 25th. Be sure to stop by our Booth #21 to say ‘Hi’ and register to win a gift card!

Grapphone CenterAttending this Expo & Trade Show is a great opportunity for anyone working in the pubic water system to meet other professionals and share ideas related to the drinking water industry.

See you there!

The 2018 NH Drinking Water Expo & Trade Show

When: Thursday, October 25
Where: Grappone Conference Center, Concord, NH.

PFAS – Emerging Contaminants in Drinking Water

PFAS – Emerging Contaminants in Drinking Water

Health Advisory Guidelines for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances Detected in Public Water Systems

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced in early June, and through the Office of Research and Standards (ORS), its recommendations on the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 3 (UCMR 3) for emerging contaminants-specifically Perflourinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS).

PFAS or Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a group of man-made compounds that include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perffluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perflouroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), and perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS).

US map of PFASAccording the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all these UCMR 3 PFAS compounds have been detected in public water supplies across the US. Since PFAS are considered emerging contaminants, there are currently no established regulatory limits for levels in drinking water. However, in 2016, the EPA set Health Advisory levels (HA) of 0.07 micrograms per liter (µg/L) or 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for the combined concentrations of two PFAS compounds, PFOS and PFOA.

MassDEP’s ORS established drinking water guidelines that follows the EPA’s recommendations for health advisory levels at 70 ppt, which applies to the sum total of five PFAS chemicals – PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, PFHXS, and PFHpA.  And, if the level of contamination poses unacceptable health risks to its customers, Public Water Systems (PWS) must take action to achieve safe levels. They also must provide public notice.

The EPA and MassDEP’s recommended guidelines for PFAS include:

  • Public Water Suppliers take immediate action to reduce levels of the five PFAS to be below 70 ppt for all consumers.
  • Susceptible health-risk groups (pregnant women, infants, and nursing mothers) should stop consuming water when the level is above 70 ppt.
  • Public Water Systems must provide a public Health Advisory notice.

Water testingThe EPA also recommends that treatment be implemented for all five PFAS when one or more of these compounds are present.

Although, PFAS are no longer manufactured in the United States, PFAS are still produced internationally and can be imported in to the country1.  PFAS have been in use since the 1940’s and are persistent chemicals that don’t breakdown, accumulate over time in the environment and in the human body.  Evidence shows that prolonged exposure PFAS can have adverse effects on human health and the ecology.

PFAS can be found in:

  • Agricultural products grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water, and/or handled with PFAS-containing equipment and materials.
  • Drinking water contaminated from chemical groundwater pollution from stormwater runoff near landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and firefighter training facilities2.
  • Household products, including nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and stain and water-repellent fabrics.
  • Firefighting foams2, which is a major source of groundwater contamination at airports and military bases where firefighting training occurs.
  • Industrial facilities that manufactured chrome plating, electronics, and oil recovery that use PFAS.
  • Environmental contamination where PFAS have built-up and persisted over time – including in fish, animals and humans.

While most states are relying on the EPA’s Health Advisory levels (including Massachusetts), some, such as Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, Arizona, and Colorado have addressed other UCMR 3 PFAS pollutants as well.

Boy drinking waterMost research on the effects of PFAS on human health is based on animal studies. And, although there is no conclusive evidence that PFAS cause cancer, animal studies have shown there are possible links. However, PFAS ill-health effects are associated with changes in thyroid, kidney and liver function, as well as affects to the immune system.  These chemicals have also caused fetal development effects during pregnancy and low birth weights.

PFAS are found at low levels throughout our environment—in foods we consume and in household products we use daily. PFAS in drinking water at levels higher than the EPA’s recommendations does not necessarily mean health risks are likely. Routine showering and bathing are not considered significant sources of exposure. And, while it is nearly impossible to eliminate all exposure to these chemicals, the risk for adverse health effects would likely be of concern if an individual continuously consumed higher levels of PFAS than the guidelines established by the EPA’s Health Advisory.

MassDEP is continuing its research and testing for PFAS in Public Water Systems.  Large Public Drinking Water Systems have already been tested and sampling indicated that approximately 3% had levels of PFAS detected. MassDEP is currently working with smaller Public Water Systems to identify areas where PFAS may have been used or discharged to the environment.

As more information and regulations develop on this emerging contaminant, MassDEP will continue to communicate their findings. Tata & Howard is also available for any questions that may arise, as well as, assist with testing and recommend treatment options for our clients.

 

1 In 2006, the EPA and the PFA industry formed the PFOA Stewardship program to end the production of PFAs.

2 MassDEP in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services (MassDFS), announced in May a take-back program to remove hazardous pre-2003 firefighting foam stockpiles and be neutralized. Manufacturers stopped making PFAS foam in 2002 and have since developed fluorine-free and more fluorine stable foams that are safer to the environment.

