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June 22, 1969: Cuyahoga River Catches Fire

This Day in Water History

1101 Cuyahoga R Fire 1952June 22, 1969:  The June 22, 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga is the “seminal” event in the history of water pollution control in America, helping to spur the growth of the environmental movement and the passage of national environmental legislation. “Never before had an image so thoroughly driven home the deteriorating plight of our nation’s waterways,” one environmental group explained on the fire’s thirtieth anniversary. “The burning river mobilized the nation and became a rallying point for passage of the Clean Water Act.”17 Despite its national importance as a symbol of environmental decline, the 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga was a relatively minor story in Cleveland at the time.18 For northeast Ohio, and indeed for many industrialized areas, burning rivers were nothing new, and the 1969 fire was less severe than prior Cuyahoga conflagrations. It was a little fire on a long-polluted river already embarked on the road to…

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June 16, 1858: Death of John Snow

This Day in Water History

John_SnowJune 16, 1858: Death of John Snow. Dr. John Snow (March 15, 1813–June 16, 1858) is famous for the Broad Street Pump episode but he accomplished so much more than that. He was first and foremost a physician who trained in England in the early part of the 19th century. He made significant contributions to the development of anesthesia and he is considered by many to be the Father of Modern Epidemiology.

The story of Dr. John Snow and how he discovered the cause of a cholera epidemic in the Golden Square neighborhood of London in 1854 has reached almost mythical proportions in public health literature.  Three excellent books describe Snow’s life and the details of the Broad Street Pump incident. (Hempel 2007; Johnson 2006; Vinten-Johansen et al. 2003)

Snow was born on March 15, 1813 in the City of York.  He served his medical-apothecary apprenticeship in Newcastle-on-Tyne with later…

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June 15, 1934: Death of George Warren Fuller

This Day in Water History

George Warren Fuller, 1903, 35 years old George Warren Fuller, 1903, 35 years old

June 15, 1934: Death of George Warren Fuller in New York City. George Warren Fuller was, quite simply, the greatest sanitary engineer of his time, and his time was long—lasting from 1895 to 1934.  In truth, we have not seen his like since.  How did he reach the pinnacle of his field?  What early influences led him on his path? There is a biography of Fuller on Wikipedia that I wrote which summarizes his life from a “neutral point of view.” The material below is taken in part from Chapter 7 of The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight To Save Lives. By design, it gives more of a personal flavor to his life.

George Warren Fuller was born in Franklin, Massachusetts on December 21, 1868—ten years after the death of Dr. John Snow and ten years after the birth of…

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June 8, 1909: Papers Presented at AWWA Conference on Jersey City Chlorination

This Day in Water History

Dr. John L. Leal Dr. John L. Leal

June 8, 1909: John L. Leal, George W. Fuller and George A. Johnson present papers at the AWWA annual conference on this day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the chloride of lime treatment system at Boonton Reservoir, New Jersey. Unlike previous presentations on the addition of disinfection chemicals to water, the three papers were received enthusiastically by the audience. The then President of AWWA, William P. Mason, stated in the discussion section of the papers, “…when I first came in contact with this process I was a very strong disbeliever; in fact, I am on record in print as not approving of the process. I have been converted, however…because of the results of many experiments. I found, very greatly to my surprise, that the dose was exceedingly small that was required to produce satisfactory treatment.” The full story of the chlorination of the Jersey City water supply…

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June 9, 2013: Centennial of Activated Sludge; 1846: Birth of Frederic W. Stevens

This Day in Water History

Activated Sludge Process Activated Sludge Process

June 9, 2013: Celebration of Centennial of Activated Sludge Process. “On June 9-11, the Water Environment Federation convened the forum, “Activated Sludge on its 100th Birthday: Challenges and Opportunities.” The event was held at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first patent of the activated sludge process near Boston. The Activated Sludge process is still the heart of modern wastewater treatment systems around the globe and was a sea-change in the burgeoning field of wastewater treatment, permitting wastewater treatment to occur in a much smaller footprint, saving space and treatment time while protecting public and environmental health. In the past 100 years, the process has been updated, modified, and augmented, to improve treatment, remove nutrients, and do so more efficiently. However, more stringent demands and resources challenges are necessitating another look at the process that has been the backbone…

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