Tata & Howard Announces Four Scholarship Winners

Check out some of our other scholarship programs

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Tata & Howard Announces Four Scholarship Winners

Donald J. Tata Engineering Scholarship Awarded to Marlborough and Natick High School Seniors

Tata & Howard announced it’s 2018 Donald J. Tata Engineering Scholarship winners.  Graduating seniors from Marlborough High School, Igor De Moraes and Amanda Vilensky; and seniors from Natick High School, Kevin Zheng and Rebecca McCue, each received the $1,000 scholarship sponsored by Tata & Howard and the Tata family.

Donald J. Tata Scholarship Winner
Karen Gracey and Jenna Rzasa present Kevin Zheng with his scholarship check.

This annual scholarship was instituted in memory of Donald J. Tata, P.E., co-founder and former CEO of Tata & Howard, Inc., who passed away in March of 2017. The scholarship which is valued at $1,000, is presented to a graduating Marlborough High School senior who is attending a four-year college or university to pursue a degree in engineering. This year for the first time, the scholarship was expanded to include Natick High School graduates, Mr. Tata’s hometown for over 30-years.

“We had several well qualified applicants for the Donald J. Tata Engineering Scholarship and it was challenging to make our final decisions,” said Jenna W. Rzasa, P.E., Co-President of Tata & Howard. “Don would be pleased to see so many smart and well-rounded students interested in a career in engineering.”

Natick High School Scholarship Recipients

Kevin Zheng, an AP Scholar with Distinction, graduated from Natick High School with highest honors and participated in numerous unique extracurricular activities. One notable activity was to create the largest Stick Bomb with a group of friends, that was ultimately held by the Guinness Book World Records. He facilitated engineering and computer science activities to thousands of daily visitors at the Museum of Science in Boston and was recognized by both houses in the Massachusetts State Legislator on the topic of Saving Energy. Mr. Zheng plans to attend Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts, majoring in computer engineering.

A member of the National Honor Society, Rebecca McCue also excelled at tennis and volleyball. She was a member of the Key Club, who volunteered at several community service projects, which included building projects for disadvantaged Appalachian families in West Virginia. Ms. McCue participated in Physics for Engineers, a year-long course for seniors, that are self-motivated and have a strong background in math and science.  She plans to study Environmental Engineering.

Marlborough High School Scholarship Recipients

Amanda Vilensky, a member of both the National Honor and the National Art Honor Societies, is an accomplished student and artist. Through her work with the Environmental Club at school, she developed a passion for engineering and its problem-solving methodology for critical ecological issues. Ms. Vilensky plans to attend the University of Vermont to further her education in Environmental Engineering.

Fluent in both English and Portuguese, Igor De Moraes is a member of the National Honor Society and a STEMbassador, who mentored other students in Math and Science. A curiosity in renewable energy encouraged him to hypothetically experiment with piezoelectric tiles for the school’s gymnasium to produce electricity. Mr. De Moraes is a gifted athlete, excelling in football, track, and competed in Ping Pong competitions. He was also an officer in the Latin Club. Studying Mechanical Engineering, Mr. De Moraes will attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the fall.

“We are all impressed with the academic achievements and ambitious goals from these talented students,” stated Karen L. Gracey, P.E., Co-President of Tata & Howard. “As future engineers, it is so exciting to imagine what these promising young individuals will accomplish in their careers.”

Donald J. Tata Honored Posthumously

Donald J. Tata Honored Posthumously

Water For People presents the Kenneth J. Miller Award

MARLBOROUGH, MA – Donald J. Tata was posthumously awarded the Kenneth J. Miller Founders Award presented by Water For People (WFP), a non-profit organization promoting the development of high-quality drinking water and sanitation services throughout the world. The ceremony took place on June 12, 2018 at the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Annual Conference and Expo (ACE18) held at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Award presentation
Karen M. Gracey, P.E. and Jenna W. Rzasa, P.E., Co-presidents with Tata & Howard accepted the award on Don Tata’s behalf.

Karen M. Gracey, P.E., and Jenna W. Rzasa, P.E., Co-Presidents with Tata & Howard, accepted the award on Donald Tata’s behalf.  “Don dedicated his career to improving the environment and he was particularly moved by Water For People’s efforts in bringing clean water to those in need,” Karen said. “He would be humbled by this nomination especially by an organization that meant so much to him.”

This year, Water For People expanded the Miller Award to include Workplace Giving Champions for which Don was recognized as a leader in the support of raising awareness to those in need of access to clean water.

Don Tata, who sadly passed away in 2017, was passionate about the environment and compassionate about the plight of those living in poverty without access to clean drinking water. He immediately supported the cause of Water For People when he was introduced to the organization through AWWA. Through Don’s fundraising efforts, Water For People has received over $66,000 since 2005.

WFPDon not only supported the Water For People organization individually, he also shared his passionate support with the employees of the firm he co-founded, Tata & Howard, Inc. Employees continue to support WFP through a payroll deduction program, which Don initiated. At the end of each year, the company matches the employee’s donations.

Employees also participate in friendly competitions throughout the year to increase awareness and raise funds in continued support for Water for People. Don was also responsible scheduling time at company meetings to have representatives from Water For People update employees with information on the countries and people directly affected by their contributions.

His family, friends and colleagues were all profoundly impacted by his death in 2017, and even then, during that most difficult time, his family asked people to donate to Water for People in his memory in lieu of flowers. His friends and associates did and donated over $4,500.

Don is greatly missed by all who knew him, and Tata & Howard is committed to continuing his legacy and support of Water for People.

###

About the Kenneth J. Miller Founders’ Award
The Kenneth J. Miller Founders’ Award was established in 2001 by the Board of Directors of Water For People to honor outstanding volunteer service to this international humanitarian effort. Water For People was conceived in response to the water, sanitation and health needs of millions of families living in the developing world.

The award was named to honor Ken Miller, who was one of Water For People’s founders, and supporter throughout his career. Each year, Water For People’s volunteer committees nominate one person for the award for the year. The winner is recognized and presented with a plaque at the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Annual Conference and Expo (ACE) during the Miller Award luncheon.

For more information: Kenneth Miller Award

About Water For People
From its beginnings, Water For People was envisioned to be a volunteer effort of the North American water and wastewater communities. The American Water Works Association (AWWA) leaders who organized Water For People believed that water professionals throughout North America would recognize the urgent need to support such a cause by contributing their financial assistance, organizational skills, and professional expertise. Local groups of water and sanitation professionals launched hundreds of active programs in support of Water For People. As the organization grew and began to accomplish its vision of service, it became evident that extraordinary volunteer efforts were being made at the local level and that this dedicated work needed to be publicly acknowledged and honored.

The search for a model individual to exemplify the value of volunteer service and to underscore the importance of this award led immediately to Kenneth J. Miller, one of the founders of Water For People and its first president.

For more information:  Water For People

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.

 For more information: AWWA

Great Eggspectations

Great Eggspectations

Employees Celebrate National Egg Day with a Little Fun!

Some people like their eggs over easy. Others prefer theirs hard boiled. At Tata & Howard it seems we like our eggs scrambled!

In recognition of National Egg Day (June 3, 2018), Tata & Howard employees competed in an Egg Drop Challenge. The Egg Drop Contest is a collaborative engineering activity that tests one’s creative problem-solving skills.  And not to get too technical, the Challenge is also a test in the understanding of physics, fluid dynamics, motion, the forces of gravity, and much more.  Working together on these egg structures is also a fun and engaging team-building activity.

The Challenge

After dividing into teams, each group was tasked with creating a structure that could protect an egg from breaking when dropped from a 10-foot height—or at least one story—onto a solid floor.

Team begins workUsing ordinary office supplies (plus an uncooked chicken egg), to build their egg protective packages, teams could use as many or as few of the materials and were free to cut, tear, or break any of the pieces. The time to create the egg structures lasted 20 minutes. After the creating phase was over, it was time to drop the eggs.

This is the time when teams often crack under pressure.

Down They Go

Kevin LaunchesFrom the second floor of our Waterbury, CT office, two teams dropped their eggs onto the sidewalk below.  Upon closer examination, not one of the eggs survived the fall.  In the case of a tie, as in this case since both eggs broke on impact, the team using the least amount of materials was declared the winners. Congratulations to Chelsea, Will, Kevin and Sal who used fewer pieces in the design of their egg packages.

At our Marlborough office, the eggs were dropped from the second floor into the lobby. Each of the four teams carefully suspended their structures over the railing and let go. After the fall, one of the packages oozed liquids, a sign of a broken egg. The other three eggs appeared to have survived the fall showing no obvious signs of breakage.

Failed eggThose three teams then ventured to the third floor and dropped their eggs again.  Sadly, none of the eggs survived the fall from the nearly 30-foot fall. And, although many of the egg structures were still intact, it was clear from the misshapen, leaking packages, the eggs broke on contact.  Fortunately, there was very little mess to clean up since the eggs were all overly wrapped and packaged. It was a tough call, but team Chris and Chrissie shared the winning honors.

Incredible Edible Egg

As fragile as eggs can be, they already come in the perfect little package. Eggs are also one of nature’s best sources of protein and amino acids. Eggs also have no carbohydrates or sugar and just like drinking water, play an important role in nourishing families around the globe. National Egg Day is a great time to celebrate and recognize the importance of eggs in our diets. The Egg Drop Challenge is a fun way to bring awareness to this incredible little health food!

The Egg Drop Challenge

Brown eggThe materials used for the egg drop challenge can be whatever you choose. We opted to use common items found around the office.  Of course, don’t forget the egg!

Each Kit contains:
6 Coffee Sticks
2 sheets – 8 ½ x 11” paper
1 yard of masking tape
1 yard of string
5 rubber bands
1 paper plate
2 paper napkins

Download the instructions

Outgoing Chair Passes the Gavel

Outgoing Chair Passes the Gavel

A New Chair at the Connecticut Section of the AWWA

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

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
George A Johnson
George A. Johnson of the New York firm of Hering & Fuller.

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.